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Saturday, November 17, 2018

Teacher and Coach Steve DeCaro is Re-Assigned From His Duties in Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, Leading To Mass Public Protest

 Yes, there are rubber rooms outside of New York City. Steve DeCaro, a beloved teacher and coach in the Mattituck-Cutchogue School District, was suddenly reassigned during the week of October 7, 2018, and no one is happy.....except some secret accuser, somewhere.
This process still makes no sense to me, 16 years after I started studying it.

Mattituck-Cutchogue board approves new physics teacher


Mattituck-Cutchoque parent Chris McDonald

Mattituck-Cutchogue board approves new physics teacher


Despite the approval of physics and AP Physics teacher Tom Tomaszewski at the Mattituck-Cutchogue board meeting, seven parents, students and alumni returned to the microphone Thursday to voice continued concerns about teacher and coach Steve DeCaro.

Mr. DeCaro was placed on administrative leave the week of Oct. 7 for unspecified reasons. As a result, October’s board meeting brought about 200 community members to show their support for Mr. DeCaro and express their frustrations to the board. A month later, the reason for his leave has still not been disclosed.

Roughly fifty people attended the meeting Thursday evening, filling most of the library seats. A lawyer representing the district, Christopher Venator, was also present. Vice President Marylynn Hoeg told community members that the board recognizes the community’s frustrations regarding “ongoing teacher concerns” and is listening to their comments.

“We are legally bound to confidentiality constraints,” she said. “We have received many emails from people on all sides of these issues. We want you to know that we read every email, we read the posts on social media, as well as the articles in the local paper. We do hear you, and acknowledge as well as appreciate, your concern.”

Of the seven people who spoke at the meeting, four were familiar faces — returning to the microphone since last month’s meeting.

This included Lauren Gilbert, who has two boys in Cutchogue-East. She said that Donna Finnigan, a previous fourth-grade teacher in the district, was placed on administrative leave last August, also for an undisclosed reason. Ms. Finnigan was brought back to the classroom last Wednesday as a math AIS instructor, a teacher that offers extra help to struggling students. Ms. Gilbert said this position doesn’t reflect Ms. Finnigan’s experience.

“Her position within this school district is less than desirable,” she said. “Less than desirable for her, the teachers and the students who should be receiving her amazing skillset in a classroom setting.”

Ms. Gilbert also said she’s frustrated she’s paying for Mr. Tomaszewski, the new teacher, and Mr. DeCaro, whose paid through administrative leave. She said she spoke with Superintendent Jill Gierasch about Mr. DeCaro.

“Ms. Gierasch made me aware that these things take time, which I can understand, but at what cost?” she said. “The cost is our tax money going to two teacher salaries, one who is proven to be successful in our district, being forced to stay home, and one who has been brought in as his leave replacement. The cost is the student’s education which has basically been put on hold for over a month.”

Senior student Madison Schmidt, who said she’s taken five AP courses over the course of her high school career, said her AP Physics grades are suffering as a result of having no teacher in the classroom for roughly a month.

“I signed up for this course with the knowledge of who my teacher was going to be,” she said. “For about a month, we have essentially been left on our own. Most of that time was spent having a class-wide ping-pong tournament.”

Ms. Schmidt also said the class has not completed a single AP Physics lab thus far. According to the College Board website, teachers are required to spend 25 percent of class time on hands-on labs to engage in the seven AP science practices for the course.

As a result, some parents in the district have asked the district to consider modifying AP Physics grades as a result of Mr. DeCaro’s absence.

“As the students grades have been glaringly and negatively affected by this fiasco, is the administration willing to change last quarter’s grade for affected students to a pass-fail?” Chris McDonald, who has a senior student at Mattituck, asked the board.

Laural Olsen, whose senior son is taking AP Physics, also agreed she’s concerned with children’s education after the class had no teacher for a month.

“Honestly, there did not appear to be a plan in place. The replacement for that teacher was approved on tonight’s board agenda, but he has been out of that classroom for over a month.” Ms. Olsen said. “Are we considering a plan for addressing the gap in our children’s education with the college’s they’re applying to?”

After hearing both complaints, Ms. Hoeg said she understands their frustrations since her daughter is a senior student in Physics.

“We will look into the pass-fail option and we will continue to work on this,” she said.

Tom Farrell, the president of the Mattituck-Cutchogue Teachers Association, was the last to speak. While he said he understands the personnel issue, he’s concerned for the union, and requested that the board offers specific guidelines to teachers in the district.

