Fraud: Paltry and Non-Actionable?

Aug 23, 2019 by

For undisclosed reasons, the Department of Education recently removed the probationary principal of a high school from his position.  The New York Post exclusive story did not state what the former school leader’s next assignment, if any, will be.

The facts of any education-related story in the Post invites a resistance to embrace as presented.  That invitation is easy to accept.

Was the former principal dethroned because, according to the Post, he is the subject of a $10 million federal lawsuit brought by several staffers who claim that he had knowledge but took no action against his friend and subordinate supervisor who, according to plaintiffs, provided benefits in exchange for sexual favors while retaliating against those who refused to yield to him?

The Post story does not mention whether corroborative evidence was found. Despite the extreme gravity and sensitivity of the allegations, should the principal be presumed innocent?  Sometimes careers get ruined that shouldn’t be and other times they are spared when they should be destroyed. 

When the subject of an investigation is a teacher or otherwise non-supervisory school employee, the DOE’s standard procedure is not to give the benefit of the doubt but to reassign the person pending an evaluation and determination of the merits of the case.

Perhaps that is proper.  But if so, that appropriateness should not be title-based.

It’s generally conceded that rank-based disparities of disciplinary action is a DOE tradition, not only between school leaders and classroom instructors but also principals and their assistants, one wrung beneath them in the chain of command.

If, as reported by the Post, the school principal was ousted because he was remiss in following up on his assistant principal’s allegedly aberrant conduct, why was the assistant principal himself allowed to stay put in his school?

It can’t be because of tenure, because tenure does not, and should not, insulate an employee from the consequences of this kind of alleged behavior.

The answer may be simple.  According to the Post, the DOE did not substantiate the charges against the assistant principal.  Was that because there was insufficient evidence to absolutely point to guilt, or was there enough to actually establish innocence?

In the DOE’s handling of this case, as reported by the Post, what was in order and what was not, if anything?

Now for the “elephant in the room” of this closet-sized commentary:

Three years ago, early in his probationary period, this same principal in the same school was caught having committed fraud by crediting 172 students with the satisfactory completion of online courses that didn’t exist.

That was wilful deceit probably calculated to present a rosy picture of the school to which he had recently been appointed. Unfortunately, ratings are based largely on data and maybe the principal wanted to grease his path to job security.

A full formal investigation substantiated these charges against him. For that he should have been booted. But instead he got a written reprimand that likely was mild and obviously didn’t go anywhere.

What does the fact that 172 documented instances were not enough to unseat even a probationary principal mean?

Ron Isaac

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