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Comments of the week: A feud over breadth of Stuy cheating

This week kicked off with a bang, as the city named its pick to lead Stuyvesant High School. It has fizzled since then, so we’re moving our regular Friday feature to today and highlighting some extra-interesting comments our readers left on the news story about the new principal, Jie Zhang. On Friday, GothamSchools will publish only if there’s breaking news.

Zhang is taking over Stuyvesant after the Department of Education’s top officials intervened in a high-profile cheating scandal at the ultra-selective school. She told reporters that she didn’t think cheating was a major problem at Stuyvesant — also her children’s school — but that she would nonetheless work immediately to establish a culture of integrity.

Our readers were divided about the scope of the cheating problem Zhang will have to confront — and about whether she could be more honest about it. In the second comment on the story, “Yes” wrote:

If there is a widespread cheating problem … and there is ……..with the NUMEROUS facebook pages with kids posting their homework….is a principal whose own children may be knee deep in it the right choice?

Another reader, posting as “ActualStudent,” expressed a similar sentiment:

To have 2 children go to this school, and think this was an isolated incident? Either lying or entirely oblivious.

“123” said there could be a very good reason that Zhang was out of the loop on cheating that did take place:

How is it surprising that she didn’t know? Teenagers keep lots of secrets from their parents, and a group of cheaters is not necessarily a topic that comes up during dinner conversations.

Cheating is a dinner-table conversation for another commenter, parent, “rf486”:

My daughter will be a junior at another large specialized high school. When we discussed the cheating scandal at Stuy, as well as the market in amphetamines among high school students recently publicized in an article in the Times, she said, yes, some kids cheat, some kids take drugs to do better on tests or sell their drugs. But not all students, not most students. My guess is that it’s similar at Stuy.

ActualStudent responded with a quick rebuttal:

it’s not Stuyvesant had plenty of cheating scandals while Jie Zhang was part of the PTA. School wide scandals such as a departmental final examination having to be re-administered after a student obtained a copy and distributed it to the grade. These stories did not get passed around to the media, but were well known about within the school. To be part of the PTA, and not hear about things like that…

Another commenter who said he was a Stuyvesant student, “Anonymous,” offered additional details about what cheating there looks like to him:

What’s worse is that the cheating that happens at Stuyvesant is on such a cooperative level. I remember being in classes where the entire student body worked together to cheat. Cheating here is different from other schools, because the students are more clever in their methods of cheating.

Aside from the cheating issue, other commenters weighed in on whether Zhang was a good choice for the school. She has been a math teacher, assistant principal, principal, and network leader in the Department of Education.

One commenter, “Tim,” wrote that he was surprised more commenters did not praise that trajectory:

Any time there’s been a reason on this site to discuss a Leadership Academy or younger principal, inevitably there are comments about how principals should have extensive classroom experience, graduate to becoming an AP, and then grow into the principal’s role. Here is someone who has taken pretty much exactly that route, and who has five years’ worth of experience as the principal of another selective exam school to boot, and in the span of four hours here we’ve seen her called a Tweed stooge and an apparatchik, and had it implied that she condones cheating and must have been a failure as a network leader. Unbelievable.