GO WORK IN CHINATOWN: Former Mandarin Teacher Claims New Rochelle Schools Superintendent Made Racist Remark, Files Notice of Claim for Defamation

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HuiAltman 253Former New Rochelle school teacher Hui Altman is disputing claims by school officials regarding an incident last spring during which New Rochelle police were sent on a mad scramble to track her down after she allegedly made several threatening statements following a meeting with Reza Kolahifar, Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources.

Altman says she plans to sue the district.

"I have already filed Notice of Claim against Kolahifar and Organisciak for defamation and other issues," wrote Altman in a recent email.

Altman says that in a meeting with Kolahifar and Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak on April 6, 2012, several days after the incident, Organisciak made a racist remark.

"Organisciak said 'Why don't you work in Chinatown?'", said Altman who is Chinese.

She says that F.U.S.E. President Martin Daly later called Altman about the remark.

"Mr. Daly told me that he had a talk with the superintendent, Organisciak, about the remark," said Altman. She says Daly told her that Organisciak "just suggested where you should work. Chinatown is in downtown Manhattan. He really meant 'downtown' not 'Chinatown'.

Adding "His remark to me was "Why don't you work in Chinatown?" To me it is a racial remark!"

Altman was a probationary Mandarin language teacher at Albert Leonard Middle School and also ran the after-school Mandarin program at Ward Elementary School.

According to New Rochelle police records obtained by Talk of the Sound, Kolahifar told police that on March 29, 2012, Altman made several threats after a meeting in which she was informed that she was being terminated due to poor teaching performance, effective June 30. At one point, Kolahifar told police, Altman said "When I kill myself, it will be your fault".

The NRPD reports state that eight officers were involved in trying to track down Altman in City Hall, in the parking lot outside and at Ward Elementary School. Two detectives located Altman's car, unattended, in the parking lot at Ward Elementary School. The two detectives went to the office of Ward Principal Franco Miele where the two detectives located Altman. Two other officers responded to the location and an ambulance called.

These reports state that Altman was removed from building on a stretcher and taken to Sound Shore Medical Center for further treatment after paramedics determined Altman had an abnormal blood sugar level. A paramedic told police that the blood sugar level and blood pressure medication was a possible cause for Altman's behavior. Medical staff and hospital security were advised of the situation.

Altman denies making any threats, at any time and specifically denies saying anything about killing herself.

"I never made that statement," said Altman. "It is Kolahifar, the assistant to Organisciak, made that untrue statement. I got the police report. In their report, if you read it carefully, it never mentioned that I made any such statement, except what Mr. Kolahifar told them. I know Organisciak and Kolahifar just want to make me look bad."

In an exclusive interview, Altman told Talk of the Sound that she left the building without incident where she encountered Assistant Superintendent Diane Massimo where, she says, she recounted the meeting with Kolahifar, expressing to Massimo her shock that she was being fired. She says she spoke to Massimo for a long time outside City Hall. That she was crying. She heatedly disputed the account in police records that anyone was searching for in the parking lot.

Altman said that she was working under a three-year contract and had nothing but positive performance appraisals.

"My reviews were outstanding, said Altman. "The school district would showcase my class to new parents of kindergarten in pre-K kids".

Juan Carlos Mendez is the Supervisor of World Languages K-12 for the New Rochelle Board of Education.

Altman says that she had excellent reviews by Mendez who, she says, described her as "very good and very caring" in her reviews. She says the untrue statements and false information about my teaching by Kolahifar is seriously damaging her future employment.

Most of all she wants to communicate with her students.

"If you have any chance to talk to the principals and students, please ask them about my teaching performance," said Altman. "I was a real good teacher. I taught Mandarin Chinese programs in Davis and Ward Elementary schools this year. Ask them about my teaching please."

"I want my students to know I am not a dangerous person," she added. "I love them. I love my career and I love myself."

After the incident on March 29th, Altman was banned from school property. Her name was removed from the district web site and a resolution was passed at the next school board to replace her at the Ward after-school Mandarin program.

Altman confirmed that she was taken to the hospital but says it was "nothing". She says she was not carried by a stretcher but rather walked with the Ward Elementary School Principal to the ambulance. She says she was released from hospital after 30 minutes.

The following day, Altman says, she went back to work, attempting to enter through the back door but that a teacher blocked her from entering the building.

Altman says that parents supported her but that when she attempted to communicate with them she was told by Jeffrey Kehl, outside counsel for the New Rochelle Board of Education, that she could not communicate with parents. She hoped that parents would read this article and reach out to her.

Altman is angry with school officials.

About Juan Mendez, Altman said "he is totally ignorant about teaching languages."

About Raza Kolahifar, Altman said "He is a Nazi, a very nasty person, not a human being….he treated like a piece of nothing."

About Dr. Diane Massimo, Altman says she was part of a group that used money in a grant that should have gone for books and language training DVDs and instead traveled to China.

About Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, Altman said "the law should punish that superintendent, Organisciak, for covering up Jose Martinez, a criminal, and for terminating a good teacher like me. He thinks he has the power and does anything he pleases.

Altman described herself as an experienced language teacher but admitted she was new to teaching children. She said she spent 10 years teaching in New York City and at Winchester Community College.

She described her frustration with what she considered to be unreasonable demands from school officials. As an example, Altman described how she was expected to ready new fourth grade students for a proficiency exam in April of the same year.

"This cannot be ready at least 3 to 4 years," said Altman, who says she was told "You have to make them ready, it's Washington's requirement they be ready in 6 months."

Altman took particular issue with the haphazard way in which the Mandarin program was launched in the New Rochelle public schools.

"My class was held in cafeteria at an adjusted table with chairs for 2 to 3 months", said Altman. "At other schools, there were classes held in the hallways."

She says there was a great deal of abuse of the grant money for Mandarin programs which shortchanged students in the classroom.

"I want to report this to Washington," Altman said.

Commenting on this Blog entry is closed.

patrick Disanto on Mon, 09/10/2012 - 23:18

Well, it is really sad to see comments like the one posted here without taking into consideration the fact that this lady was not acting normal. I know for a fact that she did not have good reviews from her supervisors and that she was told last year that in order to keep working in New Rochelle she needed to improve her performance. However, people with no knowledge of the situation have the nerves of making accusations and questioning the administrators' decisions. I suggest that these individuals learn the facts about this sad situation and do not use it for political purposes.

Robert Cox's picture
Robert Cox on Tue, 09/11/2012 - 17:42

Mr. Disanto,

My initial story last spring was based primarily on NRPD records along with information provided on background from various sources. Ms. Altman requested that I publish her side of the story which, in fairness, I agreed to do.

Your criticism, generally speaking, that people should learn facts, is reasonable. However, you stated without any particular authority "I know for a fact..."

How is that any different than what you are accusing of others of doing.

How is that you are in a position to have information about Ms. Altman's personnel file and how is that you are sharing that information here?

I am not doubting you...I am just asking you to explain why readers why we should accept you at your word when you claim to know something as a fact as opposed to Mr. Sanchez or anyone else commenting here.

Readers are likely to be confused as to how you are an expert on this topic. I know I am.

Martin Sanchez's picture
Martin Sanchez on Tue, 09/11/2012 - 15:01

Patrick - while we all appreciate your perspective, insight and opinion, I think that Civics 101 would dictate that to question authority most of the time or some of the time is appropriate and healthy. As a former insider and as a person who continuously gets fed inside information from school district employees, don't believe the hype that all administrators are created equally. Some are less desirable than others. Some are good with people; some are nefarious and throughly incompetent - and we tolerate them despite their negative contributions. Juan Mendez is such. Take a class with him. Research his contributions to the foreign language skill set of our teachers and students for, let's say, the last 5 years. Spanish, being the biggest 2nd language in NRHS, and our middle schools, would be fertile ground for superb and gifted foreign language students, but it is not - think about why not. As a person who believes that our culture is our strength, and my position that language is culture, you would hope that Mr. Mendez would push a curriculum of culture pride and awareness in our students - he does not! He's never been one to be in front of the classroom when parents are around - like Hispanic Parent Night (in the last five years he's been conveniently silent or absent - why?). Oh yes, the nerve of questioning the admnistrator's decisions as the ship is sinking.
Martin Sanchez

Martin Sanchez's picture
Martin Sanchez on Tue, 09/04/2012 - 14:59

What occurred to Hui Altman is tragic, in large part to the lack of due process and failure by the Union representative, Marty Daly, to protect the Weingertan Rights that Ms. Altman is entitled to. Suffice it to say that the District and many of its cohorts continue to operate a veil criminal enterprise whereby employee rights are stomped on and the Union, who is supposed to represent them when the District does something wrong, is invisible and to some extent contributes to the destruction of an employee’s career. The president of the union has a convenient relationship with the school district. They see and hear no evil when employees do things wrong – their MO is to operate as if nothing wrong has occurred despite the deleterious impact on our children (too many real examples over the years to mention here). So it’s no surprise that when employees are wronged by the district, one shouldn’t expect support or much less adequate representation. There was a case where an employee’s personnel file was, according to the district, “violated”. Information was missing and confidential documents were mishandled or misplaced. As an untenured employee, the Union did nothing but dutifully “parrot” what the District said and never communicated directly with the employee. And then we asked about the employee’s dues that the Union had received while they were untenured – if the union did nothing but make matters worse, couldn’t the employee get their dues back. The union said it could not return the dues. Good luck in your efforts Ms. Altman.

Bridget on Sun, 09/02/2012 - 00:45

If this is true...that grant money was used for a trip to China rather than classroom support...then the school district and union should be embarrassed.

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