I’m a parent who wants more for my children and students. I received word that the NYCDOE wants to try and terminate me, again. Here we go..not without a fight.
The short version: My two sons were enrolled in PS 13 located in Rosebank, Staten Island. While there were good things in the school, the school lacked parent engagement and enrichment for the PreK-3 grades. Instead of complaining, I decided to join and help. The PTA and principal didn’t want meetings and engagement so they could decide on everything themselves. Most PTA meetings didn’t even occur because no one showed up and they weren’t advertised. Title I federal fund meetings didn’t happen so parents couldn’t decide how to spend the funding. Because of all this, Principal Paul Martuccio could make all decisions without parent interference. I decided to get more involved and run for PTA. Principal Paul Martuccio, Assistant Principal Stephanie Fremer, and others went around to the staff to have them come back at night to vote against this “troublemaker parent Francesco Portelos.” I found out from staff, and went into investigative mode. They defamed me to my children’s’ past, present and future teachers.
I now wanted to know what they did not want me to know. From the website seethroughny.net, I found Principal Paul Martuccio had made a lot of overtime. One year as much as $14,000. Former disgraced principal Linda Hill wasn’t even making that much.
Through Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) requests, I found Principal Paul Martuccio in overtime and violated Chancellor’s Regulation C-175 by having his Assistant Principal Stephanie Fremer sign off on handwritten times, when he couldn’t find the digital time clock. I also found the PTA spent hundreds of thousands of dollars without the proper approval of the parents. That, coupled with the fact that Principal Paul Martuccio meddled in PTA elections and finances violated Chancellor Regulations A-660.
I mostly complained to the school, district and central that I was defamed to my children’s’ teachers. I mean even the school nurse, custodians , secretaries and a substitute came to the PTA election to vote against me based on what they heard from the principal and assistant principals. This caused issues with my children, although they are young enough to be unaware.
My complaints to District 31 Attorney Lisa Becker, and the District 31 leadership fell on deaf ears. Guess what happened next. Yes, like pages from a playbook, I then of course became the subject of their investigations. I came to find out that the PS 13 administration, Attorney Lisa Becker and the PTA launched more than five investigations against me as a parent. Yes, “a parent.” I recently came to learn from my union that the DOE was thinking about filing termination charges.
Now, I am fighting back the only ways I know how. That’s the short version.
The longer, more detailed, version:
I am a parent whose experience has given me deep knowledge of the NYC school system, is lauded as an educator, and I’m not afraid to speak up when it comes to improving our schools. These factors probably caused PS 13 Principal Paul Martuccio to shiver when I showed up as a parent at his school. He knew of me from the battle at IS 49. Even though I spoke to him and told him I am simply at the school “as a parent and nothing else,” you’ll see in this post, and subsequent posts, how he ignored that conversation and launched attacks against me with that help of others and district 31 and DOE Central. All this simply for trying to bring parent engagement and enrichment to my children’s’ school.
PS 13 is an overcrowded school with great teachers located in Rosebank, Staten Island. While Principal Paul Martuccio has won an award, his ego has been detrimental to the school and students reaching their full potential. Parent engagement is some of the lowest in Staten Island and enrichment programs for the students are little to few.
If you know anything of my history as an education advocate, you’ll know that everything changed when my first son Alexander was born. I stopped looking at my classroom, and public school system, just as a career and began looking at it as the future place my infant son was going to be educated and nurtured.
I won’t bore you with the details, but I decided to try to fix the broken middle school I worked in back in 2011 and went from being a praised educator to:
- Being the subject of over 40 investigations, after finding IS 49 Principal Linda Hill was stealing from the school and students.
- Being reassigned out of my classroom and to a basement storage room two boroughs away for two years.
- Brought up on 38 charges for termination, that I survived.
- Being arrested at the behest of the DOE and being awarded a $45,000 settlement.
- Making the news from Australia to the United Kingdom for exposing the rubber rooms.
- Was sent to over 25 schools as a roving substitute.
Instead of rewriting what happened at PS 13, I’m going to share excerpts from my Notice of Claim that I filed with the NYC. For those of you who do not know, when you intend to sue the City of New York, you should file a Notice of Claim within 90 days of the occurrence. I filed this May 1, 2019.
3. In addition to being a public school parent of two
children attending Public School 13 in Rosebank,
Staten Island, NY, Claimant is also a teacher in
Staten Island, New York employed by the NYCDOE.
