UPDATE: Sources tell Talk of the Sound the actual graduation rate was closer to 57.5% than 77.5%. About 500 students actually met criteria for the certified graduation but 676 students were given diplomas.
The graduation rate in 2009 was 66%, in 2010 it was 69% so the 12% jump from 69% to 77.5% represents an implausible scenario where the graduation rose dramatically at the same time the standards were being raised dramatically. By all measures, the opposite should have been the case.
The Board of Education under Sara Richmond’s leadership achieved a wonderful thing for New Rochelle in requiring a certified graduation. That achievement was badly marred by the Board’s failure to keep close tabs on what Conetta was up to. They never asked just what Conetta meant by “credit recovery”. They never demanded a copy of a written policy, never asked how it was to be applied, never asked how many students were expected to be part o this program or the impact on graduation rates. It appears now that as many as 180 students may have received diplomas they did not earn or about 27% of those who walked in the ceremony yesterday.
Don Conetta made a mockery of the entire graduation process, yet again.
For the past several weeks Talk of the Sound has received numerous reports about NRHS Principal Don Conetta operating in panic mode. As previously reported on Talk of the Sound, as of June 1 just 291 students met criteria to graduate and by June 7 310 had met criteria. It was noted at the time that those numbers would increase as as students took regents exams and earned credits. The idea that they would jump from 310 to 676 is preposterous.
The word is that Principal Don Conetta, along with Assistant Principal Joseph Starvaggi, spent the past several weeks working non-stop to artificially increase those numbers through various manipulations:
1. Removing unexcused absences from school records.
2. Pressuring teachers to change grades for failing students.
3. Telling students who had not earned their Physical Education credits to show up at the high school at 7 a.m. for the last 2 weeks of school and then granting them a full year credit for P.E.
4. Giving students credits for courses they never took, assigning them passing grades for those classes.
5. When all else failed, Starvaggi and Conetta simply went into the computer system and changed F’s to passing grades.
Last night, at the end-of-the year School District party, as Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, Board Members David Lacher and Diedre Polow and other officials looked on as a severely intoxicated Conetta was led from the party. Conetta was so drunk that he had to be driven home. Two district employees, Mike Kenny and Joe Brown drove Conetta back to Connecticut. Connetta’s problems with alcohol are well-known around the district.
Sources tell Talk of the Sound that Vicky Rossi, a teacher transferred against her wishes from New Rochelle High School to the Alternative Campus at St. Gabriel’s School, has been complaining that the reason she was transferred is because certain people found out that she was engaged in a long-term sexual relationship with Conetta. Both Conetta and Rossi was married (to other people). Conetta also has children.