Stories & Grievances
Booker T. Washington Middle School 54, Grievance Brings Retaliation (cont.)
CORRESPONDANCE AND COMMUNICATION
A Notice of Claim was filed against Mr. Vignola in June, 2002, but the lawyer I hired to file the complaint, Mr. Timothy Devane, told me in October that he had forgotten to file it. A defamation civil rights case was filed in Supreme Court on June 24, 2002, against Mr. Larry Lynch, Marie Williams, and the members of the Review Committee, and Supreme Court Judge Marilyn Shafer quickly dismissed the case and suggested that the City come after me for sanctions. She did not question the contract of the Corporation Counsel indemnifying the parents who had started the Review Committee to remove me from the PTA Executive Board, nor did she order any discovery on the truth of my claims of fraud and harassment, or defendants' claims of my alienating the Principal.
In 2002, I believed I had enough documentation concerning abuse of special education children at the school and we still had not received our $13,783.77 Barnes and Noble check, so I contacted the office of District Attorney Robert Morganthau. Ms. Joan Delaney and I spoke for several hours, and she took copies of all of my documents. She sent me a copy of her investigation, which was there was no reason to look at anything further. I was never able to speak with her again, as she never returned my calls.
At the beginning of November 2002 I received a letter from Mr. Thomas Hyland, Deputy Director of the Office of Special Investigations, thanking me for whistleblowing Mrs. Romandetto:
Letter from Hyland
In March 2004, the Booker T. Washington MS 54 School Report card shows that there were, indeed, many children never tested at all on one chart, and yet 100% tested on another.
We have contacted all of the people listed below at least once, or met with them personally, and therefore they know the situation described. We believe that Accountability is "answerability". We add:
"once informed of a problem that you in your official position could do something about, what is/was your response? What did you do to resolve the issue presented to you?"
Reply to November 2, 2002 letter: I must wait for Commissioner Richard Mills to answer first.
New York State Regents:
No reply from anyone except the Honorable Harry Phillips 3rd:
Commissioner Richard Mills:
Combier's Petition dismissed in it's entirety
His decision 14,831 is invalid due to his misstating the facts, claims, and requests of my Verified Petition filed with his office on September 23, 2001;
Affidavit filed March, 2002
STATE OF NEW YORK
STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT
In the Matter of Betsy Combier, on behalf
of herself and of E
from action of the Board of Education Officials:
Mr. Jamal Young, Director of Parent AFFIDAVIT
Advocacy and Engagement; the District 3
Superintendant, Mrs. Patricia Romandetto;
and District 3 Parent Advocacy and Engagement
Representative Ms. DJ Sheppard,
regarding the Grievance filed against Larry Lynch
and Marie Williams, the Review Committee
of MS 54, Harassment, Violations of the A-660s
and New York State Education Law
TO THE COMMISSIONER OF EDUCATION:
1: At all the times hereinafter mentioned, I, petitioner BETSY COMBIER (PETITIONER), am a resident at New York, NY 10021, in the County of New York, State of New York.
2: At all the times hereinafter mentioned, petitioner's daughter, E resides with me at the same address, and is a student in good standing, on the first honor roll, in the DELTA Program at Booker T. Washington Middle School 54.
3. Petitioner respectfully requests that the Commissioner add the information in this AFFIDAVIT to the Verified Petition, Addendums, REPLY and Memorandum of Law previously filed with the Office of Counsel, New York State Education Department Petitioner is sending this Affidavit to add recently received information to her Memorandum of Law and REPLY which supports her allegations concerning the misappropriation of funds by Mrs. Romandetto, Mr. Larry Lynch and Ms. DJ Sheppard in District 3.
4. Petitioner has previously alleged that Mr. Larry Lynch, Ms. DJ Sheppard, and Mrs. Patricia Romandetto misappropriated the funds raised by the MS 54 PTA at Barnes & Noble on December 13, 1999, and Petitioner states that she continues to support this allegation.
5. Petitioner stated in her previous documents that the Barnes & Noble check with the amount of $13,783.77 on it was made out to the "MS 54 PTA", as per a statement made by Ms. Nancy Stern, Community Relations Representative, to Petitioner on the telephone a few days before Petitioner filed her Memorandum of Law. However, a few days after Petitioner filed her Memorandum, Ms. Stern called the Petitioner once again, and told her that there had been an error, and that Barnes & Noble had made the check out to "MS 54" and had, for some unexplained reason, omitted the "PTA" on the check, despite the contract being made out to benefit the "MS 54 PTA" and had been clearly signed by Petitioner Betsy Combier, Co-President of the MS 54 PTA, and Meredith Millich, VP. Ms. Stern told Petitioner that she did not understand why the check had been made out to the school, but that it was a shame that the Principal and the Superintendant did not give the check to the PTA, as it was raised at a PTA event. Petitioner agreed, that since she had signed the contract for the school, and the PTA was expecting to vote on the allocation of funds for the school, that we, the MS 54 PTA, should have been given the check by Larry Lynch, or at least should have worked with Mr. Lynch on allocating the money to the children, teachers, administration, at the school for school-related needs. Petitioner told Ms. Nancy Stern that the check, even though made out in error to "MS 54", should have been used for school -related items, but Petitioner alleges that it was not: Petitioner made telephone calls to the vendors listed in Exhibit 2 of the Verified Answer, and requested, as part of her research into the Barnes & Noble money and her Verified Petition to Commissioner Mills, that the vendors send her original invoices and copies of the payments made for the items listed on the purchase orders. Petitioner respectfully submits the following information:
The Barnes & Noble check, made out to MS 54 for the amount of $13,783.77, for the December 13, 1999 fundraiser by and for the MS 54 PTA (contract was signed by Betsy Combier, PTA Co-President, and the organization's name was "Booker T. Washington MS 54 PTA"), arrived in the school mid-February.
