NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Agents of the Federal Bureau of Investigation are visiting the homes of teachers employed by the Newburgh School District according to sources close to a separate investigation by the Orange County District Attorney’s Office.
On January 24th, 2019, agents of the Orange County DA raided the Newburgh Free Academy’s North Campus and the Newburgh School District’s administration offices.
One teacher from NFA North called the raid “our liberation day”.
“We’ve been badgered, harassed and bullied for the last four years about our graduation rate and putting our students in this bogus Apex program,” the teacher posted online. “It’s a complete sham and we all knew it.”
“They’ve been cooking the books for four years now. We are the ones who called the DA because we are tired of it.”
A Grand Jury was convened. The DA finished presenting its case last week. A report from the Grand Jury is expected any day.
The involvement of Federal investigators suggests the possibility that the United States Department of Justice Southern District has opened up a broader investigation into online credit recovery. Orange County and Westchester County are both in the Southern District with cases typically coordinated out of the White Plains office.
On December 10, 2018, this reporter sent a letter to the White Plains office of the United States Attorney which described waste, fraud and abuse involving Apex in the City School District of New Rochelle. In the letter, the DOJ was asked to review an investigation report by T&M Protection Resources and, if warranted, commence a full investigation into the abuse of credit recovery programs at New Rochelle High School with a particular eye on Apex Learning which is used by school districts throughout the Southern District of New York.
The Orange County DA seized records pertaining to the APEX program including emails and regular board communications in January 2019. In a previous raid in October 2018, after reports that students were participating in sports programs despite over 600 cuts, the DA seized records pertaining to academics, athletics and attendance.
Complaints coming out of Newburgh will sound familiar in New Rochelle: students “passing” an entire semester for credit recovery in a matter of days, attendance and graduation manipulation, the administration stonewalled so teachers went around the administration, students getting credit accrual without the knowledge or written agreement with the Teachers union, students who do not meet attendance requirements are signed up and get passing grades, students who rarely come to school are signed up and easily pass Apex in a quick period of time
In Newburgh, the District purchased about 500 software licenses directly from Apex and runs the entire program itself. In New Rochelle, Apex was purchased through BOCES. New Rochelle terminated its agreement with Apex last June in the middle of the investigation (T&M complained this hindered their investigation); in Newburgh the District has continued to use Apex.
The big question is whether the FBI visiting Newburgh BOE employees at their home is isolated, perhaps in response to the Orange County DA, or whether that in combination with our December letter noting the problems in New Rochelle and that Apex is used throughout the Southern District has prompted a broader investigation. We will know for sure if word gets out that the FBI is visiting New Rochelle BOE employees at their home as the FBI did in the Aramark/Gallagher/Zonzini Investigation.