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After Web criticism, Fort Greene principal requests public meeting

A public school principal in Fort Greene is asking for a public, face-to-face meeting with concerned community members after Internet and newspaper reports described dissatisfaction with his leadership.

One report, in the Brooklyn Paper, said unhappiness with the principal, Sean Keaton, of the Clinton Hill School, P.S. 20, is behind a surge of interest in the nearby Community Roots charter school. Another report, at Insideschools.org, includes a parent describing Keaton as “authoritarian,” “hostile,” and “abusive.” The frustration comes as a flood of middle class families are moving to the Brooklyn neighborhood – and often searching for options outside P.S. 20, their zoned school. The Brooklyn Paper reported that only 27% of kindergarten-aged students zoned for P.S. 20 attend it.

Parents posting in the comments sections of the Times blog and at Insideschools said they feel Keaton shuts them out of the school. One said that he has a “closed door policy to the parents.”

Keaton has in the past issued replies to Insideschools defending himself. Today, he replied to the dismal characterization today in an open letter submitted to the comments section of the New York Times’ new local blog for the Fort Greene and Clinton Hill sections of Brooklyn. The letter acknowledges that many have expressed concerns with the school, including some comments that Keaton says tied him to Robert Mugabe and Adolf Hitler. (For the record, I can’t find any such comments.)

Keaton, in his letter, says that the comments are difficult for him to deal with because he feels he’s accomplished a lot at the school, including partnerships with local museums, rising test scores, and a new citywide gifted and talented program that’s part of the Bloomberg administration’s recent expansion of gifted programs. “My feelings have been bruised and I have been offended and threatened,” he writes. Then Keaton asks readers to bring their grievances to him in public, face-to-face — a desire Keaton just reiterated in a comment:

I believe this spirited debate warrants a face-to-face conversation. Someone please suggest potential dates, times, and location for a meeting. I will attend!

So far, responses focus on concerns about Keaton’s writing skills and questions about the difference between “progressive” and “traditional” styles of education. No one has responded with a specific time to hold a meeting.

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