NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- If this story sounds familiar, that's because it is.
After a series of embarrassments over the past several years involving the failure to run background checks on employees, the employment of administrators, teaching assistants and security guards without required state certifications, the removal of an assistant principal who worked for years without a valid administrative license and the arrest and conviction of another assistant principal on child molestation charges, the New Rochelle Board of Education has made yet another hire that raises serious questions about the vetting process at the district.
Talk of the Sound has confirmed that Joanne Genovese, incoming Principal at the Barnard Elementary School, was forced to resign a similar position at the Hurlbutt Elementary School in Weston, CT earlier this school year when the Connecticut State Department of Education determined that her Administrator Certification had expired.
Notified on August 23, 2012 by the Connecticut DOE that her license had expired -- making it unlawful for her to work as a public school principal in the state -- Genovese failed to report the matter to district officials for several weeks. She then resigned abruptly, leaving the district to scramble to replace her after the school year had begun, causing a significant disruption in the district.
Weston Schools Superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer later called the circumstances surrounding Genovese's separation from the district a "difficult period" for the children, parents and staff at the elementary school and the community as a whole.
According to the Weston School District calendar, Genovese was notified that she was no longer eligible to work as a school principal on the day after "First Teacher Day" on August 21st and four days before the first day of school on August 27th. She continued as principal for more than three weeks, knowing she did not have a valid license to do so, before notifying the Weston Schools Superintendent.
The New Rochelle Board of Education formally announced the hiring of Genovese at a board meeting on Tuesday, June 4th. Her official start date is July 1st although her Facebook page states that she is the Principal at Barnard currently.
Asked to comment for this story Friday morning, Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, Board of Education President Chrisanne Petrone and Assistant to the Superintendent for Human Resources Reza Kolahifar all declined to respond to requests for comment. Joanne Genovese has yet to reply to a request for comment sent today.
Gary Stern of the Journal News did receive a comment from the district and published it Friday:
A New Rochelle district spokesman said that Genovese updated her certification in Connecticut at the end of last year and is properly certified to serve as a principal in NYS.
The district has yet to produce documentation to support this claim nor do the relevant state databases support this claim.
A search of official education certification databases in Connecticut and New York show no listing at all for Joanne Genovese in Connecticut and one listing for that name in New York for a teacher in Smithtown, NY. Her Facebook page shows the name "Stella" but a search using that name showed no results in either State.
Weston Schools Superintendent Dr. Colleen Palmer, speaking to the press last September, said Genovese had "eight years to take several classes in order to achieve her professional certification" and that Genovese was "shy two courses or six credits, when her certification lapsed", according to reports on WestonForum.com.
“There is no appeal process or waivers with the state. When certification has lapsed, it’s lapsed,” said Dr. Palmer, who noted that "Genovese could take classes and reapply for certification with the state. But in the meantime, as long as her certification had lapsed, she could not serve as an administrator for the Weston Public Schools".
WestonForum.com reported on remarks by Dr. Palmer stating that it was "the first time in the three decades of her academic career that she has had an administrator with this issue".
Dr. Palmer said the state audits the district once a year to review certification, and it is each individual administrator’s responsibility to maintain his or her own appropriate certification in order to remain employed.
After she was notified that Ms. Genovese’s certification had lapsed, Dr. Palmer said she spoke with a state official who confirmed that Ms. Genovese could not serve as principal.
After calling an emergency school board meeting Friday morning, she then met with the administrative team and the Hurlbutt staff and sent emails to the staff and parents and issued a press release on the matter.
Weston Public Schools Director of Human Resources Lewis Brey issued a press release on on September 14th:
Ms. Genovese’s administrator certification expired on August 12, 2012. While she applied to renew her certification prior to the expiration date, she was notified by the State Department of Education on or about August 23, 2012 that her application was missing required credentials. Ms. Genovese does not currently possess those credentials.
On September 13, 2012, Ms. Genovese notified the district of the situation, and she was immediately placed on paid administrative leave. On September 14, 2012, the Department of Education confirmed to Colleen A. Palmer, Ph.D., Superintendent of Schools, that Ms. Genovese could not continue to serve as Principal of Hurlbutt Elementary School.
Brey issued a second press release on Tuesday, Sept. 18th, to announce that Genovese was no longer employed by the District:
Due to a lapse in her administrator certification, Joanna Genovese has resigned her employment with the Weston Public Schools effective immediately.
Genovese was hired as Principal of the Hurlbutt Elementary School in 2005. Prior to that she had served as co-Assistant Principal at the school starting in 2004 and before that she held the position of half-time assistant principal in Wilton, CT for two years. This according to media reports.
Weston filled Genovese's position with an interim Principal effective October 1st.
In a press release on September 28th, Dr. Palmer stated:
This has been a difficult period for the Hurlbutt Elementary School community and the community as a whole. Dr. Cicchetti brings many years of distinguished experience to the role of interim principal and he will be an exceptional addition to our leadership team.
At a school board meeting on April 8, 2013, the Weston school board announced the hiring of Laura Kaddis as the new principal of Hurlbutt Elementary School.
In an ironic twist to the story, Talk of the Sound is reliably informed that one of the finalists passed over for the Barnard principalship was Nadine Pacheco who was reportedly told that she was not hired due to past negative publicity regarding her administrative certification issues at Trinity School.
UPDATE FROM NEW YORK STATE EDUCATION DEPARTMENT:
The SED certification database has been updated since Friday to reflect that Joanna Genovese has a administrative certification from NYSED. We have inquired for further details as to when she applied and when the New York State certification was granted.
Joanna Genovese has a "School Building Leader Conditional Initial" certification (effective begin date 9/1/13; effective end date 8/31/2015). See below for the info from our Educator Lookup page: http://eservices.nysed.gov/teach/certhelp/CpPersonSearchExternal.jsp.
Description Effective Begin Date Effective End Date Status Date of Certificate Action
School Building Leader Conditional Initial 09/01/2013 08/31/2015 Issued
See this memo from information regarding the date by which new-certified teachers can begin employment: http://www.highered.nysed.gov/tcert/resteachers/memo060407.html. As stated in the memo, "The Office of Teaching Initiatives has a longstanding policy that once a certificate is issued, the teacher may begin employment in a public school under that certificate title. Under Department regulations, teaching certificates must be assigned either a September 1 or February 1 effective date. Once an individual qualifies for the certificate, the certificate is issued with an effective date of either the February 1 or September 1 date that will next occur chronologically. Someone who satisfied the requirements for a teaching certificate on October 1, 2006 would be granted a certificate with an effective date of February 1, 2007. Once an individual has met all the requirements and the certificate is issued, he/she is qualified to work in a New York State public school. In the example above, a teacher who completed all requirements and was issued a certificate on the TEACH computer system (available on our Web site) as of October 1 is qualified to teach in a New York State public school on October 1, 2006 even though the effective date on the face of the certificate would be February 1, 2007."
RELATED STORIES FROM TALK OF THE SOUND: