Embattled principal steps down at Queens elementary school following parent uprising

Embattled principal steps down at Queens elementary school following parent uprising


Following a persistent campaign from parents after a second-grader brought a knife to school, allegedly to attack another student, the principal at P.S. 398 in Queens is leaving.

In a letter to the school community on Friday, founding principal Erica Ureña-Thus wrote that it is “with mixed emotions that I announce my decision to leave P.S. 398Q,” she wrote.

She said her departure “for another role” would be effective Dec. 6.

Concerns about the principal had been circulating for months. According to the news outlet The City, staff had already been complaining of a hostile environment when multiple students said they saw a second grader bring a knife to school on Nov. 1, telling kids he planned to attack a fellow second grader at lunch.

Incensed parents told Gothamist the school only informed the community about the incident on Nov. 4, several days after it had happened, in a post that claimed “nothing untoward was found.” More than a thousand parents signed a petition calling for Ureña-Thus’ removal.

Earlier this week, parents testifying before the Panel for Educational Policy, which oversees the public school system, begged city officials to remove and replace Ureña-Thus.

“The evidence was in front of our eyes,” said parent Davy Tiernan. “The principal was deemed unfit for the role, and the community rose up and stood strong for the sake of our children.”

One mother, who did not give her name, cried as she spoke and clutched her young daughter, who she said was threatened by the child with the knife and has trouble sleeping at night.

“I need answers because she’s not doing well,” the child’s mother said in Spanish.

“It was heartbreaking to watch,” said panel member Tom Sheppard. “These people have been shouting from the rooftops … and nobody’s been listening to them.”

Deputy Chancellor Dan Weissberg told parents at Wednesday’s meeting that investigations were underway, and he expected them “to be resolved soon.”

“We understand there’s a major problem,” he said. “We’re sorry it’s taken so long to act.”

In her letter to the school community, Ureña-Thus said, “As the founding principal, our journey has been filled with numerous challenges, yet we have emerged stronger and more grateful for the triumphs.”


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