Who is Paula Lev? NY principal wanted to 'get rid of all these White teachers', being probed
NEW YORK: The principal of a high school in Washington Heights is facing an investigation for her problematic comments about White teachers at the school. Paula Lev, who heads the High School for Law and Public Service, allegedly told a fellow faculty member that she was "going to get rid of all these White teachers that aren’t doing anything for the kids of our community."
The faculty of the school has now passed a vote of no-confidence against Lev, who has been accused of "flagrantly but unsuccessfully attempted to divide our school by race.”
Lev is facing a probe by the City Department of Education for her alleged remarks, after a complaint was filed against her at the DOE's Office of Equal Opportunity. The complaint mentioned that the experienced educator "definitely has something against White people", and further listed past instances of her discriminatory attitude. Recently, principal Bodie Brizendine of New York's elite Spence School was slammed by parents after one of the teachers showed a comedy video in class mocking White women.
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Who is Paula Lev?
According to her LinkedIn profile, Lev has served as an educator for over 13 years at the NYC Department of Education. She started out as an educational assistant and rose through the ranks to become a director of SESIS Training - Senior Instructional Specialist.
In 2015, Lev joined the New York Institute of Technology as an adjunct instructor. She was appointed the principal of High School for Law and Public Service in February 2020 at the George Washington Educational Campus. Lev is a recipient of the 2018 Outstanding School Administrator Award as well as a scholarship by the National Excellence In School Leadership Initiative (NESLI).
In personal life, she is married to fellow DOE principal Benjamin Lev, and makes $165,542 a year.
Prior to her controversial remark about White teachers, Lev, who is Dominican herself, had allegedly tried to conspire with another faculty member to 'oust' a White colleague. "He blew the whistle on her and a week later he was excessed," a colleague shared about her with New York Post.
What are the complaints against Lev?
Staffers have also complained against Lev for twisting the concepts of equity and anti-racism - which even led to unrest at the school prior to the complaint. The 39-year-old principal first earned backlash in February 2021, when teacher and union chapter leader Nick Bacon filed a routine grievance about a scheduling problem. At that time, Lev questioned Bacon's motives in front of other teachers, indirectly accusing him of racism. She reportedly asked him, “I wasn’t sure what your problem with me was, maybe it’s because I am a woman of color and you’re a White man?"
The school reportedly has a diverse staff with White, Jewish, Greek, Black, Hispanic and Asian members in the faculty and non-teaching staff members. The staffers who were outraged by Lev's question to Bacon raised the issue to District Superintendent Manny Ramirez. Later, Ramirez admitted in a meeting that Lev was 'inappropriate'.
Though Lev later apologized to Bacon for making the remark in front of other staffers, she insisted he reads the book 'White Fragility: Why It’s So Hard for White People to Talk About Racism' by Robin DiAngelo. She also added that the remarks expressed her true feelings.
Barely four months after the incident with Bacon, another faculty member complained against Lev for discrimination, as she reportedly pressured him to help oust a White female employee.
"Ms Lev has asked me to conspire with her on a couple of occasions in getting rid of my colleague. She also stated to me in Spanish that she was ‘going to get rid of all these white teachers that aren’t doing anything for the kids of our community. I believe Ms Lev is not suited for the position of principal because of the comments she has made to me about White people and the malicious ways in which she thinks and speaks," mentioned the complaint. It further stated, "She is not fit to be a leader of a school. As a school staff, we have lost confidence, creditability, trust, and most importantly we have lost hope in Ms Lev as a principal at the High School for Law & Public Service.”
After District Superintendent Ramirez failed to satisfactorily resolve the issue, staffers approached Chancellor Meisha Porter in July. Prior to that, over 40 faculty members submitted a vote of no-confidence against Lev. "With almost the entire 40+ membership voting, including both tenured and untenured teachers, paraprofessionals, and related service professionals, 83.3% voted that they no longer have confidence in our principal to lead our school,” stated an email about the vote.