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In the West Bank city of Hebron, the Fatah-affiliated deputy chief of the local school district, Nisrine Amr, sued Mr. Shaer after he named a private Islamic school principal as her boss. When the new boss in turn was arrested by Israeli troops two months ago, another Hamas-allied educator was brought in as a temporary replacement, rather than allowing Miss Amr to step in, as protocol would have suggested.

“They didn’t even give us a chance to run [the district] for one day because we are not of their political persuasion,” said Miss Amr.

The Education Ministry denied it is hiring teachers and administrators based on their politics, but said that Mr. Shaer, like any other politician, had the right to surround himself with trusted staffers.

“In the recruitment policy, the changes were very slight,” said ministry spokesman Basri Saleh. “There is nothing about marginalizing that team of people or giving an advantage to this team of people.”

However, Hamas‘ rivals fear the Islamic movement has plenty of time to overhaul the system, slowly.

Azzam Al-Ahmed, the deputy prime minister from Fatah, said Hamas “tries and keeps trying” to change education. “If they continue in power for a long time, they will succeed,” he said.

Computer teacher Riham Diek says she already feels the shift.

“As a mother, I am very afraid for my children,” said Mrs. Diek, whose 14-year-old daughter, Naheel, is being hounded by pro-Hamas teachers in her West Bank village of Kufr Nameh to trade her jeans and denim jacket for a head scarf and robe.

“We want a generation that is able to deal with the rules of freedom and democracy,” she said.

c AP reporters Mohammed Daraghmeh in Ramallah and Ibrahim Barzak in Gaza City contributed to this report.