Mr. Larry Lynch congratulated the PTA for raising a record amount for the PTA, but never gave the check to the PTA. He told Petitioner, PTA President, that Mrs. Patricia Romandetto had to see the check because she had to look at all checks which were over $2000. Petitioner protested, but was not successful in convincing Mr. Lynch to give the PTA the check. Petitioner was working hard at this time to make the MS 54 PTA a 501 (C) 3, but the process was not yet complete. Therefore, Petitioner did request that Mr. Lynch help her and the PTA get the check returned as soon as possible. Mr. Lynch agreed that Mrs. Romandetto would return the check intact "in a few weeks". (Verified Petition)
On March 3, 2000, Mr. Jose Moncion, Administrator of the El Camino Program at MS 54, faxed in to Carolina Biological Supply, a Science Supply Vendor for the BOE, purchase order #2BO5294 and #2BO5298. Some items did not get received by the school, and a tracking report was put on them. All of the items were shipped and invoiced under this PO# and on CBSC Order Number 1440688 from 3/06/00 to 4/24/00. Mr. Lawrence Lynch signed the Purchase orders #2BO5298 and #2BO5294 on 4/17/00 (Verified Petition). The copies of the two purchase orders faxed in to Carolina Biological Supply by Mr. Moncion on March 3, 2000, were unsigned (Appendix A).
The Payment Warrant Itemized Payment Statement #0151053638 was sent to Carolina Biological Supply on July 24, 2000, and received by Carolina Biological Supply on July 28, 2000. The payment warrant has a total amount of $11,952.76. The MS 54 PTA was not told any of the above because we did not have the invoices, Mr. Lynch refused to discuss anything about the check, its' whereabouts, or payments made, and the District 3 Superintendant and everyone in the Finance office would not return any telephone calls concerning the check.(Appendix A) The MS 54 PTA was never told where the check was or that there were disbursements which could be made from the Board of Education and/or the District 3 office.
Petitioner was told in May, 2000, by Mr. Lynch, that the check would not be returned to the school.
Petitioner, knowing that Mr. Moncion wanted to set up a science lab, and having already discussed with the members of the PTA the funding of science items, went to Mr. Moncion in May and asked him to supply her with a purchase order which she could give to the District to fund in lieu of getting back the Barnes & Noble check. Mr. Moncion gave her purchase orders #2BO5294 and 2BO5298. Petitioner did not realize that the items on the two purchase orders had already been ordered and shipped in March, 2000. She thought that the date at the bottom was the date that Larry had signed off on the ordering of the items, and that the ordering had occurred after 4/14/00. Petitioner alleges that the two purchase orders, #2BO5298 and #2BO5294 were paid by Board of Education funds which had no connection to the MS 54 PTA Barnes & Noble money raised on December 13, 1999 by the MS 54 PTA. At the beginning of February Petitioner called Ms. Nancy Stern at Barnes & Noble and requested a copy of the check, front and back. Ms. Stern told Petitioner that she must obtain a lawyer to request the check. Petitioner tried to find a lawyer to write a letter so that she could obtain a copy of the check, but she was unsuccessful.
In December, 1999, Smart Apple Media sent a box of books to Marilyn Capaldi, the Librarian of MS 54, for her to look over and buy under her NYSTL allowance.She looked through the books, and decided to buy some of them. These books were invoiced on Feb. 8, 2000, on an imprest form also dated 02/08/00, but signed by Ms. Capaldi and Mr. Lynch on 5/25/00. Check #02452758 was sent to Smart Apple Media on or about 6/22/2000, as part of NYSTL or NYCIO. The MS 54 PTA never saw this invoice before reading the Verified Answer, and never knew that Marilyn had placed any orders with Smart Apple Media. This amount, $248.48, is suspect as having anything to do with the Barnes & Noble check.
The 2BO5299 PO has an invoice, #15853, dated April 20, 2001. The order was shipped 4/23/01 to Booker T. Washington MS 54, Attention Mr. Lenny Goldberg, Assistant Principal. He resigned and left the school in June and no one has seen the items listed on this Purchase order.
6. Petitioner has sent the Commissioner a letter dated October 1, 2001 from Mr. Richard Switach telling Larry Lynch to hold all PTA funds locked up and out of the PTA reach. Lynch proceeded to do this.
In a letter dated October 29, 2001, Mr. Richard Switach, Special Investigator at the Board of Education, stated that the check for $13,783.77 had been deposited in a Board of Education bank account but was available for disbursements whenever the MS 54 PTA requested them.
