NYC parents want to oust ‘Grinch-like’ principal who bans treats and candy

You are mean, Ms. Grinch!

Debra Mastriano, the director of PS 166 on the Upper West Side, once banned a kindergartener from eating a slice of birthday cake from his self-wrapped lunch because she thought he was overweight, according to a letter written by 64 well-fed parents and obtained by the post.

In fact, the tall and slender educator generally has no fondness for snacks, sometimes prohibiting students from eating treats in their lunch boxes and even confiscating Department of Education-approved chips from the cafeteria and hiding them, insiders told The Post.

“It was just so Grinch-like,” said one educator.

In another snacking attack, Mastriano, 66, was photographed standing over a student in the dining room and instructing him to forego a donut he had brought from home.

And after ordering a first-grader to throw out her candy bar, the principal was confronted at a staff meeting in October. She defended her actions, saying it was “once” and she “wants[ed] they want to be healthy[ed] Have a nice day. Once upon a time there was a child,” read notes from the meeting seen by The Post.

The parents’ letter to District Superintendent Kamar Samuels detailed the principal’s alleged “pattern of toxicity” and labeled her “unfit” to run the school. Parents and teachers also passed a vote of no confidence in Mastriano on December 1, with 28 educators and more than 73 current and former parents voting against her. Eighteen employees abstained, but none voted to support her.

Mastriano has handed out bizarre punishments, including making children stand up at lunchtime if they were talking in the cafeteria last year or making them run in circles outside during recess, said Lucio Verani, who has one child in third grade and another who graduated from school.

The teachers said Mastriano manages them on a small scale, tearing down notice boards she doesn’t like, dictating what color papers students are allowed to use, and even issuing an edict banning pencils because she doesn’t want kids to erase mistakes. Instead, they must use markers.

“I don’t know how many shirts she ruined,” one parent said of their daughter.

The Post has reported that at the end of the school year, bags of unused art and classroom supplies were repeatedly dumped on the sidewalk.

Debra Mastriano
Debra Mastriano was beaten by parents of children at UWS school.

Mastriano has run the school since 2012. While test scores have improved, morale has plummeted as about 100 teachers and staff have left the school, according to a statement submitted by parents to The Post.

An outgoing teacher sent a farewell email to staff last year, seen by The Post, saying she hopes “you can get out too because it’s just not worth it.”

Just 14% of teachers said they trust the principal in the latest school survey, compared to the citywide average of 86%, DOE statistics show.

Educators told The Post Mastriano also held racist views, including suggesting that the school’s black and Hispanic students all live in the NYCHA building on the same block on West 89th Street as PS 166.

“I wish someone would level the building,” Mastriano said, according to the letter to Samuels. “It only leads to dysfunction. Unless they rebuild it, it should also have good role models in it so they can learn good behavior.”

A teachers’ union poll in April, conducted by The Post, found that 70% of respondents heard racist and derogatory comments about public housing students, and 93% said the comments came from the principal.

The letter also claimed Mastriano said the school was becoming “too Asian”. I hate Asians.”

Mom Daphne Vigo said Mastriano targeted her son, who is of Puerto Rican descent, yelled at him as a fourth grader last year and asked: ‘Who lives with you? Do you even have a father at home? Is your mother a drug addict?”

She said her son is now in a different school and she has “never touched a drug in my life.”

Another parent said Mastriano became ballistic in March after her son, then 10, accidentally urinated on the bathroom floor and screamed and yelled outside an office as he sat speaking to an assistant principal and careers adviser.

PS 166 Principal Debra Mastriano allegedly took a donut from a student.

PS 166 Principal Debra Mastriano allegedly took a donut from a student.

Parents of PS 166

A group of parents whose children attend the PS 166 want to get headmistress Debra Mastriano out.


“He’s like, ‘Mom, I was so scared. I don’t know what I did to make her so mad at me,” the mother said.

Parents said it targets special students and even urged teachers to lower their grades.

“It’s her way of saying we don’t want you here,” said one parent.

Mastriano and the DOE did not respond to requests for comment.

Samuels informed the parents that the allegations in the letter were being investigated. NYC parents want to oust ‘Grinch-like’ principal who bans treats and candy


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