Bilingual School Defies DOE For Ousted Principal

Tensions between parents and the Department of Education flared once more last week when over 100 parents and students gathered in front of the Shuang Wen School in the Lower East Side Friday morning, reports DNAinfo. The group had gathered to express their refusal to remove posters dedicated to the high-performing school’s beloved former principal, Ling Ling Chou. Chou was ousted amidst an investigation into financial impropriety.

Citing department policy, the DOE had called for the wall of pictures, drawings and text to be removed — turning the “memorial” into the latest source of discord at the city’s first dual language English-Mandarin public school.

“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 baiting us.”

The DOE’s handling of the investigation has angered parents.

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.”

Parents said they had good reasons to support the former principal.

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.”

As for the posters:

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.”

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