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Sunday, August 9, 2015

The NYC Department of Education Covers Up Wrong-Doing by Administrators and "Friends", and Has SCI, OSI and OEO Help Them Frame or Shut Up The Whistleblowers

The New York Post is doing an old story.

Richard Condon, Special Commissioner of Investigation

Reporters at the NYPOST have heard for years how the Special Commissioner of Investigation, Office of Special Investigations, Office of Equal Opportunity, the police in all precincts and safety agents assigned to all schools have ignored any misconduct, theft, assaults, fraud, and verbal/corporal abuse by administrators since I started looking into these acts in 1999.

No one cared, or no one wanted to make this terrible wrong, right. How do I know? I blew the whistle on theft, Special Education fraud and neglect at PS 6 (against Principal Carmen Farina), Larry Lynch (Principal of MS 54), and Stanley Teitel (Principal of Stuyvesant High School) when 1 or more of my daughters were attending these public schools. At PS 6 I was an Executive Board member, at MS 54 I was PTA President, and at Stuyvesant I was on the Executive Board and Editor of the parent's association newspaper.

Let me give you an example. Three of my daughters attended the Delta Honors Program inside Booker T. Washington MS 54 on West 108th Street in Manhattan. I was elected PTA President three years in a row. I found out the Principal at the time, Lawrence "Larry" Lynch, took the check sent to the PTA from Barnes And Noble after I and my volunteer parents raised a stunning $13,000 in an afternoon fundraiser. I of course investigated where it went.

Suddenly, Theresa Europe assigned OSI investigator Richard Switach to investigate me. I more or less turned the tables on him, by engaging him in his own questioning/"investigation". If he asked me a question, I answered it and asked him a question, gave him suggestions of where he should look for the facts, showed him where the money went and how Larry was playing games with the School Leadership Team and the Comprehensive Educational Plan. No one looked at my information about Larry, D.J. Sheppard (FACE, District 3) and Superintendent Patricia Romandetto. They only wanted to silence me. Good luck with that.

At Stuyvesant High School, where two of my daughters were accepted, the Chinese parents and whistleblower parent Mary Lok did their research and found more than $330,000 missing from the Parent's Association. Leonie Haimson's close friend and ally Paola De Kock (who now works for the NYC DOE) slandered Mary Lok at a meeting, threw her off of her Chinese Parent Committee, and I flew to her side. We called SCI and filed a complaint. Then we went to see Public Advocate Scott Stringer, who put us in touch with his Attorney, Jimmy Yan. Jimmy promised to look into the missing money and the removal of Mary, and I have kept his message to me on my cell phone ever since. OSI, and SCI did nothing, then hired Paola for her excellent stamina at fighting "for wrong-doing", not against it. Mary's daughter and my daughter were harmed by the NYC DOE in retaliation. Scott Stringer and Jimmy Yan were never heard from again.

Christine Rubino (now "Dorto"), an excellent, caring teacher at PS 203, was one of many staff at the school who were horrified that David Santore, a teacher at the school, was inviting boys to visit him at home and use his pool. He bought them new underwear. David retaliated against Christine after she, in a moment of frustration, said to her "closed" circle of friends on facebook that she hated her students and would like to take them to the beach - a few days after a student at another DOE school,  drowned. This was a stupid thing to say, and a few days later she took it down, and forgot about it. Unfortunately, David wanted Christine to be removed from the school because she was very popular and a favorite of the Principal, and she knew that he was taking boys home with him after the after school program, and allowing them to use his swimming pool, buying them new underwear, etc.. Her removal, he thought, would make his afterschool fun easier. He was removed after Christine's 3020-a (I was there as a member of the public, watching Christine's lawyer Bryan Glass, and heard David Senatore testify against Christine) in March 2012.

David Sanatore called me at home several weeks after Christine's termination at her 3020-a, and asked me to help him find a boy he was very worried about. He told me he was very concerned about this boy and wanted my help as a parent advocate. He was not the boy's parent, whom I spoke to and who was very angry at David Sanatore. I called SCI and reported the call and told the investigator, Mr. Jeffrey Anderson, everything that I knew.

