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Sunday, November 29, 2015

The Career of Santiago ("Santi") Taveras Comes Hopefully To A Crashing Stop

DeWitt Clinton High School
There is alot written about Santiago ("Santi") Taveras on the internet, all of which was ignored by the NYC DOE always.

Why that is, politics. It's always politics.

Betsy Combier

Here are some posts:

The (Mis)-Education of Santiago Taveras

Principal installed his own on-campus shower

Santiago Taveras

Santiago Taveras, 
principal of DeWitt Clinton HS, installed a shower in the school for his personal use, The Post has learned.
But it’s OK, says the Department of Education — he installed it himself.
“Principal Taveras purchased the materials for the shower with his own funds,” DOE officials said, adding that an investigation “did not substantiate any wrongdoing.”
Asked whether a contractor was hired, officials said Taveras “installed it himself outside of school time.”
DOE officials said “the bathroom is open to the principal, the principal’s secretary, the APs [assistant principals], parents and guests, and students who need it for emergency reasons. Principal Taveras is not the only staff member with a key.”
But DeWitt Clinton staffers said no one except Taveras and a custodian can get in. Taveras uses it to wash up after exercising at the school in the morning, they said.
The shower was put in without a required building permit.
Responding to a complaint of illegal plumbing work at the school, city Department of Building inspectors were “unable to gain access” to the locked room on two visits last January, records show.

Staffers accuse Bronx principal of fixing grades so students pass

by Susan Edelman
Santiago Taveras

The principal of DeWitt Clinton HS, a struggling Bronx school in Mayor de Blasio’s multimillion-dollar Renewal program, changed students’ failing grades to passing without teachers’ knowledge or consent, insiders told The Post.
In one case, Santiago Taveras gave a senior who received a “no show” in a global-history class a 75 and changed her failing 55 grade in gym to a minimum passing 65, records show. She then got a credit for each class, which she didn’t deserve, several staffers charged.
“He thinks he’s God and can do whatever he wants,” one said.
The office of the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools is probing the allegations, said spokeswoman Regina Romain. Taveras did not return a call or e-mail seeking comment.
Taveras, 50, a former deputy chancellor in the city Department of Education who closed failing schools, left a private job to lead DeWitt Clinton in 2013, vowing to revive the once-great Kingsbridge school. Its many VIP alumni include playwright Neil Simon, writer James Baldwin and comedian Tracy Morgan.
But last July, the state Education Department gave DeWitt Clinton and other lagging schools two years to show “demonstrable improvement” or face a takeover.
The 2,100-student school boasts an honors program and winning sports teams but has overall low attendance and 45 percent graduation rate. It’s also one of 94 Renewal schools the mayor and Schools Chancellor Carmen FariƱa say they’ll fix with an extra $400 million in three years.
Normally, a teacher requests a grade change if warranted. The teacher submits a written request to an assistant principal.
But in several cases reviewed by The Post, Taveras signed the forms himself. The teacher’s name is printed on the forms, but space for the teacher’s signature is blank.
Taveras changed a student’s failing 55 grade in an English class to 90, granting a credit. He submitted the forms last summer.
For another student, a failing 55 in algebra for a summer class in 2014 was changed to 65. Taveras filed the forms that October.
A student who got a failing 55 in gym in 2013 saw it changed to 65 after Taveras filed the forms in October 2014. Insiders said the teacher was unlikely to dispute the change because her mother is Taveras’ secretary.
The senior whose two grade changes were signed by Taveras had failed to take repeated offers to make up missed class time and work, staffers said.
In weekly e-mails, Taveras has prodded teachers to raise their “pass rates,” citing some as low as 7 percent. He urges them to give failing kids makeup work or extra projects so they can get the class credit.
“Our goal is to have a pass rate of 80 percent for the year,” he wrote last December.
In January 2014, Taveras urged teachers to follow “surprising grading policies” that seem to let lousy performance slide at prestigious high schools and colleges. For instance, Columbia University defines a “D” as “poor but passing.” At Harvard University, a “D” or “D”-minus is given for “work that is unsatisfactory but that indicates some minimal participation in class activities that is worthy of course credit toward the degree.”
“I believe we as a school need to better define our grading policies and practices,” Taveras wrote.

The Secrets of Autism

Mark and Bonnie Zampino (second and third from the left)
Re-posted from

My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About by Bonnie Zampino
The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware. But we aren't aware.
My Son Has the Kind of Autism No One Talks About
Huffington Post, Posted: 09/25/2015
by Bonnie Zampino

Like most parents of children with autism, I have been reading about the family in California who is being sued by several families in their neighborhood. The lawsuit contends that their child is a public nuisance because of his behaviors that his parents failed to fix.

One of the plaintiffs in this case stated "This is not about autism. This is about public safety."

But he is wrong. This is absolutely about autism. It's just not about the autism people hear about.

The media shows us all of the feel-good stories, like the child with autism who gets to be the manager of the high school basketball team, or the boy with autism who goes to the prom with the beautiful girl, or the girl with autism who is voted onto the homecoming court. We light it up blue every April and pat ourselves on the back for being so aware.

But we aren't aware.

Because for every boy with autism who manages his high school basketball team, there are 20 boys with autism who smear feces. And for every girl with autism who gets to be on the homecoming court, there are 30 girls with autism who pull out their hair and bite their arms until they bleed. And for every boy with autism who gets to go the prom, there are 50 boys with autism who hit and kick and bite and hurt other people.

