“The issues of injustice persist in our country and it is evident we can no longer look away”
“Each individual holds the same value, and each of us has the responsibility to care for our neighbor”
”We must be intentional in our actions”
“This is a teachable moment”
NEW ROCHELLE, NY — Former House Principal Shadia Alvarez, who was held solely responsible by the New Rochelle Board of Educationf or the Apex Grade Inflation Scandal in 2018, has chosen Graduation Day to issue an open letter to Interim New Rochelle High School Joseph Starvaggi claiming she acted at the direction of her supervisors.
In the letter, Alvaraz calls on Starvaggi to come clean about his “role and supervision of the APEX program,” adding “It’s time the community knows the whole truth.”
Alvarez says she is not running away from New Rochelle.
“I have not left, and I have no intention of leaving,” she added.
Alvarez closes by expressing her hope that Starvaggi’s last act as Principal will be “one of integrity, courage, and honor.”
New Rochelle Board of Education 2020
Dear Mr. Starvaggi,
First and foremost, congratulations on your retirement. While the students, families and staff of New Rochelle High School are celebrating their effort, hard work and accomplishments, I am still waiting for you and others to state the truth about mine. See Mr. Starvaggi, I am still waiting and fighting for justice, I am still waiting on you to represent my interests and tell the truth.
Since you are on longer the Interim Principal of New Rochelle High School and President of the Administrators and Supervisors Association, then it should be no problem for you to write to the City School District of New Rochelle Board of Education explaining your role and supervision of the APEX program. It should also at this time be no problem for you to share that I, Shadia Alvarez, acted at the directive of my supervisors and did not enter, access or make grade changes on official school transcripts. You must also share with them that the decision to add “P” for pass on the APEX forms was made and approved by my superiors. Today, the District uses “P” for all students in the Distance Learning 2.0 program. You must tell them all of the details, all of them because it matters.
Mr. Starvaggi, the City for long has believed one story, supported by press conferences and specious press releases. You and I, and all the administrators and teachers know the truth. Nothing has changed. Everything is still the same. It’s time the community knows the whole truth.
By now, I imagine, the Board is conducting yet another investigation, wasting more taxpayer money. In my experience every new investigation creates a new investigation; it’s a bottomless barrel for those that can charge by the hour and have no loyalty to the District’s mission or to the needs of our students. Despite my requests for us, as a community to face the truth, to hold a public name clearing hearing, and to engage this “crisis” head on, my repeated requests and the accompanying FOIL’s have not been honored and or simply denied.
You stating the truth for the public record, would stop this waste of resources and time, and would allow for the employee unions and the Board to devise plans that correct past errors and protect those that work their hardest on behalf of this District.
Mr. Starvaggi, I know your dream was to be Principal of New Rochelle High School. It has been achieved. Now it’s time for you to set the record straight, and allow me to have mine. My dream is, and will forever be, to continue to work on behalf of young people and families for the betterment of the communities they find themselves in. Anyone that has worked with me knows that. It is not a job, it is a mission. Missions endure despite position, promotion or termination. Missions are about courage, leadership and service.
I have endured the lies, I have endured the destruction of my character and a public and humiliating termination. I have endured the silence of staff and community members who are witnesses to the truth, yet fear using their voice would make them end up, just like me. I have endured the lack of due process and the accompanying depletion of my resources trying to fight for a justice you hold in your hands.
Stating the truth will support this community in healing and re-building, while also allowing the Board to re-align its actions with its purpose.
Students, families, and staff who worked with me everyday know this was more than just about APEX, and thus unlike others I am not running away from New Rochelle; I have not left, and I have no intention of leaving. I am completely committed to the future of this community and all the communities I serve. This graduation marks for me, a moment in which my students are safe and their families are now well positioned to know all of the truth.
I sincerely hope that your last act as Principal and your legacy at New Rochelle High School become one of integrity, courage, and honor.
RELATED: Why Shadia Alvarez?
EDITOR’S NOTE: Talk of the Sound broke the Apex Scandal story on May 7, 2018. We have never believed that Shadia Alvarez operated on her own. As we noted in our “Why Shadia Alvarez?” article, she was a convenient scapegoat for what had to have been a top-down effort to artificially boost graduation rates by granting bogus course credit and fake diplomas to the most vulnerable students. The idea that little Shadia Alvarez orchestrated a conspiracy of one is and always absurd.
“By the time the report was formally released, Shadia Alvarez had served her purpose. As we predicted, she was kept around for months by the Board, at a cost of tens of thousands of taxpayer dollars, for the sole purpose of being offered up as a “blood sacrifice” to purge the sins of a school community where “everyone” knew credit recovery was a sham and graduation rates pure puffery…Firing Shadia Alvarez is about containment not justice.”
In 2018, Talk of the Sound published a leaked copy of the first investigation into Apex by T&M Protection Resources which we described as a whitewash.
“Despite claims to the contrary, the T&M Report was an attempt at damage control (and attempt that backfired given the media coverage). It was not a comprehensive investigation into credit recovery going back to 2010 when it gained popularity among school administrators, it did not go back to the beginning of the Apex Learning program in 2014, it looked at only one of seven Apex Coordinators and only looked back 10 months on the one it did consider. Dr. Parvey, the person with responsibility for instructional programming at the high school, was not interviewed and not even mentioned by name in the report. The T&M Report was damage control aimed at responding only to three media accounts published by Talk of the Sound and the Journal News.”
“In what can only be described as a massive failure that brings into question the legitimacy of hundreds of diplomas issued by New Rochelle High School in 2015, 2016, 2017 and 2018, a special investigator hired by the school board in 2019 has concluded that every aspect of the APEX Learning Credit Recovery Program did not meet fundamental requirements of the Regulations of the Commissioner of Education.”
“The foundational failure of the entire Program makes previously reported efforts to manufacture or inflate grades and boost graduation rates look like rearranging deck chairs on the Titanic as school administrators attempted to cheat on test scores for ineligible students improperly registered for invalid courses.”
“The APEX 2018 investigation found Shadia Alvarez entered 212 “overrides” or grade changes for 32 students, primarily to raise a grade, raise a grade from failing to passing or to create a new grade where none existed before, by making “entries and changes to students’ records in violation of NRHS grade-change practice and without any consistent, comprehensible or valid explanation”.The APEX II investigation found a staggering 982 overrides for 98 students using APEX Learning during the period August 1, 2014 through July 31, 2018 with a massive spike once Alvarez was named Apex Coordinator. A 500% increase in overrides (i.e., grade changes) and 300% increase in students given overrides.
“The APEX II investigation found a staggering 982 overrides for 98 students using APEX Learning during the period August 1, 2014 through July 31, 2018 with a massive spike once Alvarez was named Apex Coordinator. A 500% increase in overrides (i.e., grade changes) and 300% increase in students given overrides.”
“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.”
“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.”
“The T&M Apex Report was anything but “complete and final. As Talk of the Sound noted at the time, the report effectively scapegoated a single person – New Rochelle High School Apex Coordinator Shadia Alvarez – by limiting the investigation to only the current year, shutting out investigators from accessing the Apex Learning system, not interviewing any of the other 6 Apex Coordinators or the two people who originally set up the program in 2014 — former Guidance Department Chair Mike Kenny and former Assistant Superintendent Diane Massimo.”
“Despite her feigned ignorance, Moselhi was well aware of the investigation by the New York State Testing Security Unit. As Vice President at the time, she was sitting next to Hastie at the Board meeting on December 4, 2018 when Hastie first disclosed the State investigation. She is copied on at least one email involving the state investigation. The referral to NYSED was widely reported and discussed.”