7.Exhibit 2 of the Verified Answer sent to the Commissioner by Mr. Paul Kotlyar and Ms. Blanche Greenfield included the October 29, 2001 letter from Mr. Switach to Petitioner, in which Mr. Switach states that there was $3000 in the Board of Education bank account, and this "remaining" money would be returned to the PTA "shortly. The MS 54 PTA never "loaned" the $13,783.77 to the Board of Education in order to have them use what they wanted to, and return the remaining amount. The MS 54 PTA was never returned any of the money. We were told that "all the money had been spent, there was nothing left to return".
8. Exhibit 2 also included a letter from Mr. Elliott Levy, District 3 Deputy Superintendant for Finance, dated December 14, 2001, after the above mentioned telephone call. His letter states that there is indeed $1,334.49 "owed to the Parent's Association. We will issue them a check for this amount as quickly as possible."
9. On March 4, 2002, Petitioner was told by MS 54 staff members that the "full inclusion" New Continuum District 75 children in the NOVA Program at MS 54, all of whom are not on the roster of the school, are being placed back in P811M in September against their will. They have never been given the services that they were promised, and their kids' potential for achievement has therefore been sabotaged.Petitioner alleges that this is due to financial misappropriation, as no one can determine what services children should receive if they are not listed as students in the school they are attending.
There is no data for P811M on the NYC BOE website.
The Charles Drew Complex is listed as having 1290 students, then as the New Venture School with 1097 students. No statistics or other data is available "at this time":
P811M Mission (Website - October 30, 2004)
Charles Drew Program
This profile was produced by GreatSchools.net, a nonprofit organization, at www.greatschools.net.
P811M is a special education school serving severely disabled students, ages 4.9 - 21.0. The school includes a Universal Pre-K, which has the capacity to serve both general and special education students, two Pre-K classes for students with disabilities, as well as inclusion programs at P.S.75 and P.S.163.. P811M students are categorized as having multiple disabilities, autism, severe emotional/behavioral needs and/or severe language/communication disorders.
10.Petitioner respectfully alleges that the worst possible segregation is being practiced at MS 54, in which the kids in the non-Delta programs, NOVA, El Camino, Manhattan Valley, and VISTA, are not being given the same services and supplies that the Delta children are, and the kids in the non-Delta Programs must see evidence of this every day. Mr. Lynch does not treat the kids in the non-Delta Programs with the respect they need and should be given. Petitioner alleges that the NOVA Program disarray she has cited in her Verified Petition and Addendums is worse than ever. The Principal, Mr. Larry Lynch, still has not drawn up a safety plan. Staff and Administrators for the school told Petitioner on March 4, 2002, that children at the school are not safe under the current Principal. The non-Delta Programs are receiving no textbooks, only sporadic xeroxes of texts.
11. Barnes & Noble must release the front and back of the check in order for the investigation of Mrs. Romandetto, DJ Sheppard, Mr. Elliott Levy and Board of Education officials such as Mr. Switach to continue, especially as it refers to missing allocations to MS 54. There is no accountability, and Mr. Lynch has never given any information that is listed in the A-660s as mandated he give the PTA.
12. On Thursday, February 28, 2002, Petitioner testified in front of the New York City Council Education Committee on her work exposing the actions/inactions of the NYC Board of Education officials to correct wrongdoing, as part of testimony given by parents on the question of Mayoral control over the Board of Education. A few minutes before the meeting began, Petitioner spoke with two people who work with Mrs. Romandetto and Chancellor Levy, and both people told Petitioner that she "better" take her daughter out of MS 54's Delta Program if she did not want her daughter to be hurt and/or harassed.
WHEREFORE, BETSY COMBIER respectfully requests that:
1. The amount of $13,783.77 be given to the MS 54 PTA by the Board of Education as money for the Barnes & Noble fundraiser on December 13, 1999 which we and the school were never given access to by Mr. Laurence Lynch, Principal of MS 54, and Mrs. Romandetto and DJ Sheppard, Superintendant and Office of Family Partnerships Representative in District 3.
2. All documents relating to the Transparent budgets and the 21st Century grant money for Extended Day for the 1999-2000, 2000-2001, 2001-2002 school years be given to Petitioner in order that a true analysis of the allocation process be done, as this process relates to the money given MS 54 from the District, City, and State offices of the Board of Education.
3. The children in the NOVA full inclusion Program be given mandated services and alternatives to placement in P811M in September.
4. The Commissioner obtain compliance of the Board of Education and all offices (District 2 & 3, District 15) with Petitioner's Freedom of Information request, originally filed in August 2001.
5. Commissioner replace the current illegitimate Executive Board of the MS 54 PTA with the members officially elected on May 23, 2001, including nominating committee members, library committee, budget committee, and fundraising committee.
6. Commissioner rule on the question of Law whether Review Committees, as listed in the MS 54 Bylaws, are legal and constitutional.
7. Commissioner stop the harassment and divisiveness of Mr. Larry Lynch, Mrs. Romandetto, Ms. DJ Sheppard, Ms. Marie Williams, and Mr. Richard Switach toward Petitioner.
