NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Despite repeated assurances to the contrary, the New Rochelle Board of Education has once again hired an employee who could not pass a basic background check — suggesting that no employment background check was done or that school officials knew of her sordid past and hired her anyway.
Records obtained by Talk of the Sound are raising serious questions about New Rochelle High School’s decision to hire a former New York City school principal, once dubbed the “Prom Killer” by the New York Post after she threatened to cancel her school’s prom if seniors did not guarantee a 100% graduation rate (see link below), for a key administrative position.
Shadia Alvarez, hired by the New Rochelle Board of Education as a House Principal in 2015 under a three-year probationary contract, is up for tenure this summer.
In 2014, Alvarez, a former Bronx high school administrator was found to have engaged in financial fraud and services theft by the NYC Department of Education’s Office of Special Investigations. According to court documents filed by her lawyers and obtained by Talk of the Sound through PACER, the electronic filing system of the federal court system, DOE records show a flag on Alvarez’s name which reflects that she was terminated from employment with the DOE.
Among the sustained allegations, Alvarez was found to have claimed to have worked on after-school programs with students on October 29th, 30th, 31st and November 3rd. All NYC DOE schools were closed to students from October 29, 2012 until November 5, 2012 due to Hurricane Sandy.
In 2015, she was hired by the New Rochelle BOE at the recommendation of Principal Reggie Richardson.
The records came to light as part of a motion filed last month in a federal lawsuit brought by Alvarez against her former supervisor.
According to court records, Alvarez was under investigation from May 2013 to January 2014 by the NYC DOE Office of Special Investigation. The OSI Investigation sustained charges against her related to theft of services and failure to follow required financial protocols.
The court records state Shadia Alvarez was appointed as Acting Principal with the DOE in January 2012, subject to a probationary period, which was scheduled for completion on July 1, 2014. She was assigned to the Collegiate Institute for Math and Science in the Bronx, New York.
Superintendent Carron Staple became Alvarez’s supervising Superintendent in October 2012. In early May 2013, Alvarez submitted “per session” payment requests to Staple for Staple’s ratification regarding hours Alvarez claimed she worked from February 2013 through April 2013. Per session activities are sports or clubs that students participate in under the supervision of faculty members. DOE principals such as Alvarez are at times authorized to be paid for “per session activities” (activities outside their primary assignment) at an hourly rate in addition to their regular salary. These payments require specific documentation and supervisory approval.
Staple noticed what she perceived as “glaring inconsistencies” in the documentation Alvarez had submitted in support of her payment requests. Staple thereafter revisited previous per session payment requests from Alvarez and noticed similar inconsistencies, leading Staple to believe that “Alvarez may have attempted (or successfully completed) theft of service and financial fraud”.
When Staple relayed these concerns to her superior, Senior Supervising Superintendent Donald Conyers, Conyers directed Staple to report the matter to DOE’s Special Commissioner of Investigation. Staple immediately reported her concerns to SCI on May 3, 2013, and SCI thereafter transferred the investigation to DOE’s Office of Special Investigations. OSI’s investigation into Alvarez’s conduct lasted from May 2013 through January 2014. Alvarez was interviewed as part of the investigation. At the conclusion of its investigation, OSI issued a report, dated January 10, 2014, which substantiated the misconduct allegations lodged against Alvarez. Namely, OSI concluded that Alvarez had committed employee misconduct by requesting payments for time she had not worked, and that Alvarez had failed to follow the mandates of DOE Chancellor’s Regulation C-175 which governs the per session payment process.
Additionally, upon examination of earlier per session payments made to Plaintiff, OSI concluded that Alvarez had been improperly paid for requests she had submitted covering periods in which her school was closed (due to Hurricane Sandy in October and November 2012) and during Alvarez’s absence from the school such as “sick days”. Ultimately, OSI’s independent investigation resulted in a substantiated finding against Alvarez, and the OSI Report noted that Alvarez’s “attempts to receive payment for work that she was unable to establish actually occurred . . . and the frequency with which Alvarez did so . . . demonstrates a pattern of behavior that has yet to be adequately explained.” Although this report was dated January 10, 2014, it was not distributed to either Alvarez or Staple until June 2014.
After the investigation was completed but before the report was distributed, Staple conducted a “completion of probation” visit for Alvarez in early March 2014. Staple rated Alvarez’s completion of probation visit positively, and on March 31, 2014 Staple submitted a formal recommendation for Alvarez’s completion of probation to the Office of the Senior Supervising Superintendent.
On June 10, 2014, more than two months after she had submitted her positive recommendation for Alvarez’s tenure consideration, Staple received the January 10, 2014-dated OSI Investigative Report for the first time. Upon determining that Alvarez had engaged in misconduct, the OSI Report recommended disciplinary measures be taken against Alvarez. After consulting with her superior and other DOE personnel regarding the import of the substantiated allegations, Staple was directed to reverse her positive recommendation for Alvarez and submit an updated “(Tenure Notification System) narrative” indicating that an OSI investigation had ended with a “substantiated” finding against Alvarez, and that the substantiated finding warranted denial of Alvarez’s probation.
As directed, Staple submitted the TNS reversal on June 12, 2014. On June 24, 2014, the Office of the Senior Supervising Superintendent sent Staple and other pertinent administrators a formal notification through TNS that the Office had denied Alvarez’s probation. By letter the next day, Staple formally informed Alvarez of her probationary discontinuance due to the substantiated OSI investigation.
