Principal of coveted Queens gifted school leaving mid-year

Principal Vasilios Biniaris is retiring from the 30th Avenue School in Queens, one of the city’s sought-after gifted and talented schools, according to the education department. 

The 22-year New York City schools veteran is moving to be closer to his family, an education department spokeswoman said. He will step down on Jan. 10.

The Astoria school is one of only five citywide gifted and talented schools. As such, only 4-year-olds posting the highest scores on the city’s G&T are eligible to enter kindergarten. The 550-seat school goes up to eighth grade.

“My decision was made after long and careful deliberation,” Biniaris wrote to parents in an email. He added that he was “steadfast and confident” that the school’s remaining leadership team “will move our school to new heights.”

Biniaris took the reins from the school’s founding principal about three years ago, and the transition was, at times, rocky. PTA meeting minutes show that parents had concerns about families pulling their children out of the school. They also were alarmed by turnover of well-liked staff.

“Teacher and staff turnover has been unacceptably high, leading to a chaotic and unstable working and learning environment,” noted a 2018 resolution of the parent association that listed a litany of concerns, including whether students with special needs or those learning English as a new language were being properly supported. 

But the most recent school surveys show that Biniaris had begun to improve his standing with teachers and parents. For example, 67% of teachers said he was an effective leader in last year’s survey, up from only about a quarter in 2016-17. 

Biniaris did not respond to requests for comment. 

Current Assistant Principal Sonita Ramkishun will serve as interim acting principal for the remainder of the school year, according Biniaris’s email to parents. 

Education department spokeswoman Danielle Filson said the city will “engage the entire school community as we search for a new permanent leader.” 

“We thank Principal Biniaris for his service at The 30th Avenue School, and we’ll work closely with Superintendent Composto to ensure a smooth transition,” she wrote.