NEW ROCHELLE, NY -- School Board President Jeffrey Hastie and Interim Superintendent Dr. Magda Parvey held a press conference this morning to take questions about the T&M Report on Apex Credit Recovery Investigation.
Presser Apex Report 12/5/18
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Could you just start by explaining what was at the center of this investigation? What is Apex? What is an easy way to explain to parents what this credit recovery system is?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Sure. I’ll start first. So. Apex is a system that we have at the high school it’s really for online course studies not just credit recovery but there also AP courses, high level courses that students take so when students can’t fit a course in their schedule they’ll take a course online at Apex so that’s what the system is.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: How common is this in high schools across Westchester County?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Across Westchester? Pretty common. Very common.
NEWS12: From what I’ve read, there’s what, 40 plus courses that they can take?
JEFFERY HASTIE: No, it’s more than 40 courses.
NEWS12: Tell us some of the courses?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Traditional classes. English. Math. Art. So there are a variety of classes that can be offered on the program based on the courses we offer in the Di...at the high school.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: So, what broke down here and what were the consequences?
JEFFERY HASTIE: So, first what broke down was just processes and procedures we did not have in place to make sure and ensure the grading system was accurate and correct so that’s mainly what the breakdown was in our system.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: And as a consequence what happened?
JEFFERY HASTIE; Well right now as you see in the report that we are, we started the process of terminating the Coordinator for the system, we have to, the person is a probationary employee so we have to do go through the 60 day process to do that.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: What is the Coordinator alleged to have done?
JEFFERY HASTIE: As you see in the report what she has done is that changed grades for students without the proper authority.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Why would she do that?
JEFFERY HASTIE: You’ll have to ask her that question.
NEWS12: How does it help the school, having these grades inflated? Like does it help the school system? Like, is there a quota that the school needed to match or something like that? How does what she did help?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : (aside to JEFFERY HASTIE) Do you want me to explain that? So, it wasn’t necessary grade inflation, you’ll see in the report there are a number of times where there were changes that didn’t necessarily equate to something so the issue was just the manipulating of grades in general not necessarily that there was grade inflation and you will see that the report speaks to that.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: So, what’s the incentive to manipulate grades Dr. Parvey?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Again, we can’t speak to intent and we won’t. Essentially, what it looks like is there was a lack of understanding of the program and we really can’t speak to the reason why and I would say the report is also inconclusive with regards to why because we can’t speak to someone’s motive.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: So, now one of the reforms is you now have multiple adults looking at this before a grade is changed, correct?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Multiple adults looking at it before a grade is changed, a course is approved, the process, so there are multiple checks and balances that are now going to put in place
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: When you got the system from Apex did they say to you “here are our best practices, you should implement these” and having multiple people check is one of them?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : That is an excellent question. Part of the issue we have been faced with in this situation is that apparently the school essentially purchased this program without training for staff, without set procedures in place and so they were kind of just going essentially a little bit by the seat of their pants so to say and so they were learning as they went along so there are intricacies within the actual system that people hadn’t mastered and understood prior to going through this process
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Who advocated for or approved this system?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Unfortunately, it was before my time in the District so I can’t say for certain but I would say that...I can’t say for certain.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Mr. JEFFERY HASTIE?
JEFFERY HASTIE: I can’t say for certain either.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: It was investigated and you can’t say who approved it or advocated for it?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : No. We know it approved at the school and it had to be approved by the District but I would not put anybody’s name to anything not having been here and knowing how the system came to be but Apex is a recognized online credit recovery...online learning platform that is used and its used actually nationwide.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: It seems to me the Principal should have been in charge of overseeing the training that should have been in place and the practice and procedures that should have followed with this program. Why was it that he was able to leave the District with $160,000 and not be held accountable as part of this investigation?
JEFFERY HASTIE: So, I’ll speak to that. You know as far as him leaving and then not being accountable I mean he resigned before the report was finished so we can’t speak to what kind of repercussions he would have had if he was still employed when the report came out so we can’t don’t have any control about when he left the District.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: But can I just add to that, the board did sign a separation agreement that guaranteed that he was paid money as part of his decision to leave.
JEFFERY HASTIE: Correct. Yes. So, the question is...
