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Who is Claire Lowenstein? Controversial NYC school principal steps down after years of racism allegations

The principal was accused of hiring only White staff at the school and not enough faculty of color in a 'years-long campaign of discriminatory hiring practices'
The parents at the PS 333 Manhattan School for Children reportedly claimed that Claire Lowenstein was a 'petty tyrant', 'combative', and 'confrontational' (Screenshot/NY Wisdom/YouTube)
The parents at the PS 333 Manhattan School for Children reportedly claimed that Claire Lowenstein was a 'petty tyrant', 'combative', and 'confrontational' (Screenshot/NY Wisdom/YouTube)

NEW YORK CITY, NEW YORK: Claire Lowenstein, the controversial principal of PS 333 Manhattan School for Children, is reportedly stepping down a year after she was hit with her second no-confidence vote. The principal was facing major allegations, including hiring only White staff for the school and not enough faculty of color in a “years-long campaign of discriminatory hiring practices.” 

According to reports, Lowenstein is voluntarily departing from the services, informed Craig DiFolco, a spokesman for the Council of School Supervisors and Administrators. However, the exact date of her departure has not been announced yet. The decision comes after a protest against her on campus by teachers, staff, and parents.


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Who is Claire Lowenstein?

Lowenstein reportedly became one of the most controversial school principals in New York City after she allegedly showed discrimination in staffing, including choosing White staff over the other colors. According to her LinkedIn profile, she has a postgraduate degree in special education and teaching from New York University and holds another postgraduation degree in supervision and administration from Baruch College. 

According to The New York Post, the parents of the students of the school claimed that Lowenstein was a “petty tyrant,” “combative,” and “confrontational.” Parents also stated that dozens of teachers had left the K-8 school since Lowenstein arrived in 2014, and hence, they started protesting against the principal.

“I think in this situation, there’s been a lot of turmoil, and she needs to move on. The school needs to come together and be the great school it has been,” said City Councilwoman Gill Brewer. One staffer said, “All of us have been living under tremendous stress. That stress must have bled into the children."

In 2021, in the second voting, almost 86 percent of the voters, that is 132 voters out of 154, voted against Lowenstein’s leadership of the school on West 93rd Street. According to the teachers who organized the survey, the racial divide in choosing the staff in one of the city’s most liberal neighborhoods “is the root cause of a lot of tensions," reported the New York Post.

“Principal Claire Lowenstein has lost the support and respect of parents, staff, and the larger PS 333 community. She has failed to put the needs of the children first, and her divisive leadership has hurt students and faculty alike,” said teacher Raphael Tomkin, the school’s chapter leader for the United Federation of Teachers.  

Some of the other allegations in the survey included the principal scolding students who didn’t answer questions the way she wanted. Meanwhile, she also assigned a male special-ed paraprofessional to duties that included “toileting” and “changing the under-clothing” of a young female student. 

Another parent named Brian Dunn back then suggested, “If 80 percent of the teachers are frustrated and want to leave this school because of the principal, that’s all I need to know. Their job one is to keep the best teachers here.”

One said, "I like the teachers and my daughter seems to enjoy the school. I just question an operation that allows someone with this many issues to stay in a leadership position. At some point, you’ve got to say enough is enough.”

To all these allegations, Craig DiFolco, a spokesman for the principals’ union, said, "Principal Lowenstein is a dedicated, highly effective principal of a high-performing school, and this survey has no merit.”

DiFolco added, “The individuals who orchestrated this attack cherry-picked a small portion of the community, led them to desired outcomes by misrepresenting facts, and allowed them to vote multiple times to further an inaccurate narrative. The DOE should investigate the organizers for misconduct.”

In the no-confidence motion that took place in June 2019, the survey stated the principal's “explicit bias against students and staff.” She reportedly also said, “Don’t bring your street problems into my school,” to a Black student.

She allegedly did not support a student who publicly announced that he is gay and faced terrible shame from students. The student body also has 52 percent White people, 19 percent Hispanics, 14 percent Black people, and 8 percent Asians. However, 30 lower-paid aides are Black, Hispanic, and other non-Whites.

“There is definitely a lack of representation that has contributed to a climate where families of color have felt uncomfortable or unwelcome,” said Jonathan Goldman, whose two children attend the school.

Meanwhile, the enrollment reportedly also came down nearly 24 percent, ie, 760 students in 2014-15  to the current 579 due to all the allegations against Lowenstein. However, back then the DOE had stated that it will continue to support the principal.

“All school communities deserve a culture that is supportive, trusting, and open,” DOE spokesman Nathaniel Styer said in response to questions, “Along with intensive help from the district, we are putting in place interventions that work for the parents, staff, and principal. We will continue our work with the PS 333 community to ensure all voices are heard and concerns are addressed,” he added.