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LaGuardia High School principal is out amid backlash over academic push

LaGuardia High School on the Upper West Side is one of the city’s elite specialized high schools.
LaGuardia High School on the Upper West Side is one of the city's elite specialized high schools.
Christina Veiga/Chalkbeat

The embattled principal of LaGuardia High School, a famed specialized school that focuses on the performing arts, is leaving amid a renewed wave of student pushback against her leadership.

Lisa Mars, who oversaw LaGuardia for six years, will be taking a new position under Chief Academic Officer Linda Chen. The transition, effective immediately, was first reported by the Wall Street Journal.

Mars did not attend LaGuardia’s graduation ceremony on Monday, citing personal reasons in an email to students. On Monday night, Doug Cohen, an education department spokesperson, said that “in collaboration with DOE leadership, Dr. Mars decided to forgo attending graduation.”

The statement continued: “We thank Dr. Mars for her leadership, and will collaborate closely with LaGuardia’s community to find the next principal for the school and continue its proud history of excellence.”

For years, Mars’ leadership at LaGuardia — the elite arts school that inspired the 1980 movie and subsequent TV series “Fame” — has been criticized for what students, faculty, parents, and alumni have described as a shifted focus to academics. Last month, students staged an hours-long sit-in at the school to protest Mars and LaGuardia High School Change, a student group that organized the protests, was vocal online about wanting the embattled principal out.

“We need new leadership,” the group wrote in an Instagram post, which called on students and parents to press the mayor and chancellor to remove Mars.

Manhattan high schools Superintendent Vivian Orlen sent a letter to the LaGuardia community Monday, writing: “As we move into the summer and towards the next school year, I will continue to meet with students, families, and staff to develop a plan and find the next principal for the school, and continue its proud tradition of excellence.”

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