Warrengate – Hiding Misconduct in Education

It’s summer vacation, and exactly 3 months since I was removed from my classroom. I’m currently on a short family vacation out on the North Fork of Long Island. I’m hoping to clear my head of all the deficiencies in education I’ve encountered these last 7 months. There is barely any cell phone reception, and I’m equipped only with my Android Galaxy S2 and some intermittent Wi-Fi from the resort. I should be relaxing and not thinking about my ongoing saga with the NYC Department of Education. However, every single day, since January 2012, I have had the burden of going to sleep and waking up to thoughts of corruption, educational neglect, misuse of funds, cronyism, retaliation and theft of services. That’s how I start my days and end my nights. I cannot help it. The gears just keep moving. I began this journey with a strong interest to help my school community and I’m not taking off July and August from this fight. I never imagined it would get to this, but it just keeps getting more crazy. I have a lot of fight left in me though…

I pretty much know my support, but I don’t know all the players in the other corner yet.

On January 26, 2012, I had no disciplinary letters in my personnel file. I had no allegations of misconduct or incompetence. All the formal observations of my pedagogy were satisfactory. Basically my record as an education practitioner was stellar. January 26, 2012 became a very important date in this saga. I remember looking at Principal Linda Hill as she avoided eye contact with me in her office. Present were the UFT Chapter Leader, Richard Candia, SLT Chairperson Susanne Abramowitz and Assistant Principal Joanne Aguirre. Principal Linda Hill could not make eye contact with me as she called me a “hindrance to the community“, because she knew it was not true. She knew that, on the contrary, all the work I did in the last 4.5 years actually made her look like a super hero -that she was actually a principal of a “School of Technology”. I won’t go through the huge list of what I have done to contradict her words, but just know that the huge list and respective images ran through my head as the words “hindrance” and “divisive” came out of her mouth. So what caused her to say that What caused all the hostility that now surrounded my work environment I did not have the answers, but I thought maybe there was truth to the rumors circulating about her financial misconduct.

On the night of January 26, 2012 I contacted Richard Condon, Special Commissioner of Investigation (SCI), and informed him and his team, via email, of potential double dipping. By the way, I hate the term “double dipping”, as it sounds too innocent like biting into a Dorito and dipping it back into the salsa a second time. That only really affects those sharing that salsa. The double dipping I am talking about affects every taxpayer reading this post. Public money that could be used for the student’s benefit was instead misused. SCI sent the complaint to the Office of Special Investigations (OSI) on February 7, 2012. Call me impatient or call me skeptical, but I couldn’t wait for OSI to finish their investigation and I investigated on my own. In March, 2012 I exercised my rights as a private citizen and requested Principal Linda Hill’s after school per session time cards for the last 3 years pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law (FOIL). A month later I was removed from school and sent to a “rubber room” in Ozone Park. After some delays, the FOIL unit sent me only the time cards from the 2009-2010 school year while I was still in the “rubber room”. The findings were eye-opening and very disconcerting to me , both as a member of the public and as a teacher. Is this what she was afraid of The time cards showed that Principal Hill was clocking in for a program called DANA (Dreyfus Achieve Now Academy) and simultaneously sitting in on School Leadership Team (SLT) meetings also collecting a stipend. In other words…double dipping with tax dollars.
I spent some of my summer vacation comparing the SLT minutes to the time cards for the same date for DANA program:

UPDATE: Aug 1, 2012:

What the extra per session equates to is in the photo below. Keep in mind again that when Principal Hill retires, they will average the last few years of total salary and that will factor for her pension. In layman’s terms…taxpayers will be paying for this for a long time.

Now I showed 3 examples from the 2009-2010 school year. The full documents obtained indicated that this happened for ALL dates when there was an SLT meeting. Wait…it gets worse. The documents below show that not only was Principal Hill double dipping, but she was not actually clocking in with the digital time clock 15 feet from her office. She instead was writing the times in and out herself. I’m not sure of the reasons for this, but it happened about 80 times in that school year. So on 80 different occasions are we to believe that Principal Hill could not make it to the time clock in the main office Who signed off on all these time cards Where did they end up An anonymous email I received indicated that she might not have been in the building when she said she was. Only real investigators would be able to find that out as I am just a private citizen and technology teacher.