What happened next is in unclear. There is one claim that, upon her discontinuance as a Principal, Alvarez reverted back to her former underlying position of Assistant Principal from July 1, 2014 then voluntary resigned in August 2015 (her contract in New Rochelle began September 1, 2015). DOE records, according to Alvarez, indicate she was terminated as a result of the OSI investigation.
After her discontinuance as Principal, Alvarez submitted an appeal of the probationary denial to DOE’s Office of Appeals and Review. Alvarez’s appeal was noticed and scheduled for a review committee hearing on October 16, 2017, but Alvarez failed to appear for the hearing.
Meanwhile, on November 9, 2016, an action was commenced Shadia Alvarez in the Supreme Court of the State of New York naming Staple and the NYC DOE as defendants. The case was later removed to the United States District Court Southern District of New York and the DOE was dropped from the lawsuit.
In her lawsuit against Staple, Alvarez claims her rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated in retaliation for for filing a police report on matters of public concern relating to safety issues to the New York Police Department. Alvarez claims that the OSI substantiated false allegations against her and that the errors on her time sheets were caused by administrative errors by her payroll secretary. The complaint states that in the summer of 2015, Alvarez duly resigned as an Assistant Principal because she received an offer of employment with a school district in Westchester County.
It was shortly before starting her new job in New Rochelle, on or about August 19, 2015, that Alvarez says she discovered a flag on her name in DOE files that reflects that she was terminated from employment with the DOE. Her complaint says the record should reflect that she was discontinued from the Principal position, reverted to the position of Assistant Principal and then duly resigned.
This raises several questions as to whether Alvarez’s DOE record, marked “terminated”, was ever provided to the City School District of New Rochelle, and if so did the District know that Alvarez was terminated and did they obtain a copy of the OSI investigation report.
Staple’s lawyers have filed a motion to dismiss the case which is currently pending before U.S. District Judge Paul A. Engelmayer.
A review of New Rochelle Board of Education records show that on July 7, 2015 Shadia Alvarez was given a probationary appointment by the New Rochelle Board of Education as New Rochelle High School House Principal effective September 1, 2015 to August 31, 2018, Salary Schedule HSHP, Step 10, $139,965. She replaced , Vera Cheek who retired effective June 30, 2015. On October 6, 2015, the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively approved payment to Alvarez for attending four days of Professional Development training in the summer of 2015 at a daily rate of 1/180th of contract salary at a time when no such contract had been approved. It is not clear whether the training period overlapped with a period of time when Alvarez claims she was still employed by the NYC DOE and, if so, whether she received permission to attend the training in New Rochelle. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for four days that totals $3,110.33. On August 11, 2015 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2015-2016 school year.
On August 2, 2016 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2016-2017 school year. On August 23, 2016 the New Rochelle Board of Education certified as a Qualified Lead Evaluator of teachers for the 2015-2016 school year having successfully completed the training requirements. On October 5, 2016, the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively approved payment to Alvarez for attending up to two days of Professional Development training in the summer 2016 at a daily rate of 1/180th of contract salary. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16.
Alvarez may have received step increases in her salary since 2015 but there are no resolutions to that effect.
On January 3, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to work during the December 2016 break week to work on the OCR report, not to exceed a total of two days indicated, at the rate listed: 1/180th of contractural rate. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16. On April 4, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education approved an amendment of Resolution No. 17-25, adopted on July 5, 2016, to include the appointment of Alvarez as an additional Chairperson to serve on the Sub-Committee on Special Education for the City School District of the City of New Rochelle during the 2016-2017 school year. Also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education approved the appointment of Alvarez to serve on a Sub-Committee of the Committee on Special Education to review, evaluate, complete Individualized Education Programs, and to make recommendations regarding the educational placement of students referred to the Sub-Committee during the 2017-2018 school year, also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved Alvarez to be appointed as a Dignity Act Coordinator during the 2017-2018 school year, also on July 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education certified that Alvarez completed all of the necessary training to be certified as a Qualified Lead Evaluator of classroom teachers. On September 5, 2017 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved to work during the summer 2017, not to exceed a total of two days, at the rate of 1/200th of contract salary. 1/200th of $139,965 is $699.83; for two days that totals $1,399.65.
On February 6, 2018 the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively authorized and approved Alvarez to work two days during the Christmas break on Attendance/Disciplinary Data, at 1/180th of her contractual salary. 1/180th of $139,965 is $777.58; for two days that totals $1,555.16.
On April 10, 2018 the New Rochelle Board of Education authorized and approved to Alvarez to supervise and work with the online/Blended AIS Credit Recovery Program during the 2017-2018 school year, not to exceed 80 hours, at the hourly rate of $62.77. 80 hours at $62.77 is $5,021.60.
It is worth noting here, for the first time on Talk of the Sound, that over the past two years, serious questions have been raised about the use of the Apex Learning Credit Recovery Program to artificially inflate graduation rates at the high school and whether students are properly completing work to quality for credit recovery. Talk of the Sound has previously sought records (and was rebuffed) in an effort to ascertain how many students each year are obtaining high school credits through credit recovery, how many such credits they are obtaining and how many students graduate each year “credit recovery” credits on their transcript.
Sources at New Rochelle High School have told Talk of the Sound that the computers used for credit recovery are left “unlocked” so that students can complete “closed book” tests with their books, notes and other material on hand. Students have access to the exams at any time and can work on them from home. There is no way to know that a particular student completed their own work. Worse, in some cases, credit recovery is not being used to recover credit for a class but rather in lieu of taking the class. Some house principals have students that are only enrolled in credit recovery classes.