FED JUDGE: Fraud Charges Sustained Against New Rochelle High School Administrator at Center of Apex Grade-Fixing Scandal

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW YORK, NY — A Federal Judge has effectively ended a 2016 lawsuit filed by New Rochelle House Principal Shadia Alvarez in which she sought to cast herself as a victim after a New York City Department of Education Office of Special Investigation sustained charges against her related to theft of services and failure to follow required financial protocols.

Alvarez is currently under investigation in New Rochelle for her role in a grade-fixing scandal involving Apex Credit Recovery.

In her Federal lawsuit, Alvarez claimed her rights under the First Amendment of the U.S. Constitution were violated in retaliation for her filing a police report on matters of public concern relating to safety issues to the New York Police Department. Alvarez claimed the OSI substantiated false allegations against her and that errors on her time sheets were caused by administrative errors by her payroll secretary.

The OSI concluded that Alvarez had been paid large sums of money for hours she had not worked by filing falsified time sheets including for several days when New York City schools were closed in the wake of Hurricane Sandy.

The lawsuit was filed by Alvarez in November, 2016 in the Supreme Court of the State of New York naming her boss, Carron 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.

On October 26, 2018, Judge Paul A. Engelmayer ruled in favor of Staple and against Shadia Alvarez:

“The Court holds that, viewing the evidence in the light most favorable to Alvarez, the complaints about school safety that she claims were the impetus for retaliation by Staple were the speech of an employee pursuant to her official duties, not the protected speech of a citizen. Accordingly Staple’s summary judgment motion is granted and Alvarez’s claim of retaliation under the First Amendment is dismissed; accordingly, the case is closed.”

School officials have announced they have received a draft of a report from T&M Protection which was hired to investigate allegations of grade-fixing related to a credit-recovery program Alvarez was paid thousands of dollars in stipends to administer in New Rochelle.

On April 10, 2018 the New Rochelle Board of Education retroactively authorized and approved Alvarez to supervise and work with the online/Blended AIS Credit Recovery Program during the 2017-2018 school year. She was to be paid up to 80 hours at an hourly rate of $62.77 or $5,021.60.

At the time of the board resolution, Talk of the Sound had been looking into allegations of corrupt practices involving the high school’s credit recovery program for two years. Serious questions were raised about the use of the Apex Learning Credit Recovery Program to artificially inflate graduation rates at the high school and whether students were properly completing work to quality for credit recovery. Talk of the Sound began seeking records from the Apex program in 2017 in an effort to ascertain how many students each year were obtaining high school credits through credit recovery, how many such credits they were obtaining and how many students were graduating each year with “credit recovery” credits on their transcript.

School officials stonewalled then and have continued to stonewall ever since.

Talk of the Sound broke the Apex scandal story on May 7th, 2018, reporting that computers used for credit recovery were left “unlocked” so students could complete “closed book” tests with their books, notes and other material on hand. Students were given access to the exams at any time and allowed to work on them unsupervised, and from home. Talk of the Sound revealed that school officials had no way to know that a particular student completed their own work and that credit “recovery” was not being used to recover credit for a class but rather in lieu of taking classes to the extent that some students were only enrolled in credit recovery classes.

School board members spoke with Talk of the Sound the next day, stating their intention to investigate Apex.

Two weeks later, in response to the May 7th story, Talk of the Sound was offered confidential student records by a school district employee; the offer was declined because the Federally-protected records had been stolen. These same records were subsequently delivered to the Journal News which published the records. In June, 2018 New Rochelle Board of Education Vice President Jeffrey Hastie announced at a public board meeting that the board had taken the unprecedented step of outsourcing an investigation to their law firm, Bond, Schoeneck & King, which, in turn, hired T&M Protection to conduct an investigation into the use of Apex at New Rochelle High School. Hastie stated that the board would receive weekly updates on the investigation. That did not happen. It has been five months and the District has continued to stonewall the investigation.

Alvarez was up for tenure in August 2018. She did not receive tenure this summer but remains employed as a House Principal at New Rochelle High School. Over the summer Alvarez applied to be appointed to the school board’s newly-created Culture & Climate Committee. Her application was rejected.



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