Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Update: Lisa Mars, LaGuardia's Failing Principal Gets Tenure!

Dr. Mars changed the admission criteria to favor academic grades over artistic talent in a school with an historical graduation rate of 98%.......Unfortunately, the 10,828 signatures and 300 pages of supportive comments on our petition fell on deaf ears. We just learned that in spite of failing grades for effective school leadership two years in a row, principal Lisa Mars has been granted TENURE!!! ... LaGuardia HS memo
The DOE outrages of supporting failing principals continues as cronyism reigns supreme while the UFT sits numb. Through the Rockaway Theatre Company I know a bunch of young ladies who are either current or former La Guardia students and they all have heard of the story of how Linda Mars, who came from the currently enrolled  school, Townshend HS.

LaG, despite its high grad rate, is in many ways a sort of trade school

Go sign the petition if you haven't. And contact PEP members if you are so inclined.
Petition update

Update: LaGuardia's Failing Principal Gets Tenure!

LaGuardia High
New York, NY
Jan 10, 2017 — Dear Friends,
As we begin 2017, we wanted to let you know the current status in our efforts to overturn the unfair and illegal admissions policies instituted at LaGuardia High School by principal Dr. Lisa Mars.

The goal of our petition is to convince the Department of Education to return the admission requirements to those consistent with the Hecht-Calandra Law and provide effective leadership for the school.

It seems the DOE is uninterested in the fact that:
· Dr. Mars scored a 1.00 on a scale of 1.00-4.99 on effective school leadership in the 2015-16 School Quality Guide. That's down from a 1.2 the year before!
· Dr. Mars changed the admission criteria to favor academic grades over artistic talent in a school with an historical graduation rate of 98%.
· Dr. Mars' policies effectively discriminate against students who come from socio-economically challenged circumstances or underperforming middle schools.
· Dr. Mars' policies foster an increasingly homogeneous environment in a school that has always been a beacon of diversity.

See for yourself:

How can the Department of Education allow this? Why would they spend tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars assessing school leadership only to ignore their own findings and grant tenure to a failing principal?

How can WE allow this?

If you are as outraged as we are, let your voice be heard and contact those who can save our school and preserve its legacy for future generations. A list of contacts is below. Here's a template letter that you can use to voice your thoughts:

Chancellor of the NY Regents Board -
Nan Eileen Mead (Regents Board rep) -
Gale A. Brewer (Manhattan Borough President) -
Kamillah Payne-Hanks (Panel for Educational Policy) -
Michael Kraft (Panel for Educational Policy) -
Scott M. Stringer (NYC Comptroller) -, (212) 669-3916, @scottmstringer

Thank you for your continued support,
The Save Our School Team

NY Times article:

The ‘Fame’ High School Is Known for the Arts. Should Algebra Matter There?