4. On or about the Fall of 2016, the Claimant began
attending public School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings
and Parent Teacher Association (PTA) meetings at his
child’s school. His oldest son had just entered
kindergarten. Claimant did not hold an official
position at the SLT or PTA, but rather listened to the
members of each meeting share happenings at the
5. For approximately a year, Claimant watched as most PTA
meetings did not have quorum and therefore did not
take place. The PTA functions are regulated by NYCDOE
Chancellor’s Regulation A-660 (CR-A-660) and deal with
public fund collection and spending.
6. In the Spring of 2017, he was informed that there
would be openings in the PTA and SLT for elections and
decided to take a more proactive role to help improve
the school. At the Spring 2017 elections only 7
members were in attendance. The Claimant was informed
that suddenly there were no new openings for the SLT
and PTA and therefore did not submit his name to run
7. In the Fall of 2017, Claimant’s second son began
attending kindergarten at PS 13. After a year of
seeing issues with the proper function of the PTA,
including the school’s low advertisement for meetings,
low parent involvement, lack of Federally funded and
mandated Title I meetings and potential issues with
finances, the Claimant decided to take an even more
8. On or about November 7, 2017, the Claimant asked
Principal Paul Martuccio about the federally mandated
Title I meeting for parents and was ultimately never
given the information on date and time. Upon
information and belief, Principal Martuccio subverted
the Title I protocol and spent the approximately
$6,000 how he wanted, rather than by an elected parent
9. In November of 2017, the Claimant and his wife
attended a Student of the Month event at PS 13. The
school’s auditorium was filled with approximately 100
other parents. As has happened in the past, neither
the PTA board members, nor Principal Paul Martuccio,
made any announcements to the parents that a scheduled
PTA meeting was to follow. Furthermore, as about 100
parents were exiting the school, passing the PTA
office, the PTA officers sat inside their office,
waiting for the large group of parents to leave. The
Claimant observed this and then saw the PTA board
enter the empty auditorium with donuts and coffee,
announcing that “no meeting can take place again”
since “no one showed up” and there was no quorum. Upon
information and belief, Principal Martuccio and the
PTA board did not want meetings to take place, so they
alone could decide what functions would take place,
how they were run and how all funding will be spent.
10. After the PTA board made the announcement that the
meeting was canceled that same night, the Claimant
told them to wait, ran outside to a group of parents
still lingering in front of school, and convinced them
to come to the meeting. They did and quorum was met.
The Claimant and the new parents spent about an hour
asking questions and giving suggestions on how to
improve the PTA efficiency to best meet the needs of
the school and students. The school administration in
attendance, and the PTA board seemed visibly
displeased at the length of the meeting and series of
questioning. At one point, while the meeting was going
on, Vice President Marci Dispenza walked out and took
the donuts and coffee pot with her. During the meeting
the Complainant asked about the balance in the PTA
funds that was written on the agenda. The PTA
president at the time, Michele Sammarco stated that at
the PTA runs snack sales and other fundraisers and at
the end of the year they “give the money to the
school.” The Claimant knew enough at the time that the
funds are supposed to be separate and no expenditures
should be made without the members’ approval according
11. The Claimant became even more vocal at the meeting
and, pursuant to CR-A-660, motioned for a
Communications Committee to be formed to increase
communication to the school’s parents. Although the
motion was seconded, the PTA ended it there without
ever presenting it to the membership. This was another
violation of CR-A-660.
12. In the Spring of 2018 the NYCDOE sent out a school
specific survey to be completed by staff and parents
of each school. The Claimant found that PS 13 had the
second lowest parent survey response rate of any other
Staten Island elementary school. He became vocal about
this fact to the principal. At this point, the
Claimant created a “Parents of PS 13” Facebook page to
try to compensate for the lack of communication that
was taking place at the school. It should be noted
that even the school website did not indicate meeting
minutes or accurate times of meetings and Principal
Martuccio’s school voicemails were devoid of PTA
meetings or SLT meeting dates and times.
13. The Claimant believed that after a year and a half
of hoping for change to have the administration and
PTA board adhere to the regulations and federal Title
I law, the only way to bring the necessary change was
to run for PTA board in the upcoming elections. He
decided to run for corresponding secretary in order to
increase correspondence between the PTA, the school
and the parents. However, CR A-660 states that a
nomination committee needed to be formed. As Claimant
found that the board was even violating how elections
were run, and no committee was even formed, the
Claimant decided that he should run for PTA president
and bring the change from the top.
On or about May 16, 2018, the Claimant posted on the Parent of
PS 13 Facebook page encouraging other parents to get involved
and run as well. He also posted on the Facebook page and on
Twitter that he himself would be running for PTA president to
bring parents in the community more of a voice.