8. Commissioner take appropriate action to protect Petitioner's daughter from harassment, either physical or emotional throughout the remainder of this year and next year, while she is in the 8th Grade. If this protection cannot be guaranteed, Petitioner requests that the Commissioner find a non-public school which meets the Delta Honors Program standard of excellence and have the Board of Education pay for her tuition at this new middle school and High School.
9. Such other relief as the Commissioner deems just and proper.
DATED: March 5, 2002.
NY State Commissioner of Education Richard Mills, in decision No. 14,831, January 21, 2003, cited false claims such as I had not exhausted my administrative remedies (untrue), and that the MS 54 PTA Review Committee was set up at a General PTA meeting (untrue), as his basis for dismissing the Appeal; his decision was sent 16 months after the Verified Petition was filed, and he stated that the case had to be dismissed because the issues were not timely and therefore moot.
I replied to his letter, and below I list the responses:
New York State Assembly Speaker Sheldon Silver: Certified package with all documents sent on March 29, 2002; no answer.
New York State Assembly Education Committee Chair Steve Sanders:
Certified Letter December 6, 2001: No reply
On March 11, 2002 we met with Ayo Harrington, Mr. Sanders' Education Policy Assistant, and Mr. Stephan Kaufman.
Ms Ayo Harrington stated, for Mr. Sanders that:
1. It was entirely possible that the MS 54 PTA did not want the money (from the
Barnes and Noble fundraiser, $13,783.77); the former PTA President was
ousted by the parents, was obviously disliked by them, and had no right to speak
for the PTA because she was no longer on the Executive Board of the MS 54
PTA; all the research that the PTA President did to find the money
from the B&N fundraiser was unnecessary; the parents at the school did not
want to know where the money was anyway.
2. The Extended day money for the two years 1999-2000 2000-2001 had been
fully researched by Mr. Stancik, and Mr. Switach had looked into the
allocations as well, and all accounting was in proper order. If any further
investigation into the allocation of this money did occur, the MS 54 PTA
might not like what they found out.
3. She promised to get an updated IEP for JM's son.
4. The Review Committee got rid of a disliked President; nothing wrong with
E-Accountability Foundation comment: The meeting started with Ms. Harrington telling us that I, the former PTA President, could not talk, as I was discredited and Ms. Harrington "knew all about it". Ms. Harrington was incorrect in her statements that the MS 54 PTA did not want the total amount of the check returned, we all definitely wanted to know where the check was; the parents wanted to know if the $260,000 in Extended Day funding was spent, and on what; JM never heard from Ms. Harrington or Mr. Sanders again; the Review Committee was established at a secret meeting with all members except for one from the Delta Program, and these parents represented 2% of the school population; no mention of the Review Committee, SLT, and fraudulent CEP.
New York State Assembly Education Committee: no reply except from Assemblyman Scott Stringer to Certified letter/email sent March 29, 2002 to all members.
Assemblyman Scott Stringer, 67th Assembly District: to a political lobbyist/campaign pollster friend of the PTA President: "do not listen to anything she says, she is not credible"
Office of Oversight and Investigation :
Letter to the Oversight Committee on March 5, 2002 was never answered.
Public Advocate Betsy Gotbaum: no reply to Certified letters and package sent to her via a personal friend who worked on her campaign.
New York City Urban League President Dennis Walcott, now Deputy Mayor for
Education and Policy under Mayor Bloomberg: no reply to Certified letters and email.
Gifford Miller, Speaker of the New York City Council: go to the Office of Special Investigations.
Office of Special Investigations: we sent your complaint to the New York City BOE Office of Special Investigations' Chief Financial Officer, Mr. Richard Switach.
Mr. Richard Switach, Chief Financial Officer, NYCBOE Office of Special Investigations: sent the grievance to Mrs Patricia Romandetto to take care of; the PTA President has raised too much money and does not know what to do with it, therefore must be stopped from further fundraising until she gives the money to school needs; the PTA Executive Board Treasurer can file his year-end budget in October, and he showed me his signature card at the bank.
E-Accountability: Mr. Jose Valerio, one of the members of the Review Committee and PTA Treasurer, refused to sign a signature card at the HSBC bank at which the PTA account was held. Manager Diane Porteous signed and notarized a statement to the effect that he had never presented himself in order to get a signature on record.On October 2, 2001 Mr. Valerio insisted that he did have a signature card, and took the Executive Board over to HSBC at 94th and Broadway, to show us his signature card. The building was being torn down, and the HSBC branch was no longer there...for more than 1 year. Mr. Valerio told us that they had forgotten to transfer his card to the new branch at 96th and Amsterdam. Mr. Switach would not alter his belief that Mr. Valerio had told him he did, indeed, have a signature card.
Eva Moskowitz, Chair of the Education Committee of the New York City Council:
"Sorry, but we cannot do anything to help you".
New York City Board of Education, Ninfa Segarra, President :
Certified letter to her and the entire Board August 12, 2001: No reply
Chancellor Harold Levy:
Certified letter sent July 16, 2001: no reply
October 5, 2001 we called the Chancellor's office and asked to speak with him, however his Secretary told us that he never speaks with parents but that we could send a fax asking for a STAY on the Review Committee, in accordance with the A-660 Regulations stating that an Appeal may be made to the Chancellor's office for a STAY, and the Chancellor must reply in 7 days: no reply.
