NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- The New York State Department of Education has launched an investigation into the educational licensing of Freddie Dean Smith, state officials tell Talk of the Sound.
The investigation comes in response to reporting by Talk of the Sound and will include an audit of records pertaining to how Smith obtained his administrative license in 2003.
Smith held senior administrative positions in four school districts in New York State between 2003 and 2009 despite an extensive criminal record including a felony conviction just months before he was licensed by the State of New York. He now works at a private school in Yonkers which has an annex in the Bronx.
For ten days the New York State Education Department ducked questions after Talk of the Sound first disclosed that Smith was hired for senior leadership positions in White Plains, New Rochelle, Pocantico Hills and Troy despite a criminal record including a felony conviction for endangering a police officer.
Talk of the Sound continued to press for answers and this past Thursday finally received a response from Tom Dunn, Director of Communications at New York State Education Department.
Dunn answered several questions posed by Talk of the Sound via email but declined to comment on others before shutting down all further questioning on Friday, instead issuing the following statement:
We have initiated an audit of the records pertaining to this individual and intend a thorough investigation in accordance with the Regulations of the Commissioner 8NYCRR 83.
We will not comment further on matters under investigation.
8NYCRR 83 refers to a Determination of Good Moral Character investigation which can result in a SED license being revoked.
Dunn told Talk of the Sound that Smith was fingerprinted in 2003 and that the NYSED Office of School Personnel Review and Accountability (OSPRA) conducted a fingerprint supported criminal history background check against the full 50-state FBI criminal history database.
"Information pertaining to any criminal conviction history he may have was reviewed and ultimately cleared at that time," said Dunn.
Smith's criminal history includes convictions for 11 misdemeanor charges -- Assault, Sex/Peeping Tom, Check Fraud, Trespassing without Permission, Driving with a Suspended License (more than 1st), Larceny, Failure to Appear, Stalking, Disorderly Conduct, Driving with a Suspended License (2nd), Obstruction of Justice and 1 felony charge of Eluding Police/Endangering a Police Officer.
So SED is stating that OSPRA ran a fingerprint background check which showed that Smith was a convicted felon with a lengthy rap sheet, on probation in another state for on two concurrent sentences for Obstruction of Justice and Endangering a Police Officer, and granted him a license anyway enabling him to be hired as a principal at an elementary school.
Smith holds a Permanent School Administrator/Supervisor certificate (effective 9/1/2003) and a Professional School District Leader certificate (effective 9/1/2008).
Dunn confirmed that when Smith was rejected in 2010 for a position with the New York City Board of Education based on his criminal record, the information came from OSPRA suggesting that school districts in White Plains, New Rochelle, Pocantico Hills and Troy were provided that same criminal history information before hiring Smith for senior administrative positions.
Including arrests that did not lead to convictions and numerous moving violations, Smith was in trouble with the police in way or another almost continuously from 1998 and 2002, just months before applying for his administrative license in New York.
During the latter part of that period, Smith was falsifying work in his doctoral dissertation at the University of Virginia, a degree that was revoked based on a plagiarism investigation.
While on probation in Virginia in 2003, Smith applied for a position with the White Plains school district and was hired as the Principal at the Post Road Elementary School in White Plains where he remained for two years before he was hired as Assistant Superintendent by the New Rochelle Board of Education.
Current New Rochelle board members David Lacher and Deidre Polow, the only two board members on the board at the time Smith was hired in 2005, declined to comment or explain why they hired Smith despite his criminal past.
Based on a recommendation from New Rochelle, Smith was hired as Superintendent by the Pocantico Hills School Board in 2008.
Smith was allowed to resign as Superintendent by Pocantico Hills School Board members in 2009 after it was discovered that Smith had plagiarized articles he wrote for a district newsletter. Further examples of plagiarism were later identified by the Journal News including those that let to Smith's doctorate being revoked.
In 2010, still out of work, Smith applied for at least three positions. He was rejected by the State of New Jersey and the City of New York based on his criminal record but hired by the school district in Troy, NY. Soon after he fired by the Troy school district when it was determined that he had lied about being exonerated by the University of Virginia on the plagiarism charges.
In 2012, Smith was hired by the Leake & Watts School in Yonkers where he continues to work today.