NEW ROCHELLE, NY — In a bizarre twist, Talk of the Sound has learned exclusively that the New Rochelle Board of Education has secretly re-opened its previously closed investigation into the Apex Learning grade-fixing scandal and now denies any knowledge of a publicly-announced referral of the original investigation to state investigators.
At the time the initial report was released in December 2018, the board took the position that the report was “complete and final” and would be referred to the New York State Education Department.
On December 12, 2018, then-New Rochelle Board of Education President Jeffrey Hastie sent a letter to New York State Education Department Commissioner of Education MaryEllen Elia to notify her that the Board had received a final report from T&M Protection Resources at its December 4, 2018 board meeting. Talk of the Sound obtained a copy of the letter under a Freedom of Information request.
The 166-page T&M Report focused primarily on massive failures by the school and district administration and the fraudulent use of the Apex Learning credit recovery system. There were 32 students whose grades were altered by the District’s Apex Learning Coordinator, of those 32, 21 graduated and of those, 2 may not have graduated if they did not have grades altered in the Apex Learning system.
T&M’s investigation determined that Apex Coordinator Shadia Alvarez “entered more than 200 students’ grades into the Apex online computer system without apparent associated student work and changed multiple students’ grades from one numerical score to another. She made these entries and changes both for students who had graduated and for those who were slated to graduate in June 2018.”
T&M investigators described a culture of complete indifference to how or whether the Apex Learning system worked, whether it was used correctly by staff or students, and a school where administrators and staff were completely unaware aware that for years students were inadvertently given a 100% score on all teacher-graded work that was rarely, if ever, reviewed for quality.
T&M investigators stated their efforts to pursue leads were suppressed by the board’s legal counsel, Bond, Schoeneck & King. The investigation was confined to one administrator over a single school year while ignoring several other administrators operating over a period of 7 years.
At the December 4, 2018 board meeting, Hastie read a prepared statement disclosing that the T&M Report would be referred to the New York State Department of Education. Seated next to Hastie as the statement was read was then-School Board Vice President Amy Moselhi.
At a press conference held the following day at City Hall, Parvey and Hastie took questions from reporters where Hastie repeatedly referenced the referral to SED as Parvey listened.
Asked whether the SED referral referenced at the board meeting had occurred or whether the District had been in touch with SED, Hastie said “They haven’t been in touch with us we haven’t contacted them. We just got the report day before yesterday so we’ll be sending it out shortly.”
In response to further similar questions Hastie said:
“…as we said in our report last night that we are going to send that to New York State to have them to review that as well, so they’ll not only look at the report but also help us with making sure that we put policies and procedures in place that make sense.”
“…as we said the report’s complete and final. We’re sending that to New York State Education for further review by them.”
“Again, we want to get New York State Education Department’s view on our policies and practices to make sure that it’s sound.”
In the letter to SED Commissioner Elia, Hastie wrote:
“Interim Superintendent, Dr. Magda Parvey had been in contact with the NYSED Testing Security Unit (TSU) Integrity Officer for Southern Westchester BOCES about the report and its findings and the TSU’s intention to do a full investigation.”
How then to explain the board’s current position?
Asked by Talk of the Sound for an update on the TSU investigation at the outset of the 2019-20 school year, now-Board President Moselhi issued an inexplicable written statement on September 19th.
“I was not aware that (the T&M Report) was sent to the state test unit/BOCES,” wrote Moselhi. She copied Dr. Parvey on the email and asked Parvey to confirm that the Apex Learning investigation report was sent to “the state test unit/BOCES”. Parvey has yet to reply.
Moselhi added, almost as an afterthought, “I was aware that the investigation was re-opened and we expect a final report on this matter within a month” which would be about now.
The failure of the board to disclose the re-opening of the Apex Learning investigation stands in stark contrast to 16 months of promises of complete transparency regarding the Apex Learning investigation.
Moselhi did not say when the Apex Learning investigation was re-opened, why it was re-opened, whether T&M was retained for the re-opened investigation, what happened to the long-promised TSU Investigation and how neither the board nor administration would recall the referral to the TSU.
At about 2:27 you can watch and listen as Hastie reads a statement on Apex, during that reading you can see that Amy Moselhi is sitting beside him to his left, following along, nodding her head. You can see Dr. Parvey to his right. He states that the T&M report is being sent to SED.