New Rochelle Board of Education Releases Long Missing “Enclosures” to NYSED Documents from August 2008

Written By: Robert Cox

I am sure readers are having a hard time following this matter regarding my son’s New York State Regents Examination in Chemistry back in 2007. It is not actually that complicated — the teacher cheated on my son’s test in order to flunk him and when she was caught the district circled the wagons to protect the teacher and the administrators covering for her — but the district has sought to make it as complicated as possible by withholding documents, making false statements and lying at every turn. So, something simple has been made complicated which suits the district’s purpose.

The problem for the district is that I have records that clearly indicate significant failures by the district to follow protocol for the grading of my sons’ test and provide ample evidence that my son’s teacher deliberately mis-reported his score on the test in order to fail him in her class because she was angry that the district had proposed to allow my son to get an alternative grade in Chemistry after I filed a complaint with New York State regarding her failure to provide accommodations for my son she was required by law to provide (e.g., allowing him to choose his own seat, letting him finish in-class assignments after class, etc.). The district has done everything in its power to lie about this, cover it up and use pressure tactics on me and my family to shut me up. Obviously, that has not worked and now I have a web site that is by far the most widely read New Rochelle web site on the Internet.

If you still have a hard time understanding all this just ask yourself how you would feel if your child was put through a difficult ordeal due to failing a class only to find out that your child actually passed the class but that the teacher had lied about your son’s test scores and then the school district tried to cover it up?

The lies continue to unravel and I believe eventually the entire truth will come out.

Last night at the school board meeting I was given a packet of documents purporting to be the enclosures sent by NYSED as part of the letter sent to them on 8-25-08, a letter the district illegally withheld from me for 16 months. I cannot be sure of anything with the district so until NYSED verifies that what I got last night is what they sent I can’t say anything about the provenance of the documents. These documents were sent to the district the last week of August of 2008 and by law the district was required to make them available to me upon request at that time. Instead I got them in December 2009.

After the meeting, several board members denied that the NYSED 8-25-08 letter was circulated among board members in October 2008 as I reported last week. They have all professed to be unaware of the letter and now claim that is only two weeks ago that they had enough information from me to “locate” the document. In other words, it is all my fault that they did not turn over the letter because when back in August 2008 when I first asked for a copy of the letter NYSED had sent to the district the last week of August regarding my son’s 2007 Chemistry Regents Examination they did not realize I meant THAT letter NYSED had sent to the district the last week of August regarding my son’s 2007 Chemistry Regents Examination as if they have many such letters. There is, of course, only one such letter and by law the district is required to provide access to such student records.

This all just more baloney.

If there was any doubt whether the district “knew” of the 8-25-08 letter prior to 11-3-08 then there is no doubt the district knew of it then. The entire board was copied on the 11-3-08 email. I know that the 8-25-08 letter was circulated among the board members at the October 2008 board meeting and that the board approved a request by Mr. Organisciak to withhold the 8-25-08 letter from me and send instead the 11-3-08 letter in the hopes that I would just go away. This plan was supported by Deidre Polow and Cindy Babcock-Deutsch. Last night Babcock-Deutsch did not directly address the charge but instead said she was not in attendance at the October 2008 board meeting as if the board members do not otherwise communicate except face to face in board meetings. More lies. More obfuscation.

Facts are stubborn things and the fact is that the 8-25-08 letter does exist and it was not provided to me until 16 months after is was received despite repeated, documented requests seeking the letter. So, they can lie and spin all they want but even they have now admitted that there was a letter because they gave it to me and even they have to admit they got the 11-3-08 letter because they were all copied on it. The 11-3-08 letter clearly references the 8-25-08 letter so while the 11-3-08 letter falsely states that the district was unaware that the State had not communicated with me it is also an acknowledgement that at least from that point forward the district and the board aware of the letter.

Since I finally got the 8-25-08 letter last week, I have repeatedly asked to meet with the board in executive session because I wish to discuss matters involving district personnel. I need to do this in executive session because the last time I sought to raise a personnel matter like this Cindy Babcock-Deutsch gaveled the meeting to a close while I was in the middle of delivering my remarks to the board, called for a security guard who then attempted to physically remove me from City Hall.