“There’s 130 of us, and there’s a real sense of the ground shifting under our feet and union members not knowing, literally, where they stand,” Mr. Farrell said. “We need guidance. We need people to step up and tell us what they want from us, and some real clear expectations.”

Photo caption: Chris McDonald, who has a senior student at Mattituck, question how students’ grades would be impacted. (Kate Nalepinski photo)

by Kate Nalepinski, 10/19/18
 “Can I have a show of hands of who is here tonight in support of the high school teacher currently under suspension?”

A sea of about 200 students, parents, alumni, and members of the Mattituck baseball program raised their hands after Lauren Gilbert, the mother of two boys at Cutchogue East Elementary School, asked the question at the Mattituck-Cutchogue Board of Education meeting Thursday night. A total of 26 other people approached the microphone during the more than two-hour meeting to address concerns with the absence of longtime physics teacher and Mattituck baseball coach, Steve DeCaro, and describe what they feel is a changing culture in the district

“I recognize why many of you are here — it regards Mr. DeCaro,” Board president Charles Anderson said at the beginning of the meeting.

Mr. Anderson announced that the administration is currently investigating the situation and solely the board will determine the future of Mr. DeCaro, who was removed from the classroom last week, according to an Oct. 12 email sent to parents by high school principal Shawn Petretti. Mr. Anderson did not announce the status of Mr. DeCaro’s absence, saying it’s a “confidential matter.”

Superintendent Jill Gierasch emphasized that a replacement teacher, set to begin Oct. 29, is qualified, and another teacher will be available for extra help on Tuesday and Thursday evenings.

“This individual has taught physics and AP physics for over nine years,” Ms. Gierasch said. “We are confident he has personal and instructional skills needed to support success.”

But some parents said waiting nearly a month for a full-time replacement teacher wouldn’t cut it.

“To go without one month of properly learning about AP Physics is unacceptable,” said Katie Thomas, who has two sons, one of whom is a current senior. “I don’t know how a new teacher will be perceived by the students, but if it’s like the way it’s working right now, it’ll be a while before the kids can actually learn in that class.”

Ms. Gilbert added: “I have lost faith in this administration.”

Six current members of the Mattituck varsity baseball team spoke during the meeting. They said Mr. DeCaro has not only led the team to success, but they excel academically because of him.

“He pushes us to be the best … Whether it’s in the weight room, whether it’s at practice when we’re going over fundamentals,” said Tyler C. Olsen, a varsity player and AP physics student.

The audience gave the boys a standing ovation after they had all finished speaking.

Sean McDonald, a current AP physics student and member of the varsity baseball team, said he started an internal petition to support his teacher. He received 200 signatures in four days, representing a large percentage of the current high school enrollment.

“With their signatures, these students would depict that they support my physics teacher, and that they disagree with your choice to remove him,” he said. “You represent us, as a community — don’t let us down.”

Jon Lisowy, a current varsity baseball player and student, said he and a classmate compiled a video of 37 alumni and current students defending Mr. DeCaro. He asked the board to present it at the board meeting, but they respectfully declined. Mr. Anderson answered him directly and reassured Jon that all board members would view his video individually.

Kathy Perivolaris, whose son Marcos was a captain on the 2015 state championship team, read a letter her son had written, where he asked that if Mr. DeCaro doesn’t return, the championship banners from their year be removed out of respect for the coach that led them to victory.

Some parents in attendance described the board’s decision as an attack on teachers. Bridget Marine, who has four kids in the district, said the choice to stand up for Mr. DeCaro represents a fight for all teachers.

“We are fighting for all teachers, not just our favorite,” Ms. Marine said. “But he deserves the best.”

Kathleen Delaney, a grandmother of two boys at Cutchogue East, said: “Many of us do not know the facts. We as parents have a right to know.”

Other students spoke about having Mr. DeCaro as a teacher, and said a lot of his “wacky” and “memorable” quirks would be lost if they don’t bring him back to the district.

“He made me look forward to school,” said 2018 graduate Cassidy Bertolas. “Seniors need him to make memories.”

Another student described Mr. DeCaro as “a Mattituck tradition.”

Marguerite Kitz, a longtime teacher at Wading River Elementary School, said removing Mr. DeCaro has jeopardized the quality of the community. Her son, Jack, who was a student at Mattituck, she said, loved Mr. DeCaro.

“He has this sense of community that we moved here for,” she said. “It would be so sad to lose our incredible sense of community … I am proud to say that I live in Mattituck. I don’t want that to change.”

