In Wake of Trinity Assistant Principal Certification Issue in New Rochelle, Questions Surface Over Barnard School Principal License

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In Wake of Trinity Assistant Principal Certification Issue in New Rochelle, Questions Surface Over Barnard School Principal License

November 03, 2011 - 12:39

Barnard SchoolAs the New Rochelle Board of Education continues to struggle to explain how an administrator at Trinity Elementary School was hired in 2007 without the required administrative license and continued as administrator despite never obtaining the license, new questions have emerged regarding a second administrator.

Patricia Lambert, principal at the Barnard Elementary School, was recently issued a temporary administrative license, suggesting that she too did not have the required administrative license when she was hired as school principle several years ago and was also permitted to continue to work as an administrator despite never obtaining the required license.

Nadine Pacheco, hired in 2007 as Administrative Assistant (not a secretarial position), had a temporary license which expired in 2005. She is currently without a license and was forced to resign as Assistant Principal last month.

There is no record in the NYSED web site that Lambert ever had a New York State administrative license prior to the week before the current school year began.

Lambert was hired as the Principal of the Barnard Elementary School several years ago without a New York State administrative license, currently referred to as a "School Building Leader" certificate. Two months ago, Lambert was issued a temporary administrative license by the state suggesting that, like Pacheco, she did not have a valid administrative license when she was hired and was allowed to continue to work illegally as a building principal all that time.

A search of New York State Education records show just one administrative license issued to a "Patricia Lambert". There is a Patricia A Lambert who was issued a temporary two-year "School Building Leader Conditional Initial" license on September 1, 2011.

The New Rochelle Board of Education has not responded to questions about Lambert's employment history and certification.

In a letter from Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak and Board of Education President Chrisanne Petrone published last week regarding the Trinity situation, the pair stated:

Without appropriate administrative certification, Mrs. Pacheco cannot formally observe and evaluate staff and, as a result, additional supervisory support will be needed.

Teacher observations are a component of tenure decisions meaning that teachers may have been fired based on invalid formal observations by Assistant Principal Pacheco, raising the specter of lawsuits by teachers passed over for tenure based on observations by Pacheco.

In Lambert's case, she is the head of the school and thus required to sign off on various legal documents including reports filed with the New York State Department of Education and Federal government. She also makes tenure recommendations and "hiring/firing" decisions for the school, raising even more legal issues than the Trinity matter.

A Conditional Initial license is a certificate for "individuals holding a teaching certificate in the same or equivalent title from another state, but who have not yet met the NYS testing requirement." The certificate holder has up to two years to meet the testing requirements to qualify for an Initial certificate.

In both the Pacheco and Lambert cases, many, including school officials, are having a hard time understanding how the two were able to work for years as administrators without licenses. Each year, the district is required to submit Basic Education Data System reports. Known as BEDS reports, they list all teaching and administrative staff working in the school system. The state uses BEDS reports to verify that staff have the proper licenses and generate letters to the school district when they "flag" staff without them. Either the BEDS reports were falsified, the district ignored the warning letters or the State Education Department did not do their job.

The Pacheco and Lambert cases are part of a broader pattern, documented by Talk of the Sound, where criminal background checks are not done, where there is no verification that a prospective employee meets minimum requirements, where employees are hired and allowed to continue to work without various licenses, mostly security licenses. Sources tell Talk of the Sound that a large number of the non-pedagogical staff has made false statements on their job applications -- claiming to have a high school diploma or equivalent, claiming to have a particular state license, claiming to live in New Rochelle when they do not for civil service jobs with residency requirements. New Rochelle police sources have expressed amazement at the number of people they know to have been arrested by the New Rochelle Police Department who now work for the school district.

Many school district employees have never had a background check because they were grandfathered in when the law requiring fingerprinting of school employees went into effect in 2000, says one source familiar with the matter.

The issue of background checks became a pressing topic in the Spring of 2011 with the arrest of former Assistant Principal Jose Martinez in March. Martinez has since pled guilty to repeatedly raping a 14-year old student in his office in 2010. Martinez was able to operate as a sexual predator in the New Rochelle school system despite at least a half dozen complaints by staff including an administrator, two teachers, a security guard, a school nurse and a secretary.

At the time Schools Superintendent Richard Organisciak, then-President of the New Rochelle Board of Education Sara Richmond and then-Vice President of the New Rochelle Board of Education Chrisanne Petrone made repeated assurances to parents in meetings at Isaac E. Young Middle School and Jefferson Elementary School that the district has a strict, comprehensive program of background checks including building administrators like Martinez. Richmond left her position on the board in June 2011. Petrone is the current BoE President.

State records now show that while these assurance were being made, two other administrators were working for the district without background checks.