14. Upon information and belief, the PTA board and the
school administration found out and the following took
a. In violation of CR A-660, that states the
administration cannot meddle in PTA elections,
finances or business, the principal and assistant
principals went around to the school staff and
told them in sum and substance “You need to come
back to school for the PTA elections and vote
against parent Francesco Portelos. He is a
b. The PTA board, without any approval from
membership, purchased approximately $8,000 in
Staple store gift cards for the teachers. They
broke down the payments to $2,000 increments to
possibly subvert financial approval.
c. The PTA board joined the school administration in
badmouthing Claimant and did so at student
dismissal pickup and online.
15. While the Spring 2017 elections had only 2 non board
members attend, the Spring 2018 elections had
approximately 50 attendees. Most were staff members,
including Claimant’s sons’ teachers, school nurses,
secretaries custodians and even substitutes. These
were all members who never attended PTA meetings
before. The Claimant lost the election and staff
members shared with him that all the staff, including
present and future teachers of his sons, attended
because they were told by the assistant principals
that he was trouble.
16. Upon finding out he was defamed and slandered to his
sons’ teachers, and how the staff was bought $200
Staples gift cards right before the election, he wrote
an email to the school administration and copied top
NYCDOE and district personnel and attorneys.
Furthermore he filed Freedom of Information Law
requests pertaining to Principal Martuccio’s and the
17. As the school year began in the Fall of 2019, the
Claimant was determined not to let the poor decisions
of the PTA board and Principal Martuccio deter him
from trying to improve his children’s school and
increase enrichment programs that he believed were
lacking for the younger grades.
18. On October 9, 2018 the Claimant attended a public
School Leadership Team meeting, that is governed by NY
state law and local regulations. At the end of the
meeting he asked if he could speak and was allowed to
do so. He engaged in speech that pertained to serious
concerns including the administration meddling in the
PTA elections, public funding use at the school,
previous PTA investigations and substantiated
misconduct, lack of enrichment programs and serious
lack of parent outreach and engagement. During his
speech PTA board members began sharing an onslaught of
defamatory lies about Claimant’s actions. Despite
those statements, Claimant’s tone and demeanor
remained calm. Since the Claimant has had a history of
being vocal about issues in education before, and was
successful in exposing the substantiated misconduct of
other in the past, the Claimant added that known
history in his speech.
19. School Leadership Team meetings are supposed to be
announced and take place once a month. Even though
there was an October 9, 2018 meeting, the Claimant ran
into an impromptu , unannounced meeting taking place
when he went to pick up his children from school on
October 27, 2018. The Claimant believed this meeting
violated NYS Open Meetings Law as well as Chancellor’s
Regulation CR A-655 and other regulations.
20. On or about the October 27, 2019 meeting staff
members at the school were made aware that at least
one or more staff members were called were approached
by NYCDOE investigators and the Claimant was listed as
a subject of an investigation. That information was
then shared with Claimant. To date Claimant, has not
been approached by any investigator regarding this
21. Upon information and belief, Principal Martuccio and
other Respondents, including an unknown member,
designated as John Doe 1 for now, filed fictitious
official reports against the Claimant, pertaining to
his October 9, 2018 SLT speech to the NYCDOE Online
Occurrence Reporting System (OORS). The Claimant filed
Freedom of Information Law requests and obtained
redacted versions of witness statements made by
Respondents Renee Turner, Matthew Santarpia, John Doe
1 and filed by Assistant Principal Stephanie Fremer.
The same assistant principal that violated CR A-660
and meddled in the Spring 2018 PTA Election. Upon
information and belief, Assistant Principal Stephanie
Fremer also video recorded Claimant while he attended
22. Copies of the fictitious OORS reports, falsely
labelling Claimant as aggressive and threatening on
October 9, 2018, were sent to Claimant’s supervisors.
23. Despite the Claimant speaking on matters of public
concern, as a parent at his sons’ school, the
Respondents actively engaged in defaming him as an
employee as well.
24. By engaging in the above acts, the Respondents
violated the Claimant’s rights, defamed, slandered,
caused undue emotional stress and tortious
interference in addition to negatively affecting his
That’s the gist of what happened up until Spring 2019. In upcoming posts I will share details of meetings with Principal Paul Martuccio, Attorney Lisa Becker and an OSI investigation so full of holes, it might as well be used as a sieve. Also, conversations I had with union and DOE attorneys regarding their attempts to try and terminate me based on one investigation.
Stay tuned, this parent is just getting started, again. They come after me, they come after my family, and I will not allow that.