Top photo caption: From left, Christopher Nicholson, Bridget Marine and Lauren Gilbert were among the speakers at Thursday’s meeting. (Credit: Kate Nalepinski)

NYC Mayor de Blasio Fires Department of Investigation Commissioner Mark Peters, And All Hell Breaks Loose

Mark Peters and Bill de Blasio
photo: Natan Dvir; Brigitte Stelzer
The firing of Department of Investigations Commissioner sure looks like the exact same scenario as when Governor Andrew Cuomo disbanded the Moreland Commission, set up to look at corruption. The Governor stopped The Moreland Commission and disbanded the group after they subpoenaed Cuomo's personnel and records.
Wikipedia posts what happened next:

After the commission was disbanded, the governor and the commission were criticized by government watchdogs, New York prosecutors and the United States Attorney for the Southern District of New YorkPreet Bharara. Bharara opened an investigation into the commission, the possible interference by the governor's office, and into the targets of the commission's own incomplete investigations. He also instructed legislators and the governor's office to retain any documents related to the commission.[6][9] In 2015, investigations by Bharara's office resulted in the arrest and conviction of Assembly speaker Silver and Senate majority leader Skelos. Then in January 2016 the U.S. Attorney announced the end of his investigation into the closing of the commission.[10]
In March 2017, President Donald Trump fired Bharara in the midst of an investigation concerning Trump appointees. Bharara later tweeted: "By the way, I know what the Moreland Commission must have felt like."[11]

De Blasio Fires Investigations Chief, Citing Abuse of Power

Mayor Bill de Blasio on Friday took the extraordinary step of firing his embattled investigations commissioner, Mark G. Peters, the culmination of a fierce rivalry between the two powerful men.

It was a rare and consequential action by a mayor to remove an investigations commissioner: The position is understood to come with a large degree of independence that allows impartial scrutiny of all areas of government, including the executive branch.

But the relationship between Mr. Peters and the mayor had severely deteriorated over time, and the last straw was an independent investigator’s report that found that Mr. Peters had abused his power and mistreated underlings, and said that he was “cavalier with the truth.”

Mr. Peters had produced numerous investigative reports that exposed significant failings in city agencies that were highly embarrassing to Mr. de Blasio, including lapses in performing lead paint inspections at the New York City Housing Authority, and the lifting of deed restrictions on a Lower East Side nursing home that permitted its sale to a developer of luxury condominiums.

Mr. de Blasio on Friday said those investigations did not influence his decision.

“D.O.I. is meant to be critical of city agencies,” Mr. de Blasio said at a news conference, before delineating the “mistakes and abuses of power” detailed in the independent report on Mr. Peters. “The D.O.I. commissioner is supposed to be the most pristine of all.”

Mr. de Blasio said that he was not influenced by any continuing investigations. Mr. Peters had begun an investigation into whether City Hall sought to influence a review of the educational quality at some Jewish religious schools.

He also said, however, that he regretted hiring Mr. Peters in the first place.

Mr. Peters said in a brief statement that he would issue a fuller written response to his firing in coming days. He said that under his direction the department “exposed corruption and misconduct and forced serious systematic reforms in multiple agencies.”

He wrote that he did not want his staff to take the firing as a defeat, “but rather as proof that the excellent work you do makes a difference — indeed, so much of a difference that “it appears the mayor felt compelled to act.”

The City Charter says the mayor has the power to remove the investigation commissioner, as long as he gives an accounting of his reasons for the firing and allows the commissioner “an opportunity of making a public explanation.”

It said Mr. Peters’s removal would take effect after three business days, a period ending Wednesday that is apparently intended to allow time for Mr. Peters to make the public explanation mentioned in the City Charter.

Mr. Peters fell far and hard. A longtime friend of the mayor, he served as the treasurer for Mr. de Blasio’s 2013 mayoral campaign. When Mr. de Blasio appointed him as the commissioner of the Department of Investigation, the choice was greeted with skepticism, with critics asking whether someone so close to the mayor would be independent enough to pursue investigations into the administration.

Mr. de Blasio often took issue with the findings and defended agency heads who came under Mr. Peters’s scrutiny.

But Mr. Peters finally overreached: Earlier this year, he staged a takeover of an independent office that conducts investigations of the school system. When the head of the office, Anastasia C. Coleman, resisted the takeover, Mr. Peters fired her.

She then filed a whistle-blower complaint, which led to the appointment of an independent investigator: James G. McGovern, a former federal prosecutor.

