It’s Election Day. Imagine as you walk into your polling center, a candidate’s people are inside handing you $200 gift cards and the polling volunteers are telling you who to vote for. Well, that’s kind of what Principal Paul Martuccio orchestrated at his school. Read below.
The day of PTA elections of May 2018, Principal Martuccio and his admin told teachers, secretaries, custodians, school nurses and even a substitute to come back to vote against me, as he could not have someone challenge him, ever. Instead he wanted minions ignorant of rules, laws and procedures.
I get it though, it’s easier not to be challenged. Just ask any dictator, ever in history. Just ask King George III about that annoying George Washington and his buddies who dared to not want taxation without representation.
Whether they knew it or not, Principal Martuccio, Assistant Principal Stephanie Fremer, Assistant Principal Panzella and Assistant Principal Nola were directly violating Chancellor’s Regulation A-660, that states:
“The principal, parent coordinator, and other school officials must not interfere, directly or indirectly, in the PA/PTA’s internal affairs, including the election of officers and allocation of funds.”
Seems pretty black and white and any violation of this chips away at the democracy within our schools. After staff members told me this occurred, I made a decision to find out what Principal Paul Martuccio, and the PTA board, did not want me to know. I was made aware that they knew of my history of blowing the whistle at IS 49, a school PS 13 feeds into, so what reason would a public school have to not want a whistleblower around, unless they are hiding something.
I started by sending the below emails to them and district personnel. My defense/offense began at that point. The line was drawn in the sand. Remember, he and those involved, started this with that single action of badmouthing me to my children’s teachers. Up until that point it was pretty calm at the school and they have no evidence to show otherwise. My timeline of events is accurate.
From: Francesco Portelos <email@example.com>
Date: Tue, May 22, 2018, 8:51 PM
Subject: Election issues. Didn’t have to be this way.
To: PMartuc2@schools. nyc. gov <PMartuc2@schools.nyc.gov>
Cc: Panzella Valerie (31R013) <VPanzella@schools.nyc.gov>, Nola Danielle <DNola@schools.nyc.gov>, Fremer Stephanie (31R013) <SFremer@schools.nyc.gov>, Richards Teresa (31R013 ) <TRichards8@schools.nyc.gov>
Paul and admin,
Well done with tonight. I was going to email you a few days ago, under the assumption that the administration was going to go around and tell the staff to come to the elections and to not to vote for me. I didn’t want to make that assumption, but I’ve been around the block long enough to know that that was going to happen.
It didn’t take long for your staff to start talking and now it’s all out there that this indeed happened. It’s unfortunate, because my intentions for the school were just like I said in my speech. Yes, I’ve been the subject and the complainant in many investigations, but I do not regret any of them. I have to live with the fact that I had to fight hard and that scares people. However, know that your staff already started talking.
For almost 2 years, as a parent in your school, I’ve been very, and I mean extremely, quiet. I love the education my children are receiving, but the fact that you and your administration went around to the staff and did this is unwarranted and uncalled for. Also, it’s a violation of Chancellors Regulation A-660. You, not me, made this bed and now you have to deal with it.
We could have worked very well together, if you just give me a chance. Ms. Nola and Ms. Fremer, please make sure to keep all the documentation from the sign in tonight. Thank you.
Francesco A. Portelos
I went into FOIL mode and made several Freedom of Information Law request with firstname.lastname@example.org. I wanted to know what they were hiding, if anything. Spoiler alert…they were hiding.
” Pursuant to the Freedom of Information Law, please provide to me, by email, a copy of all financial records from the PS 13 Staten Island PTA. These should include bank records, as in deposits, withdrawals, cleared checks, statements and/or transfers as well as purchases and/or purchase orders from September 1, 2015 to June 15, 2018.“
“Per Session records for PS 13 Principal Paul Martuccio for years 2012 and 2014 as indicated on website SeeThroughNY.net (Not sure if the 2012 $14,088 amount and 2014 $9,870 amount are calendar years Jan-Dec or school years Sep-June.) Records should include time cards and respective per session sheets, as well as spreadsheet indicating dates, hours worked and amount paid.“
Results: Excerpts of what I received show that the PTA, right after I announced my campaign to run in the PTA election, spent $8,000 to buy the teachers Staples gift cards. Not to raise any red flags, they also broke the payments down into $2,000 increments. There were no meeting motions, no approvals from membership, and data shows they had never done that before. So now Martuccio and minions tell teachers to vote against a troublemaker and the PTA hands them $200 gift cards. Sounds pretty legit, right? The PTA also spent over $56,000 without parent membership approval.
Here is one copy of the checks signed by then PTA President Michele Sammarco and Vice President Marci Dispenza to Staples.
No worries though, as the NYC Special Commissioner’s office received the allegation from the district about this and referred it down to NYCDOE’s Office of Special Investigation. OSI Investigator Clinton Silvey interviewed me and then closed down the case without interviewing anyone else. NYCDOE #2 attorney Charity Guerra signed off on it. See below. Remember that after some previous botched OSI investigations, DOE attorneys had to start signing off on reports. See the stories of Wei Liu.
It’s actually a great tactic by the NYCDOE Office of General Counsel and OSI team. If you don’t want the cases substantiated, the evidence is strong, so just don’t ask any questions and close it out. I mean, who is going to stop them? I’m told SCI has reopened this case and others for re-investigation, but we will see.
