NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Barbara Hassett does not think she is hero. She insists she is not a whistleblower. She does admit to instilling fear into guidance counselors as they watched her carefully count credits on transcripts towards high school graduation. Some she has worked for, and with, describe her as a person with a sterling reputation, known for her rigor and professional integrity. Others say she was a pain in the neck. All agree, no one was going to get a diploma they had not earned if Barbara Hassett had anything to say about it.
After 31 years working for the New Rochelle Board of Education, the last 17 as the Registrar of New Rochelle High School, Hassett retired effective January 28, 2019.
In our recent article on the chronology of the Apex grade inflation investigation, Talk of the Sound described Hassett as the “unidentified person” who came forward at the end of January, 2019 causing the District to re-open the Apex investigation.
Our reporting was based on an email exchange and subsequent telephone conversation with New Rochelle Board of Education President Amy Moselhi on September 19, 2019 and an email dated January 27, 2019 sent by then-Board President Jeffrey Hastie to Investigative Specialist Lynn Gretschel, Supervising Professional Conduct Investigator at Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability Test Security Unit and copied to Professional Conduct Investigator Roy Tario of the Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability Test Security Unit, James Gratto, Jr. Assistant Superintendent for Educational Services at Southern Westchester BOCES and the NYSED Test Security Unit Integrity Officer for Westchester, Interim Superintendent of New Rochelle Schools Dr. Magda Parvey and the New Rochelle Board of Education’s Outside Counsel John Gross, Senior Managing Partner of Ingerman Smith.
In the exchange, Moselhi said the Apex investigation was re-opened because “someone had come forward”.
In the email, Hastie wrote “Another person has come forward. (Redacted) worked in the registrars office at the high school. No longer works for the district.”
In our Chronology article, we asked why Hassett would “come forward” to talk with investigators after she had retired from the District when she had been interviewed seven months earlier as part of the T&M Apex investigation.
We got our answer earlier today: she did not.
Talk of the Sound reached out to Hassett earlier in the week but she declined to be interviewed for our Apex Chronology article. After the story was published she reached out in order to “set the record straight”.
The T&M Report says Hassett was interviewed on June 22, 2018 which Hassett denied. She said she did speak briefly with an investigator from T&M when she received a call in June, 2018 but she said she informed T&M that the registrar records were boxed up because her office was being temporarily relocated due to construction at New Rochelle High School. Hassett said T&M never followed up with her or sought to obtain the records.
Hassett said she did not, as Hastie and Moselhi claimed, “come forward” in January 2019 or any other time. She said after she left New Rochelle she was contacted in April 2019 by Regina Cafarella, special counsel for the District, an attorney at the Richard A. Spencer Law Firm, the person hired by the Board to run the re-opened Apex investigation. Hassett said Cafarella was primarily interested in locating Registrar records. Hassett says she was notified by former co-workers that after they spoke, Cafarella went to the high school to pick up the records then called Hassett for a follow up interview in May 2019.
This is problematic on multiple levels.
T&M billed the New Rochelle Board of Education about $150,000 including for an interview of Hassett on June 22, 2018, which Hassett says did not happen, raising questions about other interviews and work T&M billed for the investigation.
T&M never obtained transcript and graduation records from the Registrar, documents central to any investigation of grade inflation, which raises doubts about the quality and even the validity of the investigation. The T&M Apex Report did mention one transcript on which then-Principal Reggie Richardson had changed a grade using whiteout. How did T&M obtain that record?
Hastie told State investigators that a person who Hassett agrees he described as her came forward in January 2019 but she says she never volunteered to come forward but rather only responded to calls from T&M and Cafarella of Spencer Law. The dates do not match: Hastie told investigators about Hassett on January 27, 2019 but Hassett says she did not talk to anyone between June 22, 2018 and April 2019 including investigators at T&M, Spencer or the New York State Education Department.