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Interim Principal Named for Stuyvesant High School as Cheating Inquiry Unfolds

Monday, August 06, 2012 - 09:48 PM

The former head of a specialized high school in Queens was named interim head of Stuyvesant High School on Monday, three days after its principal abruptly announced his retirement amid a continuing cheating inquiry.

The new interim principal, Jie Zhang, has been an educator in the school system for more than two decades, education officials said. From 2006 to 2011, she was principal of Queens High School for the Sciences at York College; it is one of the city’s eight high schools, including Stuyvesant, that use a common achievement test for admission.

Over the past 10 months, she has been leading a city Education Department network that oversees 30 schools, with a combined population of about 50,000 students. Among those schools is Stuyvesant, considered one of the nation’s best public high schools.

“She has extensive experience in teaching and administration and is highly respected by her colleagues,” the schools chancellor, Dennis M. Walcott, said in a statement. “We are fortunate to have tremendous leaders and talented teachers like Jie Zhang in New York City public schools, and we are thrilled to have her join the Stuyvesant High School community.”

The outgoing principal, Stanley Teitel, announced in a letter on Friday that he would step down come September after leading the school for the last 13 years.

In a conference call with reporters on Monday, Ms. Zhang, 52, said she would pursue the job on a permanent basis. “I am very interested and I think I qualify for the position,” Ms. Zhang said.

The department will begin the process of hiring a permanent principal in September.

In June, 71 students were found to have engaged in a widespread pattern of cheating that involved using smartphones to pass along photos of test pages and share information about state Regents exams while they were taking them.

Mr. Teitel, when he learned of the allegations, immediately sent letters to dozens of students involved. Several students face suspension in the fall, and dozens more are losing privileges, including the right to leave campus for lunch.

Now, the Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations is investigating whether adults in the school, including Mr. Teitel, followed the proper protocols in reporting the initial incident to the city and state, officials have said.

Phone calls to Mr. Teitel were not returned on Monday.

Ms. Zhang said that cheating was “not acceptable” and that she would not tolerate it. She also said she would enforce the existing policy that bars students from taking cellphones into school. She did not elaborate on what measures she would take, but students have said the school has had a relaxed attitude toward the citywide cellphone ban in schools, allowing students to bring them inside as long as they do not openly use them.

“It is my expectation for my children to have integrity,” Ms. Zhang said, “and that is what I will expect of Stuy students.”

For Ms. Zhang, there are personal links to the school: her son graduated from Stuyvesant in 2008, and her daughter will be a junior at Stuyvesant this fall.

Ms. Zhang, who was born and raised in China, said she was interested in promoting diversity at the school, where almost three quarters of the 3,300 students are Asian and 4 percent are black or Hispanic.

Ernest A. Logan, the president of the union representing school principals and administrators, supported the move.

“Jie Zhang is an excellent choice for principal of Stuyvesant High School,” Mr. Logan said in a written statement. “She is an exceptionally talented, multidimensional educator who has worked at every level in the New York City public school system.”

A spokeswoman for the union said that Ms. Zhang, who lives in College Point, Queens, began her career in the public schools in 1988, as a substitute teacher — a position she kept for a decade. In February 1993, she became a high school math teacher, and later she was an assistant principal at Forest Hills High School and an executive administrator in Queens, developing curriculum.

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