Chancellor Joel Klein and Mayor Michael Bloomberg: letters, emails, and Certified Mail: September 9, 2002; October 8, 2002; November 13, 2002; March 18, 2003; September 3, 2003: no reply. In September, 2003, Chancellor Klein took the Delta Program off the list of programs within schools which must teach the required curriculum; in October, took all the failing programs off of the list and made Booker T. Washington MS 54 a school which did not have to follow the set curriculum model of Everyday Mathematics and Month-by-Month Phonics...despite the school being cited by NYSED as a school "Requiring Academic Progress" in Grade 8 Math, and demonstrating the arbitrariness of the list of 1000 schools.
Mr. Chad Vignola, Chief Counsel, DOE Office of Legal Services: sent an email to all the members of the New York State Assembly Education Committee, Chancellor Levy, Burton Sacks, Board of Education, the Speaker of the Assembly (Sheldon Silver), Carl Campanile of the NY Post, and Celeste Ford of ABC TV, stating for the record:
Subj: Response to complaint letter
Date: 3/31/02 4:36:40 AM Pacific Standard Time
To: s.com, BSacks@nycboe.net, NYCBOEMEMBERS@nycboe.net, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, ccampanile@NYPOST.com, celeste.ford@ABC.com, CVignol@nycboe.net
Dear Ms. Combier,
I have referred your email letter for review and reply. Someone from Chad Vignola's office will be in touch with you shortly. Feel free to contact his office directly. I regret your evident displeasure with the school system and will attempt to respond appropriately.
Harold O. Levy
New York City Board of Education
110 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, New York 11201
718 935 2794
718 935 3383 (fax)
Dear Chancellor Levy:
Thank you very much for your rapid reply to my email! You will also be receiving a copy of the information I emailed you by mail, certified return receipt requested tomorrow at your office, as will everyone else listed above plus other elected officials. I spent all night at the 33rd Street Post Office.
Perhaps you do not remember sending me the same email you sent today, in December, when I sent you the Johnnie-Mae story and the Special Education situation at MS 54? I had just placed the story about Timmy's harrowing experiences in The West Side Spirit, and you emailed me that you would contact Mr. Chad Vignola. I am sending you your email to refresh your memory:
Subj: Re: Fwd: Special Education in District 3: Timmy Allen's story
Date: 12/31/2001 2:58:18 PM Pacific Standard Time
To: s.com, NSegarr@nycboe.net, IHamer@nycboe.net, IImpell@nycboe.net, firstname.lastname@example.org, GBrooks@nycboe.net, Chancellor@nycboe.net CC: CVignol@nycboe.net
Sent from the Internet (Details)
I have asked Chad Vignola to look into these allegations.
Harold O. Levy
Board of Education
City of New York
110 Livingston Street
Brooklyn, NY 11201
To: Segarra Ninfa ; Hamer Jr. Irving ; Impellizzeri Irene ; email@example.com ; Brooks Greg ; Chancellor ; Levy Harold
Sent: Mon Dec 31 17:34:04 2001
Subject: Fwd: Special Education in District 3: Timmy Allen's story
I have been awaiting some kind of contact from Mr. Vignola, and as of today I have not received any email, telephone call, or otherwise.
I appreciate your telling me that you have contacted him, and indeed, as I stated in the document I emailed and mailed out yesterday, I will speak with anyone at any time about resolving the problems in District 3 and in MS 54. However, I do not consider telephoning/emailing me a part of the solution, although I very much appreciate having your earI know that nothing has improved at Booker T for the non-Delta parents. And, here is the crux of the whole matter: at what point do you, as Chancellor, say to a Principal and a Superintendent, "enough is enough"?
We parents want our kids to be safe, be high achievers, and have excellent teachers. It's that simple. We don't understand how people who seem to not want that stay in positions of power, and I'm referring to Mr. Larry Lynch, Mrs. Romandetto, even Birdie Blake-Reid, or anyone else. There are classrooms out there with no supplies, no books, nothing. This hits us moms very hard, right in the heart.
In sum, Mr. Levy, I am totally, 100% interested in what you plan to do with the information I have sent to you, as my only interest is to help the children. Is your reply to the information that Mr. Vignola has the answers? The reason that I have now widened the scope of my informed public, both by my mailing as well as by my new Website www.NYCeducationAccountability.com which will be up probably in two weeks is because I am very, very concerned about the well-being of all 1100+ kids at Booker T. I would be very interested in your letting me know what you plan to do as Chancellor.
Once again, thank you!
Subj: RE: Reply to Chancellor Harold Levy's email
Date: 4/1/02 10:15:59 AM Pacific Standard Time
1. It is my understanding that you were removed by your fellow parents as PA President at MS 54 last Fall for improprieties.
2. It is further my understanding that you questioned use of certain monies from an MS 54 fundraiser. That matter was fully investigated by Office of Special Investigations staff under my purview and your complaint was found without merit.
3. The issue of Mr. Allen was handled to the parent's satisfaction back in December/January when the issue first arose; there was nothing further for my Office to follow up.
In short, I am unaware of anything further that needs to be investigated. You refer generally to "information sent" to the Chancellor. If you could be more precise and provide me in writing with a new and specific allegation that needs to be addressed, I will make sure it is reviewed promptly.