Lambert's LinkedIn profile states that she was a teacher and principal at the Hunter College Campus Schools from 1975 to 2002. Talk of the Sound has yet to determine her employment history since 2002 but for the past several years, believed to be since 2006, she has been the Principal at Barnard. One school official recalled that she may have worked in Connecticut between working in New York City and New Rochelle which suggests the possibility that Lambert received an administrative license in Connecticut but failed to obtain a New York license when she was hired in New Rochelle.

Lambert was the subject of a series of Talk of the Sound stories in 2010 regarding an intruder gaining access to the school during the school day and moving about the building for several hours. The intruder, a man, fled the building after he was discovered hiding in a classroom closet by a teacher. Lambert failed to report the incident to police for several hours, instead instructing a custodian to search the building for the man.

There are 5 Comments

She's been the principal since at least the fall of 2004 when my kid started there and at the time I never got the feeling that she was new.

Dear God, this couldn't be more of an issue as it strikes at the very heart of competency, adherance to state law, and as suggested, teacher evaluations are an integral part of current school enhancement programs at the State and Federal levels.

I cannot imagine this escaping even modest oversight. There doesn't seem to be any area for reasonable explanation.

Bob, many recent issues in the City proper, while important on their face, actually pale before this one. Your coverage over the past few years coupled with your additional information and reminders, make the argument of the necessity for a real forensic audit. Here is where one would actually bear fruit, but who would require this to take place?

I am absolutely floored by the gravity of this sort of thing. Who, then evaluates teachers here for one? Apparently per previous poster, she has been on the job for 7 or so years.

For anyone out there who scoffs at my repeated urging for city management over the district via, perhaps the council, you must see the relevance. The very reputation of the city as an investment source for new business and residency is called into play. It is not too melodramatic to say that the future of our children in this increasingly changing and demanding global economy, is at great risk.

Even if by some slim chance, you missed something in your narrative, you have said more than enough to convince any reasonable and responsible parent, politician, community leader, business person, and even teacher, that overhaul, change, accountability is required.

I could care less if you are lovable, wear horns and carry a trident, or climbed out of a bat cave, you are on the mark, have been so, and providing a service that the community must employ if we are to stand a chance in the years ahead in any of the aforementioned.

Organisciak must go. If the board refuses to respond to this allegation, they must resign en masse, if the City fails to comment, hold your representative as sharing responsiblity with this board of directors.

Literally, I am physically sick over this; not in terms of given individuals, but in the people we invested oversight and policy into and who fail to put into place the basic control and monitoring plans to stop this from happening. As for our City Council; all 7 members and candidates, you have an absolute moral responsibility to speak out on this and a fiduciary responsibility to the citizens of our community to work to make this right.

If Cox is wrong, I want to hear each member of the sitting council and each candidate to come forth in this or some other forum and challenge him, not on his personality, but on this record. If he is right, then get off your high horses and protect the city from this damage and give the children of New Rochelle what they deserve. By doing so, you will also help the great majority of the school district personnel who must be under a great deal of emotional duress and pressure trying to do a difficult enough job. I have been there, I know what that is and means.

Boy WARREN GROSS has hit the nail right on the head.
There are many many personel in the NRSD who are in positions that are out of license. And his/her concern that they have the power to access teacher and/or student work is NOT understated. That the admininstration even thinks about doing such things shows their arrogance and disregard of the law. Lets protect our own and back down only if we are absolutely forced to (i.e. by court order after we waste hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars on litigation, not to mention the ruining of the careers of many people along the way). What a joke this school dostrict is becoming!

What's the districts (and by extension the taxpayer)exposure to litigation ? What if I was a teacher who was denied tenure based on her evaluation ? Everything she has signed off on or has had influence over comes into legal question and the district is on the hook to defend her decisions. Mr Gross's post is right on when you stop to consider the ramifications and commentary on the goings on of Sir Richard "Big Fat Liar" Organisciak . When he tells his side of the story I suggest we repeat the words "consider the source" as we put the handcuffs on him.

The Hiring, Firing, Promotion and Personnel Decisions the NRSD makes has no rhyme or reason. On thing for sure. They are never made in the best interests of the students. For example, in times of apparent budgetary constraints why is it that the most senior technology related teachers who are closest to and have the most direct positive effect on the greatest number of staff and students are the first to go? Why is it that those who are least experienced and least competent and serve far less less students and staff in much smaller schools are retained? Favoritism? Nepotism? Age Discrimination? Incompetence? Ignorance? Other forms of discrimination? Politics? Kickbacks? Pay to play? Personal vendetta's? Some of these reasons must have played a role in the hiring of these two administrators at the (almost) expense of an innocent teacher. Whatever the reason, one thing is for certain.....these decisions are NOT being made in the best interests of the children. A lot more to come when I have time to write! The lid is about to be blown off this filthy pot of boiling sewage.