April 20, 2012
A sprawling investigation into the leadership of a controversial dual-language school in Chinatown concluded that the school’s principal had falsified attendance data and accepted money from a non-profit hired to administer after school language lessons.
The Department of Education will move to fire Ling Ling Chou, who was removed from the school in September while as many as 16 different investigations were underway.
According to the report, she frequently faked numbers when reporting information about the school to the city and the United States Department of Education, including student attendance records and the length of the school day. The report does not conflict with a different report released last year by the special commissioner of investigations, which found that Chou and other staffers committed multiple improprieties, but did not outright steal public money.
“For years, Principal Chou engaged in dishonest behavior, unbeknownst to her students and school community,” said Chancellor Dennis Walcott in a statement. “Principal Chou’s conduct has failed to meet the standard we set for our principals, and I am filing charges to terminate her employment.”
Shuang Wen consistently boasts some of the strongest test scores in the city, but divisions between the staff and parents at the Lower East Side school have led to numerous allegations of and investigations into misconduct.
Among other substantiated allegations, investigators found that Chou accepted thousands of dollars from a non-profit that administers the school’s after school program, called Shuang Wen Academy Network, for performing administrative duties for the organization and serving as summer director of its after school programs. Chou said she resigned from serving on the organization’s board on the advice of a principals’ union representative, who warned that her actions could lead to an OSI investigation into conflicts of interest.
A parent reported to OSI that Chou had removed his children from the school’s roster when they took a vacation to Disney World, then re-enrolled them upon their return. Investigators found that hundreds of students had also been similarly discharged for taking days off from school, and that Chou had encouraged teachers to mark students as present at school even when they left less than halfway through the school day.
For example Chou once falsified attendance records to show near-perfect attendance at the school when in fact more than half the students had left “en mass” after attendance was taken to attend Chinese New Year celebrations.
The exterior of Shuang Wen was quiet in the hours following dismissal this afternoon, and the dozens of parents and staffers who filed out remained tight-lipped about the news.
Two parents, while climbing into a car parked outside on Cherry Street, said they had heard the news, but had not had time to form an opinion yet.
“We have to see what happens next,” one said before driving off.
Several teachers would respond to GothamSchools only with a firm, “no comment.”
Below is a letter the city sent to parents today. The OSI reports are available on our Scribd page.