Date: Mon, 1 Apr 2002 16:57:36 EST
Subject: Reply to Mr. Chad Vignola
firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.com, BSacks@nycboe.net, et. al
Dear Mr. Vignola:
Thank you for your reply to my email.
Your response confirms the fact that your office has not looked at the issues I have presented or the documents, which I have sent. While I think that the New York State Assembly, New York City Council, the news media, the TV reporters, my friends in politics in this City and all my friends on PAs and in New York City who are indeed movers and shakers, may be a bit more bothered than I by your implication that I am not a person of integrity and honesty, I am very surprised by your implication being made so frivolously, considering your position at the Board of Education. I will be brief:
1. Please let me know the "improprieties" to which you refer.
2. Mr. Richard Switach sent to Mr. Mills invoices from 3 companies who, he said, shipped supplies to Booker T. Washington MS 54 and were paid out of the Barnes & Noble money raised by the PTA. I chose to call each company and ask for original invoices, and indeed one had been altered to make it look like it was used a year earlier than it was. Mr. Switach did not, I guess, get in touch with the companies as I did. I may add that all the items which were listed as bought with the Barnes & Noble $13,783.77 have not been seen by parents or staff at Booker T. I, just as many other parents, would love to have the science supplies listed, as we all see nothing in the NOVA science lab.
3. I spoke with Ms. Johnnie Mae Allen a few minutes ago, and she has never received her son Timmy Allen's IEP, she has continued to have her son written up for wrongdoing which he has not done, and she is truly furious, and upset. Who, may I ask, told you otherwise?
I am preparing a package of all the information I have already sent to Mrs. Moskowitz, Mr. Burt Sacks, the news media, and the District Attorney. I am willing to meet with you and discuss any of the above at any time, and my only request at this time is that, somewhere in our discussions, we focus on the children attending MS 54.
The E-Accountability Foundation: we believe that Mr. Vignola did not see the documents sent to Chancellor Levy before he sent this email, or he would have seen the information we sent with JM's story, the letter from Mr. Lynch sent after he set up a meeting, etc.
Jamal Young, BOE Parent Engagement Director: technical advisor on the letter-writing campaign (which violates Education Law Article 1 Section 2-a) paid for by the BOE District 3 office to remove the PTA President (EMAIL from DJ); sent Rosa Fenton to the June 25, 2001 secret Special PTA meeting to set up the Review Committee; arranged a conference call with Rosa, Gwen Hopkins, and himself, to order me to apologize for telling Rosa he had asked that the financial records be removed from the MS 54 Principal's office; would not return any telephone calls concerning discussion of the Review Committee, the District 3 office, or the actions of the Principal.
UPDATE: when Mr. Young's aunt Birdie Blake-Reid was cited by the Special Investigations office for using BOE funds to pay her staff to work for the family business, Jamal "left" the BOE with her.
Rosa Fenton, DOE Parent Liaison: set up the secret Special PTA meeting on June 25, 2001, at which two parents were asked by her to read a Grievance written two hours before, accusing PTA President of "alienating" the parents, doing nothing for the children, getting the Presidents' Council minutes out late; would not allow the PTA President to discuss her reasons for writing the grievance, even though this was the reason for the Review Committee; allowed the Principal to call the PTA President a liar and person without integrity, in order to nullify anything she might say.
Gwen Hopkins, DOE Parent Engagement: told PTA President that the Executive Board would be dissolved, but that she could run again (called the next day and apologized for saying the PTA would be dissolved); said that she had to stay away from the financial records of the PTA; distributed a letter from Mr. Richard Switach which stated that as I had raised an "Excessive" amount of money and said I did not know what do do with it during a Aug. 23 telephone conversation I had to be stopped from any fundraising by the Principal. I was then charged by the Review Committee with being unable to fundraise.
Roni Wattman. President of the District 3 School Board:
June 25, 2001: "we are rejecting your grievance about the Principal because it is not timely, we dont handle personnel matters, and we have no jurisdiction over a Principal; we are accepting the grievance against you immediately". Ms. Wattman, previously accused of financial improprieties at Brandeis High School, then proceeded to meet with the Principal in order to make sure that I was removed.
Wendy Anderson, District 3 School Board member, representative to MS 54: I asked her how I could stop Mr. Lynch from arresting me when I went to an end-of-the-year party at Booker T:
Subj: Re: Ms 54
Date: 6/19/2001 8:57:43 AM Pacific Daylight Time
Regarding access to the classroom, I'm afraid that you must follow the order, or risk punitive action. Of course, you can go to the media if you think it is necessary. However, I can tell you from previous experience, it will not change the order, and will likely exacerbate an already bad situation. If it were me, I would accept the guard and just ask if he/she can be unobtrusive while in the classroom.
Regarding the grievance and my board position, my replacement will be Lois Refkin. She will begin her duties in July. After checking the regulations, it seems that the board must get back to you within 30 days of filing the grievance on it's decision, so you should hear back before the end of July.