This story gets a lot worse. I found these instances of double dipping and then I FOILed an audit report conducted by the Office of Auditor General in 2011. The report shows that more disturbing financial misconduct had taken place. In one instance, Principal Hill used her P-Card, meant for school related purchases, and used it for personal items. The list of findings is long and it involves about $40,000. See below.

I took the information I found and shared it with OSI Investigator Lawrence Scott. I also shared it with Chancellor Walcott, Mayor Bloomberg, SCI, PTA members, the superintendent, PEP, CEC and the Comptrollers Office. I’m not saying there aren’t other investigations taking place, but in September I will report back to the “rubber room”, while it appears my principal will be back at Berta Dreyfus IS 49. When I spoke to a woman that is involved with the Achieve Now Academy at the Office of Youth and Development and informed them of my findings, she told me “I’m not having this conversation!” and she hung up. Bizarre! I inform them that their budget is misused and I get hung up on What is going on How big is this

What about the remaining time cards from 2010-2012 Well their release kept getting delayed. They may have contained more instances of financial misconduct BUT THEY NO LONGER EXIST! The time cards that could have shown more proof of misconduct at my struggling school no longer exist according to the FOIL Unit. See below the email I received on July 25, 2012.

Sounds like Watergate, no I titled this post Warrengate because my school’s address is 101 Warren St., Staten Island, NY. So they were able to locate time cards from 3 years ago, but not recent ones Shortly before I was removed, a staff member told me that “some guy came in to collect time cards” in early April 2012.

It’s interesting to point out that while I was holed up in a basement copy room of 8201 Rockaway Blvd, Ozone Park, Queens I witnessed a man shred countless time cards right in front of me. This is the home of my school’s Network CFN 211 office. I believe that is where time cards are sent for approval, but I could be wrong. What are the chances that the same cards I was waiting for were shredded right in front of me

See a photo of shredded time cards I took here:

Here is a video of the bags of shredded documents including time cards. Was it planned to do it right in front of me or just another of many blunders they made in handling my case

In New York State, first degree tampering with public records with the intent to defraud is a class D felony, punishable by a state prison term up to 7 years.

Under Penal Law, a person is guilty of tampering with public records in the first degree when, knowing that he or she does not have the authority of anyone entitled to grant it, and with intent to defraud, he or she knowingly removes, mutilates, destroys, conceals, makes a false entry in or falsely alters any record or other written instrument filed with, deposited in, or otherwise constituting a record of a public office or public servant.

DANA Time Cards showing written in times: F8467-Linda Hill- records-Jan 2009 through May 2010

Some SLT meetings where Principal Linda Hill was in attendance during the 2009-2010 school year.

Nov 10, 2009

Dec 1, 2009

Jan 5, 2010

Feb 2, 2010

Mar 2, 2010

Apr 13, 2010

May 4, 2101

Jun 1, 2010

Audit Conducted in January 2011: R049- Audit

So where do we go from here Time cards are missing. Those that were presented show tax dollars misappropriated. There are countless allegations against administrators who remain in the school building and of course…children are left behind.

One last picture to add is this graph that shows a steady decline in enrollment since Principal Hill took over. Estimated numbers for next year show possibly under 800. Is anyone going to step in and help Berta Dreyfus IS 49 I remind local officials that it is election year.

About Francesco Portelos

Parent and Educator fighting for the student and the teacher.
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One Comment

  1. LadyJusticeTineThis

    This is a little too fishy….how could the old cards be stored somewhere…but the new cards are NO WHERE TO BE FOUND I can guarantee you…the person who collected the cards from the building…is the same person who was instructed to destroy them. In the rubber room…time is on your side….but who would have thought to start putting those time cards back together. I bet, if you did…..you would have seen good ole…Principal Hills’ name at the top of them. These people get away with way too much, but I am sure glad you are around to document it. Keep up the good fight…when you go back in September..keep your EYES WIDE OPEN. THEY WILL BE WATCHING YOU EVEN CLOSER NOW.

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