Report on Apex Investigation of New Rochelle High School Leaves Many Questions Left Unanswered

Written By: Robert Cox

NEW ROCHELLE, NY — The T&M Protection Resources report on its investigation of credit recovery abuse at New Rochelle High School raises new questions and leaves open unfinished business.

First and foremost, no one was placed under oath. It appears at least two witnesses lied to investigators which would be a crime had it been sworn testimony.

Second, the investigation was too limited. It was confined to one specific case in the Art Department and the use of Apex Learning and only in the context of one of three ways Apex Learning was used at NRHS and only for one Apex Coordinator (Shadia Alvarez). The investigation did not cover the use of Apex Learning for “non-credit recovery courses” nor for “students not physically available for traditional classroom instruction”.

The report did not look at the other Apex Coordinators. The report says when “Kenney retired during the 2015-2016 academic year, Richardson reassigned the administration of Apex among the four House Principals who were collectively responsible for enrolling students and assisting them in advancing thorough their individual Apex courses. The four House Principals maintained this responsibility during the 2016-2017 academic year. However, during the 2017-2018 academic year, Richardson centralized these responsibilities and selected Alvarez to administer the Apex program at NRHS under the title of Apex Coordinator.”

The investigation did not look into the period from 2014 to 2016 when the Director of Guidance, Michael Kenney, was the Apex Coordinator nor explain why a function under the Guidance Department was not assigned to the the incoming Director of Guidance, Gregg Sloane, when Kenney retired. The investigation did not look at any house principals from July 2015 to May 2018 other than Shadia Alvarez. Not interviewed was Michael Hilderbrand, Camille Edwards-Thomas, Gustavo Barbosa, Daniel Gonzalez, and Shomari Akil, among others.

T&M requested that Apex provide audit trail reports tor the other three House Principals from the 2017-18 school year but did not receive them before the end of the Apex contract period. Those should be obtained, reviewed and used as the basis for further interviews.

Mike Kenney was not interviewed. Gregg Sloane was interviewed but only in the context of the Art Department allegations not Apex Learning. Parvey’s predecessor, Diane Massimo, was not interviewed. Michael Hilderbrand, Daniel Gonzalez, and Shomari Akil were not interviewed. Camille Edwards-Thomas sat in on interviews of Shadia Alvarez as an ESSAA Representative but not as the subject of an interview for what she did with Apex Learning.

This does not mean any of them did anything wrong (Kenney and Massimo pre-date the issues with Apex) but as a baseline. The abuse of credit recovery might explain why every department head plus Massimo and Hilderbrand got out of Dodge a couple years ago.

Other than a single case involving one course for one student in the Art Department, the investigation did not look at non-Apex Learning credit recovery such as making up PE classes by attending 5 classes in June or allowing a student to submit work for a grade after, in some cases years after, taking a class or simply changing a grade in the computer. The investigation said nothing about predecessors to Apex Learning.

The report indicates that transcripts could be altered — grade changes but also, in one case, physically altering a transcript with “white out”. That Reggie Richardson was able to change one student’s grade after the student had graduated —- and without appropriate supporting documentation — casts doubts on all grades and all transcripts. It also throws into question GPAs, class ranks, even diplomas. T&M was told by Bond, Schoeneck & King not to pursue the reweighing of all 2016 graduates’ grades even though everyone seems to have agreed they were likely inaccurate.

Apex Learning tracks the IP address of users. It would show which users connected on which network and might even help flag cases for further investigation on students (or adults) paid to take exams for students. Apex Learning should know both the network and device for each connected user.

T&M did not look at how many times each quiz, test, or exam was taken by each student to note outliers nor how long courses took to complete to note outliers.

T&M looked at 21 students in May but did not fully consider how many students participated in graduation ceremonies, or were given diplomas, or marked as June graduates, or the impact on the two students when Richardson extended time to complete Apex courses from June 18, 2018 to the very end of July 2018.

Richardson told T&M that Starvaggi could provide T&M with copies and printouts of the documents authorizing the change he made but Starvaggi said he unable to locate any such documents. This raises the question of whether Richardson lied to investigators.

The report shows that Richardson changed a grade without notifying the student, the Director of Guidance, the Assistant Superintendent, the teacher as well as the department head who would all have to be involved according to Osborne. That this was possible raises the specter that this was not an isolated incident.

T&M found that a transcript had been physically altered. Starvaggi said the date on the original “was whited out.” This should never happen. Transcripts are sacrosanct. Every original needs to be inspected immediately.

T&M did not know whether two students who did not have enough credits to graduate due to fake grades were given a diploma and why. That ought to be determined.

T&M said cooperation from Apex Learning after the contract period expired on June 30 was minimal. So, what records or information did they want that they did not get?

Joseph Starvaggi and Michael Starvaggi told T&M they intended to conduct their own review of the Apex documentation and told T&M they planned to submit further material to T&M. So, where is it?

Joseph Starvaggi claimed “some technical anomaly” was to blame for the grade changes attributed to Alvarez and stated that he was “conducting our own inquiry into the APEX system.” So, where is the result of that inquiry? So, what “technical anomaly” did Starvaggi identify?

Joe Starvaggi said he would inform T&M about any further conclusions. So, what were those conclusions?

T&M expanded the scope of its investigation before 2017-18 but it is not clear how far back they went. The report says nothing about the pre-Apex period of credit recovery between 2010 and 2014. That should be looked at as well.

The Apex credit recovery is part of the instructional program at New Rochelle High School. In her role as Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Dr. Parvey is the supervisor of the instructional program. And yet she was never interviewed nor is she mentioned by name. 

The entire report is centered on various issues related to curriculum requirements, assessments by teachers, grades given by teachers and administrators, test-taking, proctoring, record-creation and record-keeping and not just for Apex but the Day School, the Night School, the Art Department, the Physical Education Department, the Independent Study Program and every other Department, program, teacher and administrator who had any involvement with any of those Departments or programs all of which are the responsibility of Magda Parvey.

A phase II needs to begin immediately with interviews of all these people but most especially Magda Parvey who was in charge of all of this since 2016.


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