District 3 Superintendent Patricia Romandetto: "this parent must be removed from the PTA, try to get her to resign"(to Roni Wattman, District 3 School Board President, as per telephone conversation with David Isaacs, member of the District 3 school board); paid for the stationery, stamps, envelopes, and allowed use of her office June 27, 2001-August 8, 2001, while the Review Committee worked with DJ Sheppard on a letter to be mailed to all the parents of Booker T. Washington saying that the PTA President had been accused of incompetency and could they please add comments; re-started the Review Committee on October 16, 2001, without any input from the parents after the Executive Board met on September 20 and voted to end the RC due to a report by members that they had no information, supported a secret email address to get comments on PTA President; moved the vote to remove the PTA President from the General PTA meeting on November 15, 2001 to a secret Special PTA meeting on November 5, 2001. No contact or reply to any letters sent by the PTA President; refused to comply with Freedom of Information requests; refused to account for the full-inclusion students in the NOVA Program who never received their services; refused to account for the lack of extended day programs.
Cecilia Blewer, Co-President of the District 3 President's Council: no support for the kids at Booker T., allowed the harassment and attacks of the Review Committee to continue until the PTA President was thrown out; supported District 3 rather than the PTA President and minority parents at Booker T.
DJ Sheppard, DOE District 3 Office of Parent Engagement: assisted in implementing all of the
above for Superintendent Pat Romandetto; refused to put PTA President on the mailing list of the President's Council so that notes could be emailed to MS 54 parents (this was a charge by the Review Committee supporting the removal of the PTA Presidency); told parents and members of the PTA Executive Board not to talk with the PTA President; demanded that the PTA President resign for filing a Grievance against the Principal; demanded that PTA President not touch any PTA checks, not even to deposit them into the bank; demanded that PTA President not get the key to the PTA financial books, and told everyone the Principal had to keep the records away from her (no accusations of financial impropriety were ever attributed to the PTA President other than too much money was raised); abused the person who served the Verified Petition naming DJ to the extent that the security guards gave the server their names in case of a lawsuit; in April, 2002, gave approval to the new PTA Co-Presidents(Review Committee members) to hold $8,615.50 for the following year as there was "nothing to spend it on this year" despite NOVA parents' requests for an emergency allocation of $3000 for supplies; stopped an election for School Leadership Team members in May, 2002, because the former PTA President was running for office. The following email was sent to the PTA President by DJ Sheppard to her to put her name on a flyer which would be backpacked to all the students at Booker T. announcing a vote by the Review Committee to remove her from office. This would be a violation of the MS 54 PTA Bylaws which did not allow any votes by Review Committee members at a Special PTA meeting. The MS 54 PTA Vice-President called at around 10PM that evening and was extremely upset that a flyer was going out with her name on it, as she knew that this violated the Bylaws. I tried to tell her not to put her name on it, but she kept repeating "It's too late, it's too late".
The NYBOE Legal Affairs Chief Counsel is Mr. Chad Vignola, and the Office of External Relations' Deputy Chancellor was Mr. Burton Sacks. Mr. Sacks refused to help the PTA President with the harassment she was receiving from the Principal, and then on November 14, 2002 retired. He now works with Randi Weingarten, President of the UFT.
From: pta president
To: firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com ; firstname.lastname@example.org ; email@example.com
Sent: Monday, October 29, 2001 1:40 PM
Subject: MS 54 Bylaws
The MS 54 PTA Bylaws , Article V Section 5.6 state that a Review Committee must present its findings and recommendations during a general membership meeting within a period not to exceed sixty (60) calendar days from the date of the establishment of the review committee. As the MS 54 PTA Review Committee started June 27, the Executive Board has serious issues with the mandate that this Committee has to exist at all. However,as the Review Committee is made up of parents, we will put the Review Committee on the Agenda of the next General PTA meeting November 15 if you so request. Please let Betsy Combier know if you wish to be put onto the Agenda for that date. There can be no Special PTA meeting called with the purpose being to vote on recommendations from a Review Committee. This is a violation of the MS 54 Bylaws.
If any 5 parents request a Special PTA meeting with another purpose, Betsy Combier PTA President will call the meeting in accordance with the Bylaws.
The MS 54 PTA Executive Board
Subj: Re: MS 54 Bylaws
Date: 10/30/2001 9:17:50 AM Pacific Standard Time
From: firstname.lastname@example.org (D3 Family Engagement)
To: S...com, email@example.com, firstname.lastname@example.org, email@example.comCC: firstname.lastname@example.org (jamal young)
Dear Ms. Combier,
After conferring with the NYCBOE legal department and NYCBOE External Relations Office I must inform you, the executive board, the review committee and other interested parties that the Review Committee of the MS 54 PTA has the right to call for a Special Meeting and that the topic for this Special Meeting may NOT be dictated, censored or circumvented by any member of the MS 54 Executive Board or general membership.
If you have any further questions, please e-me or call me at 678-2952.
In the interim, I trust that you as President of the MS 54 PTA will follow through in an expeditious manner to the requests for a special meeting on November 5, 2001, 7:00p at MS 54.
CSD 3 Office of Family and Community Engagement
Robin Brown, President of the Chancellor's Parent Advisory Committee: told everyone who knew the PTA President not to talk with her; "this parent is crazy"; also told PTA President, "Burt Sacks wont speak with you or help you because he wants to retire and get his pension."
