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Principal, 6, lays down law

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Maryam Ahmad was ready for work as Principal for a Day at the Kew-Forest School Friday, undaunted by the duty of disciplining ninth-grade students whose uniforms were not up to snuff.

"Miss Ahmad," as she was called all day as students and administrators deferred to her, is 6 and in kindergarten at the school on Union Turnpike in Forest Hills.

"I have a lot ahead of me," she said of her work for the day, sitting in the big chair at the principal's desk, where her feet stuck out primly in front of her.

Among her big decisions for the day were planning lunch for her class pizza, ice cream and apple juice and giving the student body a "no homework day" pass to be used at each child's discretion by the end of the school year, which is fast approaching.

She said the fourth- and fifth-graders lobbied her aggressively for a "no homework day" when she visited their music class, pushing her around the room in a sort of conga line as they chanted their wishes for the coveted passes.

Miss Ahmad did not flinch at reprimanding two boys much older than herself whose scruffy appearance was out of line with the school dress code, said Ann LaForge, assistant head of school for advancement. She just followed LaForge's instructions.

"Your shoes are untied and your ties are not on," Miss Ahmad said she told the two boys. "One boy who was standing in front of me, his shoes were untied, his tie was undone and his shirt was crumpled. I told him tie your shoes, put on a tie. One of the ladies told me to say it."

Miss Ahmad's job as Principal for the Day was an item up for bidding in the school gala auction and cost her parents $3,000, LaForge said. Her brother Rashaad, now in the sixth grade at the school, was also Principal for a Day twice, and Maryam had wanted the same job even before she began attending Kew-Forest, where the youngest grade is kindergarten, LaForge said.

"It's a lighter workload and the decisions aren't as far-reaching, but she was encouraged to make some decisions," LaForge said. "We always tease them about hiring and firing, and giving us raises."

The job coincided with Kew-Forest's Special Visitors Day, a school tradition, LaForge said. Miss Ahmad was to address the assembly of students, parents and relatives at the close of the school day.

" 'My grandmother already told me what to say,' she said. 'Hello and welcome,' " LaForge said of the kindergart­ener's planned speech to the guests. "I said, 'That's it?' and she said those are the only English words she [her grandmother] knows."

Reach reporter Alex Christodoulides by e-mail at achristodoulides@timesledger.com or by phone at 718-229-0300, Ext. 155.

Updated 6:58 pm, October 10, 2011
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