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Interim Stuyvesant High School Principal Vows Cheating Crackdown

By Julie Shapiro | August 6, 2012 2:44pm | Updated on August 6, 2012 3:58pm
Jie Zhang, the new interim principal at Stuyvesant High School.
Jie Zhang, the new interim principal at Stuyvesant High School.
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Department of Education

BATTERY PARK CITY — The new interim principal of Stuyvesant High School — an adminstrator who supervised schools including the elite Battery Park City institution — vowed Monday to take a tough line on cheating, after 70 students were caught sharing answers on Regents tests earlier this year.

Jie Zhang, who is also a Stuyvesant parent, is taking over the school while officials search for a permanent replacement for longtime principal Stan Teitel, who resigned on Friday, the Department of Education announced Monday.

"My top priority is to create a...culture that ensures integrity and zero tolerance…in cheating on testing," Zhang, a Queens resident, said in a conference call with reporters Monday afternoon.

Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City.
Stuyvesant High School in Battery Park City.
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Flickr/Art Poskanzer

Zhang's appointment comes six weeks after officials uncovered widespread cheating at the school and forced 70 students who received illicit help on the Regents exams to retake the tests. The DOE's investigation into the cheating ring is ongoing.

Zhang is no stranger to Stuyvesant High School. She has overseen academics and operations at many of the city's specialized high schools, including Stuyvesant, since 2011. Among her duties was overseeing academic integrity training for school employees.

The DOE would not comment on whether she was being interviewed as part of the cheating investigation.

Her daughter will be a junior at the Chambers Street school this fall and her son, who graduated from Stuyvesant in 2008, went on to Harvard University, where he received a degree in physics and math in just three years, Zhang said.

Although the school's student-run newspaper has chronicled endemic cheating at Stuyvesant over the years — including a poll earlier this year that found most students had copied homework and shared information about tests — Zhang said she had never heard of any instances of cheating at the school until the Regents scandal was uncovered in June.

"I have not had a reason to believe that there is ongoing cheating there," Zhang said, though she added that she would work to ensure students had a "strong value system."

"This kind of behavior is not acceptable, totally not acceptable," Zhang said of the cheating. "We are not going to tolerate that."

Zhang declined to comment on specific changes she wanted to make at Stuyvesant, saying she needed more time on the job, which she just accepted Monday afternoon.

A native of China, Zhang has a master's degree in applied math from SUNY-Stony Brook and taught math for eight years at Forest Hills High School before working as an assistant principal there.

She has also worked as a regional instructional specialist for the DOE and was principal of Queens High School for the Sciences at York College from 2006 to 2011.

"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," Schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott said in a statement.

The city will begin searching for a permanent principal for Stuyvesant High School in September. Zhang said she will apply for the job.