School Activist Accused Of Stealing From Parents Group
FEBRUARY 23RD, 2005, NY1.com
An education activist has reportedly been charged with embezzling funds from an umbrella group of parent associations at New York City public schools.
Robin Brown, the former president of the United Parents Association, was arrested last week for allegedly stealing $13,000 from the organization before resigning last month, according to the Daily News. She spent three nights in jail before being released on $5,000 bail, the paper says.
Board members discovered the missing funds after Brown refused to answer questions about 20 checks written to her from the UPA's account, according to the News.
Brown has appeared at news conferences with the teachers' union and served on City Council Speaker Gifford Miller's task force on school spending.
Marie Williams, MS 54 Arts Coordinator: I hate you, everybody hates you, and I'll get you removed from the PTA Presidency; "help! Help me somebody! She is speaking to me!"; "You should know better than to speak to her" (to a teacher who asked me a question).
Laurence Lynch, Principal of MS 54: "What are you doing here? You are not supposed to be here, this is MY school" (at a School Leadership Team meeting while I was still PTA President); if I ever see you in this school again I will have you arrested (I was standing in the lobby of the school, still PTA President, collecting teacher requests for classroom items which I ould buy); I'll make something up, and who will they believe? You or me? (when I asked why I would be arrested, and on what grounds); refused to sign the permit to have any PTA meetings in the school; refused to sign the grant proposal for Center For Arts Education that I and some other parents worked on; refused to get a truck to pick up 10 metal cabinets donated from Columbia University to the school (I got the cabinets to the school without his help); told all the parents who attended the June 25, 2003 Special PTA meeting that " This parent is a liar and a person without any integrity. I will never work with her"; gave the Review Committee his summer address and telephone number so that he could testify against her and assist in getting her removed; after reading the October 1 letter from Mr. Richard Switach that the PTA President had raised too much money, pulled all the teacher requests from the PTA mailbox, and told all the teachers that the PTA money was now his, and he would keep the key; told everyone at the November 5, 2003 Special PTA meeting that he meant everything he had said about this parent, and that she must be removed from her position because he would never work with her; refused to give the parent an accident report when her daughter came home after being hurt in school on September 20, 2002, then fired, a day after the incident, the nurse who cleaned up the wounds; refused to meet with the Executive Board about how everyone could work together; sent to the Corporation Counsel several invoices from spring, 2001, to "prove" that the Barnes & Noble check had been used for the school (the fundraiser was December 13, 1999) , although the PTA never received the check (I found these invoices to be for supplies which were never seen by the children); would not answer any questions about the CEP with the signature page from another document, and with the NOVA children leaving school at 12:30 PM rather than at the legal time of 2:40 or 3:00PM; never answered any questions about why the full-inclusion children in NOVA were not on the roster of the school, and why none of the children had any services and why their IEPs were missing; sent harassing letters to parents about their children being suspended, when they were not; never answered why there were no extended day activities, despite a grant of $260,000 on the transparent budgets for 1999-2000 and 2000-2001.
Fred La Senna, Administrator for the Delta Program: "there is no leadership at this school"; sorry, but I cant help you with this mess, it has nothing to do with me; What Review Committee?"; I love your children! I would accept your youngest into the Delta Program in a minute; "why are you talking to a reporter without approval from the Superintendent Mrs. Romandetto; "why are you talking to a reporter about the Coca-cola t-shirts that every student wears when they come dressed inappropriately? I make them wear the t-shirts because coke donated them awhile ago, and the kids can keep them."
Jackie Kamin, Least Restricted Environment Coalition representative for District 3, former lawyer at Advocates for Children, former Manhattan PEP member, and a parent of kids in the Delta Program: "sorry, but I cant help you"; an email on November 5 from Jackie about the secret special PTA meeting on November 5 at which the Review Committee removed me:
Subj: Re: (no subject)
Date: 11/5/2001 12:33:56 PM Pacific Standard Time
Betsy, I never got an e-mail about a MS 54 meeting tonight. Are you sure all parents were sent such a notice, or is it just me they don't like? I have a workshop to attend tonight or I would definitely go to see what's up. Good luck.
Michelle Parker: lawyer and School Leadership Team Chair: encouraged the segregation at the school and the retaliation against me to keep me quiet; worked to keep the status quo at Booker T. Washington so her daughter in the Delta program could obtain all the services.
Lauren Coleman-Lochner: worked alongside Michelle Parker and the Review Committee to ostracize Betsy Combier, and assisted in keeping Larry Lynch from being attacked while he, with Lauren's assistance, kept the school segregated and the special education children locked in the basement.
Review Committee: Set up on June 25, 2001. I tried to start a discussion of the grievance, but all the invited parents started ordering me to resign. I refused to resign, as I had been re-elected only weeks before, on May 23, 2003. DJ Sheppard asked who would like to be on the Review Committee to investigate me, and then picked 9 parents, 6 of whom had screamed the loudest that I must go, and soon. The goal of the Review Committee was to remove me by writing a letter and sending it to all the parents at the school; one of these added, in a letter to Mrs. Romandetto (obtained by me in a FOIL request) that if I had only resigned there would have been no reason to hurt my daughter. She asked, "Who would want to put her daughter in harm's way in order to be PTA President?"