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Principal Tried To Improve School By Black Magic
By: RSS/News FeedsHungZai Team

A principal who took an unusual approach to improve her TriBeCa high school — allegedly hiring a “black magic” practitioner to cleanse evil spirits through a ceremony involving sprinkled chicken blood — is being forced out a month before the school year starts. A replacement principal has not yet been named.

“There was always a running joke that, because many of the students were ill-behaved, we should use sage to cleanse the building,” an assistant principal at the Unity Center for Urban Technologies on Sixth Avenue, Melody Crooks-Simpson, told city investigators. Then, during midwinter break in early 2006, Ms. Crooks-Simpson said, Principal Maritza Tamayo invited her to a Santeria ceremony that would involve chicken blood, according to a report released yesterday by the Department of Education’s special commissioner of investigation, Richard Condon.

Ms. Crooks-Simpson said she did not attend that ceremony but did go to a second rite where a woman, Gilda Fonte, shuffled Tarot cards under a cloud of cigar smoke. The assistant principal said she was later pressured to pay $900 toward Ms. Fonte’s fee for the service.

Investigators confirmed Ms. Crooks-Simpson sent a check in that amount to Ms. Tamayo, according to the report. Ms. Tamayo, who told investigators that she had not held any religious ceremonies at her school, said the check was a payment for a trip the two took together in 2005.

Ms. Tamayo did not return a request for comment yesterday.

Investigators did not interview anyone who attended the first Santeria ceremony mentioned by Ms. Crooks-Simpson. But a computer technician, Keenan Britt, told them he saw the principal and two women walk into the school over the midwinter break dressed in white clothing and white headdresses. One balanced 40 lighted candles on her head atop a stainless steel tray, he told investigators.

The report also quotes Mr. Britt as saying Ms. Tamayo introduced Ms. Fonte to him as a “black magic” practitioner. Ms. Fonte denied participating in Santeria, describing herself as a religious Catholic who has used Tarot cards in the past, the report says.

A Los Angeles man who identified himself as a high priest of Santeria, Frank Discussion, said chickens are commonly used in cleansing ceremonies. “All the negativity passes into the chicken,” he said. Then the chicken is slaughtered. The Department of Education has already pulled Ms. Tamayo from the school and is taking steps to ban her from working in the city schools, a spokeswoman, Marge Feinberg, said. Following union guidelines, she will remain on the city payroll while she is given due process to challenge the decision. The steps follow the recommendations of the report, which also charges that Ms. Tamayo “engaged in financial irregularities” by paying Ms. Fonte to drive students to their Regents exams.

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