Supporters of a recently demoted Newark principal, including two city councilmen, flooded to protest the move as unjust and a detriment to the school.
Dina Velez received notice Friday that her contract as principal of Abington Avenue Elementary School was not renewed for next school year, resulting in demotion to vice principal, her tenured position.
"I just want to express my disappointment," said North Ward Councilman Anibal Ramos Jr. during public session. He was in support of Velez. "We're just here in support of Miss Velez and her efforts and achievements at Abington Avenue School."
Velez has spent 18 total years at Abington; 12 as a teacher and three each as principal and vice principal. Abington has about 640 students spanning pre-kindergarten to grade eight.
Flanked by family members at Tuesday's meeting, Velez said she was not permitted to speak to reporters, though she did not elaborate. Speaking on her behalf was brother-in-law Robert Pineiro, who claimed her demotion was because of "economic circumstances" stemming from budgetary cuts and
"They say due to the cuts, they have to close certain schools and because they have to close certain schools, the principals of those schools were placed in other schools," said Pineiro.
"They're displacing principals because they're closing schools. Why would they hire news ones?" he added.
Pineiro's claims behind Velez's demotion could not be corroborated by Patch.
A spokesperson for Newark Public Schools said the district cannot comment on personnel matters.
In 2011, Abington Avenue was one of 34 schools probed by the state Department of Education after an analysis revealed high rates of erasures on standardized tests. The analysis, which examined test scores from 2008 to 2010, reportedly found more than 11 wrong-to-right erasures per student at the school.
"I can confirm ... that we are conducting an erasure analysis review to state tests administered to students at Abington Avenue School for the 2009-10 school year," said Richard Vespucci, a spokesman for the state Department of Education, in an email Wednesday. "The review is ongoing and we have no further details to report at this time."
Pineiro told Patch he has never discussed the erasure issue with Velez and that he wasn't aware the Newark school was being probed.
"I'm not familiar with that to be honest," said Pineiro when asked if his sister-in-law was demoted because of the report of erasures.
Hoisting signs that read "If it's not broke, don't fix it" and affixed with Velez's picture, parents and students of the school credited the former principal Tuesday night with always putting the kids first.
"She's only been principal for three years but you can see the impact she has made in our school," said seventh grader Maxine Torres. "The board of education is putting in danger our education."