As is typical, I received no reply to any of my requests to appear so I asked BoE President Sara Richmond about that last night. She said that the board felt that I had nothing new to add and that there was no reason for the board to allow me to address them in executive session. Apropos to nothing she blurted out that I had not provided the district with copies of the two versions of my son’s answer sheet that I displayed for them the only time I met with the board in executive session back in September 2008. I have no idea why that was on her mind but I was quite surprised as it was the first time that anyone on the board had responded to ANYTHING I had said to them at that executive session over a year ago. She walked away as she said this so I do not have the opportunity to respond but did sent her an email today responding to that statement.

I told her today what I told the board in September 2008, that I will not provide the school district with copies of the two different versions of my son’s answer sheet. Before I do that I want an independent investigation into what went on with my son’s test. I believe an independent investigation will show serious, if not criminal, wrongdoing in this matter. I believe there should be consequences that flow from that beginning with the termination of the teacher involved and proceeding from there. I then elaborated on that point, explaining that my reason for not allowing the district to inspect or posses the two different versions of the answer sheets is based on long experience in dealing with the district. I have seen firsthand how the district manufactures records, falsifies records and seeks to contrive replies to explain away anything that might put the district in a bad light. I pointed out that I have two such documents right now: (1) Mr. Organisciak’s letter of 11-3-08 in which he is clearly referring to the 8-25-08 letter which was illegally withheld from me for 16 months; (2) her letter dated 12-7-09 in which she attempts to convey the false notion that the district was unable to “locate” the 8-25-08 letter until it had received information contained in Regent Cohen’s email to me in March 2009.

I pointed out her dilemma: if she wished to claim that the 8-25-08 letter was not circulated to the board in October 2008 or at any other time and the board was genuinely unaware of the existence of the letter then she would need to account for my raising the issue at board meetings and email for months from September to December 2009. Either she took no action at all or she followed up and asked Mr. Organisciak about the letter. In fact, I have been told that several board members including Ms. Richmond did ask Mr. Organisciak about the letter on several numerous occasions and that he denied the existence of the letter. Regardless, SOMEHOW the letter turned up a few days after I disclosed the Regent Cohen email to the board.

Either Ms. Richmond knew all along about the letter and lied about it or Mr. Organisciak lied about it all along and he coughed it up when confronted with the Regent Cohen email so either the President of the Board of Education is lying to me or the Superintendent of Schools is lying to the President of the Board of Education.

I told her I hoped it was the latter:

I would prefer to believe that Mr. Organisciak has been lying to you and other board members and that the letter was circulated but that board members did not pay it much mind and later forgot about it or something like that. It is precisely for this reason that I requested an executive session with only the school board. I think you and other board members know full well that Mr. Organisciak lied about the 8-25-08 letter but are so committed to presenting a unified front that you would rather push me away than admit the obvious — that I have been telling the truth all along about the 8-25-08 letter and about everything else including that one of your teachers purposely failed my son by falsifying his test scores and that administrators learned of this and covered it up.

Some readers have wondered WHY the district lied about this in first place and why, as it has gone higher up the org chart, they continued to lie and then went on the offensive by going after me and my family?

I found one possible explanation on the NYSED web site.

NYSED Directions for Administering Regents Examinations

Principals and other administrative staff in a school or district do not have the authority to set aside the scores arrived at by the teacher scoring committee and rescore student examination papers or to change any scores assigned through the procedures described in this manual and in the scoring materials provided by the Department. Any principal or administrator found to have done so…will be in violation of Department policy regarding the scoring of State examinations.

The enclosures I received last night show that the raw score total for my son’s test was crudely change to turn the 52 into a 62.

NYSED provides for two exceptions (hence the ellipses above), one if there are five or more students impacted and another for less than five students.

On rare occasions, an administrator may learn that an isolated error occurred in the calculation of a final score for a student or in recording students’ scores in their permanent records. For example, the final score may have been based on an incorrect summing of the student’s raw scores for parts of the test or from a misreading of the conversion chart.

How rare? Who knows but in my son’s case the problem was that the “error” LOWERED my son’s score. The guy I spoke to at NYSED last year told me that in 30 years of handling complaints about Regents tests he had never had a complaint about a teacher LOWERING a score.

Either way, what is supposed to happen on these rare occasions?

