The principal at Jamaica’s August Martin High School, which the city has proposed to close, resigned Thursday, shocking students and parents who said the leader was dynamic and well-liked.
The city Department of Education confirmed that Anthony Cromer ended his tenure at August Martin on Thursday, and the new principal, Gillian Smith, began the same day.
“I felt really sad and bad, and I want to protest it,” said Deborah Oyebamiji, a senior and member of the student government. “I’m not happy about it. I don’t want the new principal to sign my diploma. I’ve known Principal Cromer for four years, and and we had a good friendship. All the students liked him.”
City officials said they believe the new leader, who was the founding principal of The Facing History School in Manhattan, will help August Martin to improve.
“Our students deserve great principals, and Ms. Smith brings a wealth of experience in education,” said DOE spokesman Frank Thomas. “This is an opportunity for the faculty and students in the August Martin community.”
Students said the resignation is especially disruptive in a school that has been dealing with Mayor Bloomberg’s proposal to shutter the institution, and reopen it with up to 50 percent of the teachers replaced and a new name.
“Now that the principal is gone, I don’t think everyone is going to want to do what they’re supposed to do,” Oyebamiji said. “Seniors might say, ‘Oh I don’t know you,’ about the new principal, and might not do what they’re supposed to. This school is closing, and now we have a new principal? Everything just changed.”
The mayor proposes closing 26 schools in the city, including eight in Queens. The city will hold a public hearing on the plan at August Martin at 6 p.m. on April 16, and the city Panel for Educational Policy will vote on the measure at its April 26 meeting.
August Martin Parent Teacher Association President Jose Ferruzola said he believes the city gave Cromer little choice but to resign.
“They wanted him to resign,” Ferruzola said. “They put him in a spot where he could resign or be let go.”
Ferruzola said the principal had a strong connection with the parents and community and argued that the city wanted to axe that connection prior to the public hearing.
“He has the power with the parents and community, and they don’t like that,” Ferruzola said.
The PTA president said Cromer met with Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott on Monday, and the city “called him yesterday and told him he had to leave today.”
Like Oyebamiji, Ferruzola said he is worried about the impact Cromer’s absence will have on the teenagers.
“A lot of the students looked up to him, and he was a mentor to them,” Ferruzola said. “Without him, I’m afraid they’re going to drop out.”
Lipy Begum, a senior, said she began attending August Martin not long after moving from Bangladesh, and credited her former principal with helping her to graduate on time.
“I’m a student from a foreign country, but I made it because of Cromer,” she said. “He did everything for me. I want him signing my diploma, not the new principal.”
City officials stressed that Smith has a long background of working with underprivileged youth in the city.
A graduate of the city’s public school system, Smith went on to become a paraprofessional, teacher and an assistant principal at Satellite Academy High School in Manhattan.