A New York educator who received countless awards for founding a school in one of the toughest neighborhoods in America and achieving unprecedented test score results shortly after the school’s opening was asked to leave the institution’s campus recently. City leadership approached her in front of the school and asked her to leave the premises.
She says she had returned to film a documentary.
According to her Twitter, Dr. Nadia Lopez was “shocked” when she and a former student were told by the District 23 Superintendent Miatheresa Pate and her deputy Josephine Van-Ess they could not return to the building. The Department of Education is now investigating the founder for making “unauthorized” visits to the Mott Hall Bridges Academy, taking photos of students without permission, and posting images on her social media profiles.
She posted on Twitter a video of her walking with an alumna of the school, Laquana Lane, who was accompanying her to get content for a documentary about her activism, support of Black girls, her intragenerational connection, mentorship of Lane and Ebonee Davis, their recent trip with her to Ghana and to see her former staff and students.
Reports say Lane, who has also survived cancer at the tender age of 16, was going up to the school to shoot a segment for a retrospective with her former math teacher, Mr. Graham.
Lopez says in the video, “I was told that my presence creates tension. I literally was told that I shouldn’t come back.”
The first post read, “Upon leaving the school I was approached near the busy main entrance, by the Superintendent and her deputy, who told me that my ‘presence creates tension’ and was no longer allowed to come back to the school. I was initially shocked and in total disbelief.”
The New York Post says the visit happened on Wednesday, April 13, several weeks before she made the incident public. She told the publication, “I can’t even express how hurtful this is.”
She recounted the visit, struggling to see what she had done which was so wrong. She said, like all visitors at the school, she signed in with the safety agent — a process that requires adults to show their identification before entering.
The first person she and Lane encountered was a sixth grade teacher who embraced her former student, as her former boss watched.
The acting Principal Laura Onwuka approached and started talking to Lane, now 21, about her recent trip to Ghana. Lane said in the video, she believed “It was a good conversation.”
Despite this exchange, the DOE officials asked her to leave.
“I was shocked,” Lane said. “I felt bad for Ms. Lopez, knowing she wasn’t allowed to come back to the school she built. It was pretty sad.”
The educator founded the school in 2010. She resigned in 2021 after being diagnosed with an autoimmune kidney disease. Her physicians believe long 12- to 14-hour days contributed to her illness. Lopez alleges the DOE did not support her, adding additional stress to her life.
In a reply post to the video, she talked about her life’s work, writing, “My passion for education was inspired by great educators. When I became a teacher, then later a principal I wanted to have the same impact on children, who deserved to know they mattered and there were no limits as to where they could go in life with an education.”
“I poured my heart and soul into the school that I opened and was forced to resign. The work-related stress, toxicity within the system, bullying, and lack of support compromised my mental and physical health, nearly costing me my life,” another post continued.
Insiders said the first signs of friction started during an impromptu visit.
Without announcement, Lopez came in and met with her successor. The two women spoke for almost an hour. Within that time, Lopez shared the school’s history, best practices in her opinion and gave her a gift bag with a box of tea, a journal, a candle, a mug, and a signed copy of her book.
Teachers received gifts also. Lopez handed out to them “mini-packages for teachers with Lifesavers and other candy, packs of tissue and flower seeds” — “because you plant seeds into (students’) lives.”
After presenting these niceties, Lopez allegedly sent an email to the staff titled “Thank you team” that criticized the school and how the current administration is running it.
The educator said teachers currently working at the school had confided in her about the low staff morale.
During that visit, she talked to students in the hallway and rushed them into their classes, and with her own camera, shot video and still footage of the school and students. She also posted pictures without written authorization from the school or the students’ parents on her personal social media.
In the caption on Instagram, she wrote in part, “Behind this strong woman, there has been a team of strong men! I can’t begin to tell you how much I love and adore the men of MHBA. When they say representation matters, it truly does.”
When asked about the posts, she answered, “It’s something I always did to celebrate the children of Brownsville in a world that had low expectations of them.”
NYC’s DOE has very strict laws about posting children on personal accounts, especially without consent.
The Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools confirmed Friday, April 29, the school’s administration filed a complaint against Lopez. The complaint was then bounced to the DOE’s Office of Special Investigations. A DOE spokesman said no comment will be made on the ongoing investigation.
As she expressed her outrage regarding the investigation, she noted how “no one would have called for an investigation of an ‘unauthorized’ visit on David Banks if he went to visit any of his Eagle Academy schools, prior to him becoming Chancellor of the NYCDOE” and claimed to “have never posed a threat and continued to offer encouragement to the staff.”
“I represent so many educators who have been targeted and silenced, in fear of retaliation if they share their experiences,” she finally declared. “There are too many leaders who are never called out for the ways they weaponize their positions of power, which create toxic environments and causes trauma.”
A supporter offered, “Perhaps they were threatened because you founded the school and they have not honored your legacy. I don’t know but I encourage you to continue being a champion for others and take care of yourself, especially during this mental health awareness month. I’m sorry this happened.”
“Thank you so much for the reminder,” she said. “I have been diligent in protecting my mind and spirit during this time.”