It will be up to a new principal to steer New York City’s most prestigious specialized high school through a fierce debate over integration.
Principal Eric Contreras announced Monday that he is stepping down as principal of Stuyvesant high school, news first reported by the Wall Street Journal. He will join the education department as a senior executive director overseeing teacher training and curriculum, but will stay at the school until a replacement is named.
“This decision has been a very difficult one,” he wrote in a letter to parents and students.
His departure comes as Mayor Bill de Blasio lobbies to admit more black and Hispanic students to specialized high schools by scrapping the entrance exam that is now the only entrance criteria — sparking outrage from some parents, alumni groups, and elected officials.
Though Contreras told the Journal he is in favor of “mixed metrics” to be used in admissions, his letter does not directly address the current debate engulfing his school community. But he highlighted some diversity initiatives under his tenure, such as a tutoring and mentoring program for students at middle schools that are underrepresented at Stuyvesant and the relaunch of Discovery, a program that offers admission to students who just missed the exam cutoff and who complete summer work. (The city now requires all specialized high schools to offer it, though it has so far had a limited effect.)
Born in Guatemala, Contreras was the school’s first Hispanic principal and told Chalkbeat when he took the position that is he was “deeply invested” in boosting Stuyvesant’s diversity. This year, only 10 black students and 27 Hispanic students were offered admission to the school.
Here’s the letter he shared.