This is the autism that no one talks about. This is the autism that no one wants to see.

We aren't aware.

One of the plaintiffs said "We're not upset about him being autistic. We are concerned and upset about his violence (toward) our children."

There is no way to be upset by this child's behaviors and not be upset about autism.

Autism and behaviors go hand-in-hand. Why? The behaviors are communication. Individuals with autism often can't communicate in a way that typically functioning people can understand. So they do things to get their needs met. And often the things they do are scary and violent.

We aren't aware.

My son, who is the same age as the child in this story, was extremely aggressive when he was younger. He did all of the things that the child involved in this lawsuit did. My son ran after other children on the playground just to push them down. He hit. He kicked. He bit. He pulled hair. And I never knew what was coming. For the longest time, I would flinch when he ran up to me...I didn't know whether he was going to hug me or hit me. Can you imagine, as a mom, what that's like? To flinch when your child runs to you?

We aren't aware.

Because I didn't know what my son was going to do to other children, we stopped going to the park. We stopped going to the Mommy and Me class at the library. We started going to the grocery store at 6:00 a.m. when most people weren't around. He didn't go to daycare but had a sitter at home so he wouldn't be around other kids in a daycare setting. I essentially isolated him in order to keep other people safe. Can you imagine what it's like to be a mom and not be able to take your child to the park? Or have your child attend birthday parties? Or have play dates?

We aren't aware.

Because of my need to isolate my son, I also isolated myself too. I watched from my window as other moms in the neighborhood sat in their camp chairs and chatted while their children played. I couldn't join them because my son couldn't be around the other kids. Once a mom asked if my son could come to their house and play with her son. Can you imagine what it was like to feel so excited and then feel so ashamed when, after explaining my son's issues to her so she would be aware, that invitation was rescinded?

We aren't aware. Not at all.

But we can be. We can open our eyes and understand that autism isn't all about the high functioning child who is "quirky" but OK to be around. Autism isn't all about the six-year-old who can play Piano Man better than Billy Joel. Autism can be hard. Autism can be sad. Autism can be messy. Autism can be violent. Autism can be isolating.

Once we become really aware, lawsuits like this won't happen. Why? Because instead of putting blue lights on our front porches, we will go outside with our kids and we will help them play together...typically functioning kids and kids with autism. We will get to know our neighbors and we will embrace the children with behaviors and embrace their parents along with them.

We will learn what things trigger our child's classmate who has autism so that we can help the children interact while avoiding things that will cause aggression. We will be a true village, including those who can model appropriate behaviors and those who are trying so hard to learn them. We will work on teaching our children not to hit and how to avoid being hit.

The parents involved in this lawsuit, on both sides, need to do more. More education, more understanding, more inclusion and more involvement.

Now tell me, is autism the real public nuisance?

We can become aware ... if we really want to.

A Special Space hosts special dedication

August 22, 2012
By Michelle Horst - Journal staff writer ( ,

CHARLES TOWN - In her space dedicated to providing out-of-school care for children all along the autism spectrum, Bonnie Zampino welcomed friends and community members to the grand opening of the sensory-designed classroom Tuesday morning.

Upon searching for a care provider for her son, Zampino discovered her community, and none close by, had a center that could provide care tailored to the needs of children who fell among various points on the autism spectrum.

"There are a lot of places that have opened schools, and some places have tried to integrate child care with therapy, but they have failed. I think that's because it's just too much," Zampino said earlier in the summer.

The space was once used for activities at Zion Episcopal Church on East Washington Street, and has been developed into what Zampino described as "therapeutic because of the environment."

The special parts of the space include a music area where all equipment is headphone-compatible so other children are not stimulated and disturbed; an area of technology that includes a laptop and Wii system with sport games and a bicycle to tune fine and gross motor skills; and an educational game cafe.

"We have a lot of emotional recognition games because social skills are often an issue. We also have a book-nook for calming sensory and an art area," Zampino said.

A Special Space will welcome children ages 5-12, as well as preschool students. Charles Town Mayor Peggy Smith cut the ribbon to the new center Tuesday morning, and it will open for business Monday.

"I'm proud to have A Special Space in the community. The need was here, and it's been filled," Smith said.

The center has focused on a 1-to-6 teacher-to-student ratio, and plans to enroll more children before the opening day.

"We want the community to understand, this is therapeutic because of the environment, and our caregivers are trained, but this is not just special needs. It's for all children, and it's all about inclusion. This could be for someone who just is anxious or a child who is shy, or a child who is just fine," Zampino said, adding that if a parent had the opportunity to choose a class of 30 or 15 for their children, the better choice would be the one with the lower student-teacher ratio.

Dr. Belinda Mitchell, assistant professor in the department of education at Shepherd University, who is working to develop a master's degree program in special education at Shepherd, said that by being a parent and an educator she has seen the need for A Special Space in the community.

"As an educator, it's difficult to know that something the students worked on that day in school, because they are not in the right place for afterschool care, what they learned can fall apart in the afternoon," Mitchell said. "A Special Space provides an opportunity to parents, teachers and children to collaborate the day care piece into the puzzle," she said.

More information on A Special Space can be found online at

- Staff writer Michelle Horst can be reached at 304-263-8931, ext. 138.