The summer came and went and I made the decision that I need to actually pull the stops and increase my involvement in the school. I do not scare easily and pushing me away only peaks my interest as to what is happening. Also, getting even more involved was the only way to make a positive difference for my own kids and their schoolmates. The crooked actions of the PTA and principal Paul Martuccio were not going to deter me.
I attended the PS 13 September School Leadership Team meeting. School Leadership Team Meetings are open to the public in every school and I actually had a small part in that with my friend Michael Thomas. I asked to speak as an observer and was allowed to. I believe my speech then involved working together and I gave positive feedback. Thought I’d try the honey approach by commending the school and PTA.
Unfortunately, as time progressed in the weeks ahead, things continued to deteriorate. I kept asking for the mandated Title I meeting parents were supposed to have and Principal Paul Martuccio kept sidestepping the issue. I kept pushing that PTA meetings and SLT meetings be live streamed so parents who work can be informed. However, why would Principal Paul Martuccio wants us parents deciding how he should be spending federal Title I money in his school?
I could tell he had enough of me asking questions and raising issues at meetings, but how could he stop me? Could he observe me and give me poor ratings? No. Could he push me out like he has done to his staff before? No. What about false allegations to obtain a “limited access” letter against me and prevent me from going to meetings? Turns out I was several chapters ahead in their paybook.
The Ish Hits the Fan
It was time for the October 2018 School Leadership Team meeting. Tensions were high and even PTA Treasurer Jodi Reen stopped me outside of school to yell at me stating “You are making this a lot more work. This is a volunteer job and now we have to put financial reports together!” I think that was in response to the fact the PTA never shared a detailed treasury report. Why should they? Parents send money in with their kids for smencils and snacks, and Paul and the PTA spend it as they please.
Some people are very predictable. While I do not prefer to audio record, I knew I should anytime I spoke with PS 13’s PTA and administration. I am glad I did. I asked to speak at the October 9, 2018 meeting and was again allowed to. I spoke about:
– The fact that the school lacks in parent involvement as is evidenced by the poor turnout at meetings and response rate to the parent surveys every year.
– How I taught at schools that had very strong and involved PTA that brought a lot to the classroom.
– How the administration was involved in the PTA election and it violated Chancellor’s Regulation. I pointed out some staff members like Matthew Santarpia, SLT secretary, and how he never went to a PTA meeting except when it was time to come vote for Principal Paul Martuccio’s candidate.
-Community Education Council president Mike Rosen was there too and he along with PTA parents took the opportunity to take shots. Mike Rosen was actually removed as PS 13’s liaison and also removed from the CEC due to conflicts of interest.
In any case, I made it clear that historically, when I am trying to help a school, like IS 49, and I am pushed away and attacked, some would say it can be dangerous. Dangerous in that I am familiar with rules and laws, and that I do not scare or back away. Dangerous in that if I smell something is afoul and it negatively affects children, I investigate.
Well….that’s all that they needed. They heard that word “dangerous” and with the help District 31 attorney Lisa Becker, and Paul Martuccio’s CSA union reps, they launched a trumped up attack. Continue reading to see how they all fabricated and corroborated on reports.
I filed a Freedom of Information Law (FOIL) request for all of PS 13’s safety reports between a certain time period. Call it a hunch, but wouldn’t you know that I was reported as “dangerous” while simply speaking cordially, as a parent, at a School Leadership Team meeting? In addition, I filed FOIL requests regarding investigations launched against me at the school. Even though the NYCDOE Office of Special investigations does not have jurisdiction to investigate a parent, PS 13 staff and PTA launched more than 4 investigations. Turns out I wasn’t alone. PS 13 has filed false allegations against other parents and guardians for getting involved and speaking up.
I ran into a PS 13 guardian in Home Depot who used to come to meetings and ask questions with me. He and his family had disappeared. “What happened to you?” I asked. He goes on to tell me a story of how ever since I brought him into meetings at PS 13, and he was speaking up with his family, that child services start showing up at his house. He told me they showed up three or four times and found nothing yet they kept coming back. They stopped showing up to meetings and ACS stopped showing up at their house. This connects to another story I heard from another parent who said she was advocating for special needs students at PS 13 and all of a sudden investigators showed up at her house as well. She too stopped showing up at PTA meetings.
Here is what the FOIL reponse furnished.
…and there you have it, BUT what about the recording? Wouldn’t you agree that even ten corroborated false witness statements are not as strong as an actual audio recording?
Here is the entire 14 minute recording. At 4 minutes into it I said “I tried to help a school [IS 49 in the past], and I was pushed out, and then I try to help from the outside, and that is when some would say I become more dangerous.”
What do we do when a parent and staff members file false reports? Well, according to the the Office of Special Investigation, NYCDOE Family and Community Engagement and some District 31 personnel, nothing needs to happen when public employees lie against parents. You’ll also notice that in a cowardly fashion, Principal Paul Martuccio did not put his name on anything. Staff told me that’s how he operates
Listen to the part in the end where Principa Paul Martuccio says this was “good, good, good.” In other words, they can use this speech to come at me. Did I sound like an aggressive man looking to hurt people, or a parent that wants to see positive change and is hitting roadblocks? Stay tuned for the next post where we share the DOE and District 31’s reactions or lack thereof.