Franklin Square education board meeting packed with community members asking ‘Where is Mr. T?’

Students, parents remain in the dark about when their beloved principal might return


Having an educator that touches student’s lives, making sure they feel seen and appreciated every day is no small feat.

For many Polk Street School parents and members of the Franklin Square community at large, Principal Gilbert Torossian is a staple in their lives. At the end of the summer, he is asking how everyone’s summer went, remembering every parent and student’s name as he greets them during morning drop off.

Aman Kumar’s son started school at Polk Street School two years ago. When he gets to school, Kumar said the first thing his son does is run and give Torossian a hug.

“Everyone loves Mr. T,” Kumar said. “You know, everyone has that teacher where they go, ‘They changed my life.’ I never had that teacher… But you know, when I drop my kids to school, I used to look forward to looking at Mr. T.”

Outraged and bewildered by the idea that Torossian disappeared from their lives without notice from the school district for several weeks, 300 community members packed Washington Street School’s gymnasium to express their support for him during a Board of Education meeting on March 13.

Sabrina Essig, of Franklin Square, said that Torossian’s absence at school has “broken the community.”

“Taking the kids’ sense of community away is going to be devastating,” Essig said. “I can’t imagine what will happen if he doesn’t come back.”

The beloved administrator’s absence, announced in an email Superintendent Jared Bloom sent to parents on Feb. 27, because of “unforeseen circumstances.” His absence was deemed “temporary” in the email, but community members like Essig expressed distrust over whether he would return.

Board president Stephen Toto told the crowd that none of the board members take the situation “lightly.”

“While the trust might not be there right now, we hear you,” Toto said. “The five of us hear you, and we are not taking what is going on lightly.”

In a statement to the community, the education board said that the board "cannot engage in commenting on individual staff matters, as these are confidential and subject to privacy regulations.

"Please know all confidential matters are addressed through appropriate channels, following established protocols and procedures," the education board said in a statment. "We thank you for your continued support and cooperation as we work together to ensure the success and well-being of our students, staff, and faculty. Should there be any updates or developments that can be shared with the community in the future, we will ensure timely communication."

Vanessa Batthany, of Franklin Square, spoke of her children who miss Torossian dearly. She asked what parents should tell their kids about his absence, since the community has received no explanation as to why Torossian is not in school or when he will return beyond the temporary leave of absence notice.

“We just need to know when this is going to end,” Batthany said. “We can’t keep telling them, ‘He’s coming back. It’s only temporary.’ Because we don’t trust that this is temporary.”

A petition that Franklin Square resident Jennifer Schmidt started, has received more than 1,100 signatures, expressed the community’s support for Torossian. She spoke of his connection with students, calling Torossian the “heart and soul” of Polk Street.

“The biggest prize at Bingo is lunch with Mr. T,” Schmidt said. “He is an absolute asset to our community.”

Kristin Cirotta, president of the Franklin Square interschool parent teacher association, said that morale at Polk Street is low following Torossian’s absence.

The next meeting of the education board will be held on April 16, at 8 p.m., at Washington Street School.