Richard Condon, Special Commissioner
About 10 months later Mr. Anderson left a message on my home telephone that Mr Sanatore was back in his school, and he, Anderson, did not substantiate any of my claims. No one, including the boy's very angry dad, was interviewed.

I have many stories of teachers calling OSI and then being charged with the misconduct they reported.

My suggestion: if you see something, say something - but not to SCI, OSI or OEO. Call me or the police, then the media. If you work for the NYC DOE in any capacity, or you are a parent with a child in the system, you should be prepared to be retaliated against. For this reason, you should tell someone not in the NYC DOE System.

Betsy Combier

City investigated just 3 — of 300 — school cheating complaints

Adam Short, NY POST, August 9, 2015
A city agency that investigates school employee misconduct has probed only about 1 percent of the hundreds of cheating allegations it received.
The office of the special commissioner of investigation for city schools, Richard Condon, conducted three probes into alleged test tampering and grade changing — out of about 300 complaints — in 2014.
The number of open cheating investigations this year rose to four — again out of about 300 complaints.
Cheating allegations made up nearly 6 percent of all complaints Condon’s office reviewed in 2014, spokeswoman Regina Romain said.
Instead of probing the allegations of academic fraud, the SCI passed most along to the city Department of Education’s investigative unit, the Office of Special Investigations. The SCI operates under the city Department of Investigation and is independent of the DOE.
The SCI’s referral of the allegations put the DOE in the convenient position of investigating itself, critics say.
“It’s important that investigators are seen as independent, have professional expertise, and have no vested interest,” said Rob Brenner, a former deputy commissioner at the SCI who authored a 1999 report on cheating in schools. “Witnesses who are likely to be other school employees will be pretty wary about coming forward to an internal DOE entity.”
The SCI’s probers, many of whom are retired NYPD detectives, seem better equipped to get to the bottom of fraud than those at the OSI, who are more likely to be lawyers, experts said.
“It feels like a police inquiry” when the SCI is involved, said Columbia University education professor Eric Nadelstern.
Romain and DOE spokesman Harry Hartfield refused to say exactly how many academic-fraud complaints the SCI referred to the OSI, or how many of the complaints were substantiated.
“There is zero tolerance for schools that don’t adhere to our academic policies, and we are committed to ensuring that we have the staff needed to investigate any allegation of misconduct,” Hartfield said, referring to the OSI’s capabilities.
But critics blasted Condon’s office for brushing off cheating cases.
“They hang onto the sexier cases and pass off everything else to OSI,” Nadelstern said. “Test tampering does not meet their criteria for one reason or another.
“In a situation where there appears to be widespread cheating in the schools, nobody connected to the Department of Education, SCI, City Hall, or the state Department of Education looks good. It appears they aren’t being vigilant enough.”
The de Blasio administration has come under fire for a grade-fixing scandal that has raised questions about the value of city high-school diplomas.
Insiders say Mayor de Blasio and DOI Commissioner Mark Peters — who oversees Condon — have shifted the priorities of the city’s main investigative agency away from schools.
Instead, Peters has directed resources toward jail corruption and day-care operators, because de Blasio wanted to clean up Rikers Island and launch a universal pre-K program, said a source familiar with the DOI.
“It did often occur to me why more [academic fraud] isn’t being investigated,” the source said. “If somebody is defrauding to make stats look good or cover up nonperformance, I wouldn’t see why you wouldn’t look into that.”
After Post exposés this summer about cheating school administrators, Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña last week said she would form a $5 million task force of city DOE administrators to look for irregularities in exam scores, credits or graduation rates, and turn them over to the SCI.
But critics said an independent body should monitor the school system for cheating.
“You can’t audit yourself. That’s Accounting 101,” said state Sen. Simcha Felder (D-Brooklyn), chair of the Senate Committee on Cities, which oversees city schools.
Additional reporting by Susan Edelman and Carl Campanile

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