NEW ROCHELLE, NY — There are many qualities school districts look for in hiring administrators: back-to-back sustained New York City Department of Education SCI Investigations is not one of the them.
During his five year tenure as Principal of New Rochelle High School, Reggie Richardson made any number of questionable hires and promotions — some of the house principals and certain department heads come to mind — but no two hires stand out more than Shadia Alvarez and Kavita Gupta.
The two have a lot in common.
Alvarez and Gupta were both Principals in New York City.
Alvarez and Gupta were both removed as Principals, demoted to Assistant Principal, then fired or “unexpectedly resigned”.
Alvarez and Gupta were both the subject of sustained investigations where “sustained” is Special Commissioner for Investigations parlance for “guilty as charged”.
Shadia Alvarez was found to have filed phony time sheets to be paid for hours she did not work and to have left her job as Principal with over $100,000 in unpaid invoices, many for unauthorized or highly questionable purchases with little or no supporting documentation.
Kavita Gupta was found to have improperly eliminated special education services mandated under federal law for classified students, unilaterally placed those student in a more-restrictive environment without holding a required meeting of the Committee on Special Education, without obtaining parental consent and then ordering her special education staff to retroactively alter student IEPs to be consistent with the changes she made.
Shadia Alvarez was slammed in The New York Post: Bronx HS principal’s Bizarre Threat to Cancel Prom
Kavita Gupta was slammed in The New York Post: Brooklyn principal shortchanged special-ed kids to cash in: DOE documents
And Reggie Richardson was slammed in The New York Post: Controversial Westchester principal loses new DOE gig
Shadia Alvarez was hired at New Rochelle High School by Reggie Richardson as a House Principal in 2015 having left the New York DOE in disgrace (she was fired and permanently banned).
Kavita Gupta was hired at New Rochelle High School by Reggie Richardson under a so-called School District Leadership Residency in 2015 after she left the New York DOE in disgrace.
Shadia Alvarez was assigned by Richardson to run the New Rochelle High School credit recovery program.
Kavita Gupta was assigned by Richardson to develop the New Rochelle High School credit recovery program.
By all accounts the credit recovery program was an unmitigated disaster rife with fraud and abuse. In May, the District hired T&M Protective Services to conduct an investigation into the credit recovery program developed by Gupta and run by Alvarez.
Many have asked how such disreputable figures could have been hired by the New Rochelle Board of Education. Some have questioned why Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Dr. Joseph Williams did not vet the two candidates properly when a simple Google search would have sent up red flags. Others have wondered whether Reggie Richardson knew about their backgrounds.
Reggie Richardson knew exactly who he was hiring.
Shadia Alvarez was an Aspiring Principal with the New York City Leadership Academy from 2009 to 2010.
Kavita Gupta was an Aspiring Principal with the New York City Leadership Academy from 2009 to 2010.
And…wait for it…
Reggie Richardson was an Aspiring Principal with the New York City Leadership Academy from 2009 to 2010.
Shadia Alvarez left the New York City Leadership Academy to become Principal at Collegiate Institute For Math And Science where she was demoted to Assistant Principal after two years and hired by Richardson in August 2015 to work at New Rochelle High School where Richardson was the Principal.
Kavita Gupta left the New York City Leadership Academy to become Principal at the Brooklyn Academy of Global Finance where she was demoted to Assistant Principal after two years and hired by Richardson in 2012 to work at the Performing Arts and Technology High School where Richardson was the Principal and then again in May 2015 at New Rochelle High School where Richardson was the Principal.
The timing in 2015 was not a coincidence.
Reginald Richardson was appointed to the Board of Directors of the New York City Leadership Academy on April 1, 2015. He hired Kavita Gupta, despite her deplorable track record, one month later, in May 2015. He hired Shadia Alvarez, despite her deplorable track record, four months later, in August 2015.
In short, Reggie Richardson used his position as New Rochelle High School Principal to see to it that taxpayer dollars be allocated to benefit two of his associates from the New York City Leadership Academy while he was on the Board of Directors of the New York City Leadership Academy, all in a span of a few weeks in 2015.
These two highly questionable hires were both paid at the behest of Reggie Richardson to work on a credit recovery program that is now the subject of an outside investigation that has uncovered fraud and abuse involving Apex Learning’s Credit Recovery, an online service based in Seattle, Washington. The purpose of which appears to have been to artificially inflate graduation rates, especially among Black/African-American and Hispanic students to create the illusion that Richardson was achieving his oft-stated goal of delivering high graduation rates — and even more improbably — parity of graduation rates across racial and ethnic lines in order to position himself for a promotion with more responsibility, a bigger job title and a fatter paycheck.
In fact, it nearly worked. At the time of the Valaree Schwab murder in January 2018, Richardson was quite close to being appointed as Assistant Superintendent by the New Rochelle Board of Education. He was the current ESSAA Region 2 “Administrator of the Year” with all sorts of positive media coverage. Less well-known is that the Executive Director of ESSAA, a sort of union for school administrators, is Michael Starvaggi, the brother of Joseph Starvaggi who was named interim Principal of New Rochelle High School after Richardson’s departure.
2018 started out promisingly for Richardson but then the dominos began to fall: a murder, a stabbing, a failed budget, a non-renewal of a Superintendent so that by July 2018 Richardson was unemployed, employed, then unemployed again. What began as a year of ascendency ended with Richardson as a real estate broker in Brooklyn.