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Former Stuyvesant Principal Showed "Lack of Judgment" in Cheating Scandal

Friday, August 30, 2013 - 03:50 PM

Stuyvesant High School (jim.henderson/wikimedia commons)

A Department of Education investigation of the 2012 cheating scandal at Stuyvesant high school found the former principal showed "an extreme lack of judgment" in how he handled the case.

The highly competitive school made national news last year after dozens of students were suspended for using their cell phones during the Regents exams and a language test, administered in June 2012. A 16-year-old junior was considered the ringleader. He allegedly used his phone to send answers to other students and to photograph a piece of paper. Former principal Stanley Teitel resigned shortly before the start of the new school year last summer.

Teitel learned about cheating during the Regents exams from a student. In their report, DOE investigators take him to task for orchestrating a sting operation to catch the instigator during a language test that same week, instead of trying to stop the cheating before it could happen again. The student was then caught by a vigilant proctor who saw him trying to send a text message during the language test.

As the head of the school, investigators say Teitel, and assistant principal and testing coordinator Randi Damesek, failed to take steps to fully examine the extent of the cheating. Nor did they notify the city or state education department until news of the scandal leaked to the media almost a week later. Reporters only learned of the incident once Stuyvesant sent a letter to parents of students who were thought to have engaged in the cheating scheme, telling them that their children would not be allowed to participate in certain after school activities.

The 56 page investigation of the incident was released to the media on Friday afternoon, right before the Labor Day holiday. It also noted the following:

-Not only did Teitel and Damesek fail to properly address or investigate the allegations, they failed to give those around them a suitable opportunity to do so. For example, after confiscating the instigator's iPhone, a technician offered to search the phone and record its text messages but was told to "go home."

-The principal attempted "to deliberately mislead officials" at the state by advising them that the cheating incident was still under investigation, even though he had already sent a letter to Stuyvesant parents concluding that cheating had taken place.

-Students were not questioned for nearly eight days about the extent of the cheating.

-The student ringleader was told he had to leave Stuyvesant right after he was caught. But Teitel and Damesek showed "a complete lack of professional judgment" when they knowingly attempted to have a guidance counselor and a DOE enrollment officer remove him under the guise of a transportation or safety transfer. He had not requested either. He eventually did move to a different school.

The investigators recommended that Teitel be precluded from future employment with the city schools. They also recommended possible disciplinary action against the assistant principal. A DOE spokeswoman said the agency will seek to terminate her, or at the very least make sure she is demoted.

Last fall, Stuyvesant's new principal, Jie Zhang, worked with students and faculty on a new academic honesty policy to prevent any more cheating and also cracked down on those who attempted to bring cell phones to schools.

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