Mr. de Blasio had considered firing Mr. Peters at the time but decided against it; city officials seemed leery of the possible backlash over firing an investigator who had taken a critical look at the mayor’s governance.

The McGovern report, which was completed in early October, finally gave the mayor the impetus and evidence to force Mr. Peters out.

The City Council was a strong ally of Mr. Peters in his clashes with the mayor’s office, especially under the current Council speaker, Corey Johnson. But the whistle-blower report undermined that support, including the allegations that Mr. Peters had misled the Council.

Mr. Johnson provided a statement on Friday that credited Mr. Peters for exposing “significant issues” at the housing authority and in other agencies, but said “the McGovern report raised questions about his ability to continue in his role.”

But the chairman of the Council’s committee on oversight and investigations, Ritchie Torres, praised Mr. Peters for his independence, adding that he “strongly disagreed” with the firing.

Mr. de Blasio, in a statement released after the dismissal, thanked Mr. Peters for his service but saved his praise for Ms. Garnett.

“Margaret has spent decades protecting the public’s interest, prosecuting criminals both inside and outside of government,” he said.


De Blasio's Peters principle: When the mayor moved to boot his top watchdog
NY Daily News, September 21, 2018

Never has a mayor of New York dared fire the anti-corruption watchdog who guards City Hall.

With seven pages drafted by his lawyers earlier this year to deliver the justifications the law says he must, Mayor de Blasio this spring came to the brink of firing Mark Peters as commissioner of the Department of Investigation — and still has the papers on file.

As if he could ever have gotten away with canning the top cop on the beat exposing his administration’s grievous breakdowns and mandating reforms.

Lead paint poisoning children at NYCHA. Swiss cheese child abuse investigations that left other kids dead. Smuggling into city jails, and top Correction brass’ rampant use of city vehicles for personal trips. The sheer incompetence behind the Rivington House nursing home debacle.

Compare that record to the reasons the drafters of the mayor’s memo give to justify firing Peters.

Peters moved to fold into his office the formerly independent Special Commissioner of Investigation for the Department of Education; no one disputes that. De Blasio alleges, and he’s technically likely right, that Peters had no authority to make that move — and badly botched his job offer to the woman in charge, then fired her after she complained about a reorganization.

And that, separately, Peters threw a snit about office space for his staff, supposedly invoking that he had “people with guns in the room” with the power to make arrests. And used similarly heated language when throwing his weight around with then-budget director Dean Fuleihan.

That’s it? That’s it.

That de Blasio keeps the means close at hand to eject his onetime friend and campaign treasurer lays bare two ugly possibilities about his motives.

The mayor is either ready to rid himself of the source of probes that are forcing correction of calamitous mistakes by his administration — or wildly overreactive to Peters’ admittedly brash, at times obnoxious leadership style.

Two years into de Blasio’s first term, the Daily News called for Peters’ resignation on the view — well justified by early investigations that failed to name names or specify sufficient remedial actions — that his close personal relationship with de Blasio precluded the intensive probes this mayor merited.

Peters has since well proven his independence and zeal. The mayor in his target sights has evidently noticed.

Betsy Combier
Editor, NYC Rubber Room Reporter
Editor, New York Court Corruption
Editor, National Public Voice
Editor, NYC Public Voice

One of the many scandals that Bill de Blasio will be "famous" for:

De Blasio: Miscommunication over lead paint exposure ‘has been addressed’

Mayor Bill de Blasio claimed Monday night that any previous miscommunication between the city’s Housing Authority and Health Department over children’s exposure to lead paint in public housing is no longer an issue.
“The problem you raised is unacceptable,” de Blasio told NY1. “It is and has been addressed.”
He was responding to questions about a Department of Investigation probe into how his administration has handled positive lead tests of kids living in public housing.
Hizzoner admitted there was a “gap” between how information was previously gathered by the Health Department and then communicated with the New York City Housing Authority. However, he claimed the problem dated back to the administration of former Mayor Michael Bloomberg — and that he has fixed it.
“The Health Department and NYCHA are on the same page …,” de Blasio said. “We have now caught up. Regular inspections, regular remediation … and that will continue from this point on.”
DOI has requested records from the Health Department about the tests, which showed that as many as 820 kids over five years were exposed to levels of lead that the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention considers dangerous.
The DOI investigation is one of at least two probes into the Health Department’s actions.
City Comptroller Scott Stringer previously announced this month that his office was reviewing the health agency.