LOWER EAST SIDE — More than 100 parents rallied in front of the Shuang Wen School Friday morning, intent on defying an order from the Department of Education calling for the removal of a memorial to the high-performing school's ousted former principal.
But the expected clash never came.
"This is an avoidance tactic," said Angie Eng, who was among the parents who gathered Friday morning at the Cherry Street school, which has been a center of controversy since the Department of Education began investigating the school over its paid after-school program and enrollment practices.
"[The DOE] gave us this ultimatum, and they saw the parents got riled up, so they didn't do anything," Eng added. "I feel like they're bating us."
The DOE reassigned longtime principal Ling Ling Chou to administrative duties in July, pending the outcome of the investigations.
The memorial to Chou has become a lighting-rod for parents outraged over the DOE's handling of probes into financial impropriety at the dual-language school.
A report released in November cleared the school of the most serious charges against it, but called its financial practices "unorthodox".
"It’s totally wrong, that’s how we feel," said Sophia Lee, whose son is an eighth-grader at Shuang Wen. "We don’t want to stir anything up with the DOE, but there’s no response, no interaction, no respect."
DOE spokeswoman Marge Feinberg said the memorial was ordered to be taken down due to DOE policy.
"Posters and banners are not permitted on government buildings, including public schools," she said. "We strongly believe in freedom of speech and permit groups to hold press conferences on school property."
Parent Lee said the memorial was simply a way for parents and students to express their affection for Chou, who spent 12 years at the school's helm and could return pending the outcome of the investigations.
Shuang Wen ranked in the 99th percentile of elementary schools citywide on its 2010-2011 progress report — a fact parents said makes the continued controversy all the more galling.
"Ms. Ling did so much for the kids, and I think a little gesture for the kids to remember her is appropriate," Lee said. "We're not against the new principal whatsoever, we're just against this action."
Though parents said they were pleased to see the memorial still standing Friday morning, the victory may be short-lived.
A portion of the memorial disappeared shortly after the protesters dispersed, around 9:30 a.m. Parents said they expected the rest would be gone by the end of the President's Day weekend.
"We want to talk to the DOE, we want to talk about a lot of things, but nobody seems to want to approach us," Lee said. "They probably want to take down all the memories we have."