When such errors involve no more than five students’ final scores on any Regents Examination and when such errors are detected within four months of the test date, the principal may arrange for the corrected score to be recorded in the student’s permanent record. However, in all such instances, the principal must advise the Office of State Assessment in writing that the student’s score has been corrected. The written notification to the Department must be signed by the principal or superintendent and must include the names of the students whose scores have been corrected, the name of the examination, the students’ original and corrected scores, and a brief explanation of the nature of the scoring error that was corrected.

According to Regent Cohen there are two letters in my son’s file and neither of them are a letter from Mr. Conetta sent within four months of the June 2007 test date advising the Office of State Assessment in writing that the student’s score has been “corrected”. I do not know why they have a four month cut-off but I could not find any explanation of what happens AFTER four months.

What I do know is that SOMETHING is not quite right here and there are serious consequences for fiddling with test scores.

Teachers and administrators who violate Department policy with respect to scoring State examinations may be subject to disciplinary action in accordance with Sections 3020 and 3020-a of Education Law or to action against their certification pursuant to Part 83 of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.

What is that “Part 83” thing? I looked it up. This refers to something called a Part 83 Determination of Good Moral Character.

Part 83 begins “Any information indicating that an individual holding a teaching certificate has been convicted of a crime, or has committed an act which raises a reasonable question as to the individual’s moral character, shall be referred by the chief school administrator having knowledge thereof to the professional conduct officer of the department.

The word is SHALL.

Apparently it is not optional and yet to the best of knowledge this was never done.

In fact, what the 8-25-08 letter shows is that just like the district did not follow state policy in grading my son’s test in June 2007 they did not follow state policy in responding to my complaint about the grading of my son’s test. And this is the point and this is why I want an independent investigation. I have documents showing a pattern of failing to follow state requirements for grading Regents exams so why would I want these same people to investigate in this case?

At this point I am a waiting a reply to an email sent to David Abrams, the Assistant Commissioner of Education for the State of New York with a portfolio that includes responsibility for the Office of State Assessment:

Mr. Abrams,

I would like you to help me understand why your office has shown so little interest in my long-standing allegations of improprieties regarding my son’s 2007 Chemistry Regents Examination including my claim to have two different versions of my son’s answer sheet. I believe that my son’s teacher purposely lowered his score to cause him to fail in order to derail a deal that had been made by her boss, Don Conetta, the principal at New Rochelle High School and Yvette Goorevitch, Director of Special Education and then offered to me in order to resolve a pending Impartial Hearing request. In order to cover this up, the District has piled lie upon lie until finally their lies caught up with them. The New Rochelle Board of Education now knows that Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak repeatedly lied to them when he told them to ignore my requests for copies of the 8-25-08 letter from your office. As you should have seen from a previous email, the BoE President has now “found” a copy of the letter and provide me a copy of the “cover letter” only.

I was led to believe by someone in your office that the official reply to my complaint was contained in the 8-25-08 letter. Today, for the first time, I read the letter. I can see that there are enclosures still missing but from that I have seen it appears that your office confined your “investigation” into re-rating my son’s test. I tell your office that I have two copies of my son’s answer sheet, a clear violation of your protocol, and you tell me that he got question 65 correct (as I had stated) but got question 78 wrong so “no harm, no foul”.

Well, there has been a very big harm to me and my family.

My request for a FULL investigation by your office from June 2008 still stands. After 18 months of misdirection, am I not still entitled to a reply?

I was told last week I would hear from him Monday or Tuesday of this week. I called his office again today and left a follow up message. Still no word.

One thought on “New Rochelle Board of Education Releases Long Missing “Enclosures” to NYSED Documents from August 2008”

  1. 2 answer sheets and a pack of lies
    This teacher must be the best teacher in the history of New Rochelle for the District to go to these lengths to protect her. (Sarcasm off).
    This is so unprofessional on so many levels. Eventually my children will be going to this High School, will this disgrace still be working? Will the disgrace of a chairperson still be protecting this, not just incomptetent, but vile and vindicative teacher?
    There are many fine teachers in the world, but teachers like this damage the entire profession.

    Is there a database were we can collect the ongoing lies of Organisciak? It would have to be a robust one.

    Keep up the good fight Bob, how many other parent’s have been rolled by this cabal? We’ll never know, but now that the light has been turned on maybe others will see the damage that has been done.

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