Students filled the halls of LaGuardia High School on Friday during a sit-in to call for the school to reaffirm its focus on the arts.CreditNina Grinblatt
Students filled the halls of LaGuardia High School on Friday during a sit-in to call for the school to reaffirm its focus on the arts.CreditCreditNina Grinblatt
[What you need to know to start the day: Get New York Today in your inbox.]
A dilemma is looming over one of America’s best public arts schools: Does a graceful modern dancer or a brilliant painter deserve a seat if they have middling grades in algebra or English?
The balance between arts and academics has become increasingly fragile at Manhattan’s LaGuardia High School. Long-simmering tensions boiled over on Friday, when hundreds of students staged an hourslong sit-in at the school to protest a perceived dilution of LaGuardia’s arts focus in favor of stricter academic requirements.
Students lined the hallways on two floors of the Lincoln Center area school, holding signs reading, “talented people are left behind” and “permit art,” many of which were later taped to the front door of the office of the principal, Lisa Mars, who took over in 2013. Dr. Mars did not come to school on Friday, but is expected to meet with a group of students on Monday. Some parents are also planning a protest outside the school.
“We’re not here to be the most perfect mathematicians, if I wanted to do that I would have gone to Stuyvesant,” said Eryka Anabell, an 18-year-old senior, referring to New York’s most selective public high school. “I’m here to discover myself as an artist,” she added.
LaGuardia is also a so-called specialized high school, but is the only one of the nine that does not rely on a single standardized test for admission. It considers both auditions and middle school grades when selecting students.
Until now, LaGuardia has avoided the criticism the city’s other specialized high schools are facing for enrolling tiny numbers of black and Hispanic students.
The school’s racial demographics have been consistent since Dr. Mars became principal. About half of the school’s roughly 2,800 students are white, 20 percent are Asian-American and a third are black and Hispanic. All rising high school students in New York City can apply to LaGuardia.
Doug Cohen, a spokesman for the Department of Education, said students’ academic records are considered only after their audition at LaGuardia.
“LaGuardia has a long and proud history of both artistic and academic achievement, and the school’s admission policy has long included these audition and academic requirements,” said Mr. Cohen.
Dr. Mars declined to comment directly.
LaGuardia students have also now joined a growing group of local teenage activists who have rebelled against problems at individual schools and systemic issues in the nation’s largest public school system.
Earlier this year, a group of students at the elite private school Fieldston accused the school of institutional racism and occupied a school building for three days. The action ended only when the principal agreed to meet many of the students’ demands. Some students at another top private school, Poly Prep, also staged a sit-in this year over what they considered a racist school culture.
At the same time, a growing coalition of public school students has called on Mayor Bill de Blasio to integrate New York’s segregated public school system, with rallies expected in the coming weeks.
Some LaGuardia students have said Dr. Mars’s push to admit students with higher grades works to disadvantage low-income and minority students who may have natural arts talent but did not attend high-performing middle schools.
“LaGuardia used to be a haven for artistically inclined kids, regardless of their socioeconomic status, regardless if they could do well on a multiple choice test, which is ridiculous to expect an artist to always do amazingly on,” said Nina Grinblatt, an 18-year-old senior.
David Bloomfield, a professor of education at Brooklyn College, said there is a valid argument for focusing more on academics at the school. “While quality arts education is the school’s core mission, it would be hard to attract students and parents without adequate academics,” he said.
But students say Dr. Mars has gone too far by enforcing a decade-old mandate that prospective students must have an 80 average or above in each of their middle school classes to be considered for admission, even if their audition was excellent. Some students and teachers say that rule was sometimes rightfully overruled by previous principals when a student was particularly gifted in the arts.
LaGuardia’s teachers and alumni have challenged Dr. Mars’s policies over the last few years. The dance department accused Dr. Mars in 2014 of rejecting talented students with poor grades. An online petition signed by parents, alumni and staff that called on the principal to give priority to arts gathered more than 12,000 signatures.
Teachers have consistently given Dr. Mars negative feedback in response to survey questions about the school: Only 14 percent of instructors who filled out the form for the 2017-18 school year said the principal “understands how children learn,” and 19 percent said she “communicates a clear vision” for the school.
LaGuardia offers accelerated courses in vocal and instrumental music, drama, art, dance and technical theater. The school has produced a long list of famous alumni, including the fashion designer Isaac Mizrahi, the singer Nicki Minaj and actors such as Al Pacino and Timothée Chalamet. The school, officially called the Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School of Music & Art and Performing Arts, inspired the film “Fame.”
Beyond the admissions requirement, protesters say Dr. Mars has put too much emphasis on new Advanced Placement courses — a priority of Mr. de Blasio’s administration — that have cut into arts classes. LaGuardia recommends that each student take two AP courses.
“We are forced into Advanced Placement courses we don’t want to take so that the school can boast high enrollment statistics,” students wrote in a letter to the administration on Friday.
Students say that rehearsal time for the annual musical had been cut in half since 2017, and that pressure to excel on exams and arts simultaneously has led to widespread anxiety among the student body. LaGuardia’s graduation rate, college enrollment rate and standardized test scores are all above the city average and have been high since Dr. Mars took over. The school’s college readiness rate increased to 98 percent last year from 89 percent in 2015.
Students also said they have repeatedly asked for meetings with Dr. Mars and have been ignored or turned down.
“It’s not a secret that the student body has been disappointed in our leadership for a very long time,” Ms. Grinblatt said. She and her classmates had decided a sit-in would be a last resort if they could not make progress with the administration. Last week, she said, they agreed: “Everything else hadn’t worked.”
Follow Eliza Shapiro on Twitter: @elizashapiro.


  1. Lisa Mars is a disgrace! She is phony and probably has a wealth of issues yet to be exposed. She undoubtedly has clout over someone in the DOE or she would be long gone. Hates children, hates teachers, hates parents. So sad she remains in power.

  2. Lisa Mars has made the teachers at the school miserable. She pushed out wonderful guidance counselors, including the Conservatory counselor, as well as the wonderful John Sommers. She seems to stalk around looking for anyone possible to torture or fire. She is no friend to the students, blocks kids from practicing or preparing their audition materials after school, and won't let teachers into the school to prepare or work during the summers. It is like a reign of terror now. Phony, yes, Tragic, yes.

  3. Lisa Mars is not a cultural fit for LaGuardia. If she got tenure, let her be transferred as principal to another school. where her lack of vision and appreciation for this unique school of the arts doesn't matter. Her "Principal's Welcome" letter on the website is general and poorly written. "Each and every year features a new and ever-greater celebration of what makes us one of the nation’s most prestigious high schools: our proud heritage over more than 70 years, .... yada yada." Please, someone buy this woman a copy of Strunk & White's Elements of Style, and move her to a different school. Then, bizarrely, she signs off as "Dr. Mars". No first name,(Yo, Lisa?): icy and off-putting, while breaking every convention of letter-writing etiquette. These may seem like small matters, butif she can't put her finger on or express what's different about LaGuardia, or express in an concrete way its enormous value to talented NYC kids (and to the City itself) that she simply doesn't belong there. That morale is down, that teachers are leaving, students are unhappy... for what? As a former parent (son, Instrumental, '07) who continues to attend LaG events, I'm sad and infuriated that Lisa Mars has been given license to pervert the mission of the school she was ostensibly brought on to nurture and protect.

    1. Carolyn wanted me to correct this - her son graduated in '11.

  4. Dear Mr. Scott,

    Are you still pursuing this problem? We are new parents and are concerned about several things at LaGuardia. Our son is in classes in which there are sometimes no teachers. There is a tremendous morale deficiency and the school seems infected with a fear rather than collaborative experience. That the above comments were made by parents should clearly be a concern for the DOE and anyone who cares about LaGuardia High School. We're trying to get in touch with anyone we can with more information.

  5. Hamilton
    I'm willing to help out in any way I can but only if parents are interested in doing the heavy lifting. Get in touch at


Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating). Or because your comment is irrelevant or idiotic.