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: That. Why did you allow that if you knew he was under the purview of this investigation?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Because it was in the best interest of the District at the time.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: One other thing. One other thing you mentioned last night that you plan to or have already sent the report to the State Education Department. Have you done that? And have you been in contact with them, have they been in touch with you at all to this point?
JEFFERY HASTIE: They haven’t been in touch with us we haven’t contacted them. We just got the report day before yesterday so we’ll be sending it out shortly.
NEWS12: I’m not trying to toot my own here by any stretch of the imagination. I graduated from New Rochelle High School 30 years ago. Has there ever been a scandal like this in the time since I’ve left New Rochelle High School?
JEFFERY HASTIE: You might have a better handle than —— as you know. As far as I know not. I’ve been in New Rochelle for 20 years. Nothing to this extent.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Were any students able to graduate because of the manipulation of the grades. Did it give any students, did it get them over the finish line?
JEFFERY HASTIE: So, as the report indicates, there were 32 students whose grades were altered by the Coordinator, of those 32, 21 graduated this past year of the 21, 2 may not have graduated if they did not have those grades of those Apex system.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Did they drill down into how the Coordinator was hired given her history in New York City schools?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Did the investigators? No. That was not part of the investigators responsibility.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Do you have any concerns on that front, sir?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Do I have any concerns on the front of hiring?
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Yes.
JEFFERY HASTIE: We always take a look at our practices and policies. We are in the process of going through all of our policies, reviewing and bringing them up to date so that’ll be on the table at some point.
NEWS12: Second part of my question, how does this effect the reputation of the school? This scandal?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Right now what I think we’re doing is trying to show that we are open and transparent and rebuilding the trust with the community. So, the first step is releasing this report, taking action, we’re taking a look at the policies and procedures when it comes to online courses as we said in our report last night that we are going to send that to New York State to have them to review that as well, so they’ll not only look at the report but also help us with making sure that we put policies and procedures in place that make sense.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: One of the things that you mentioned last night, I think was that there will be someone who oversees the program, I think, going forward, correct me if I’m wrong or has that ————-?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : No. Not as this time. We want to go through a more stringent process so not at this time.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: How important is it that the grades that are given be legitimate?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Very important. Obviously if its not we shouldn’t be in the business of education. The grades and the validity of grades are very important to us, that’s why we took this seriously and did this investigation.
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Absolutely.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: What did you make of Ms. Alvarez’ comments last night?
JEFFERY HASTIE: I’m not going to comment on that.
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : I think they were hers to make.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: She seemed to indicate that this all some big understanding that she can explain away
JEFFERY HASTIE: Well, I think the report speaks for itself as far as that’s concerned.
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: Dr. DR. MAGDA PARVEY , you have been since 2016 the Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction which includes the high school so what is your role and responsibility in all this?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Well, I would say that we all take responsibility for this and also learning this is a valuable lesson learned in terms of being something that wasn’t being watched and now we know we need to keep our eye on it.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: And what is your message to administrators across the District who may be looking at ways to cut corners similarly?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Well, we believe that are administrators, are definitely, for the most part, very good at process and procedure. We’re a huge system so in this process something was missed but our message to administrators would be we expect them to communicate with us that we always... accountability is always at the forefront. We have professionals in place and accountability is important.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: And sir, my experience with you is your pretty straightforward and pretty low key. Are you upset by what has happened here? It kinda seems like “oh well, this is it”?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Oh gosh no. I’m extremely upset. Actually, I’ll say this again, this impugns the integrity of the people that work in the District and a lot of hard working individuals in this District and something like this besmirches all of them so we’re very concerned about that so again the fact that we have did the investigation we released the report un-redacted and we’re making progress going forward. So. Yes. I’m extremely upset and annoyed by it but I am focused now on making sure we have processes and procedures in place going forward,
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: Can I ask you a question about the report itself, it said in there the investigators at T&M had sought other information for other house principals but weren’t able to get it from Apex so they couldn’t look if changes had been made in other houses over the past few years are you having T&M go pursue that as a phase II or are you pulling up that information yourself, is anybody going to take a look at whether other house principals did the same thing?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Again as we said the report’s complete and final. We’re sending that to New York State Education for further review by them
NEWS12: The two students who shouldn’t of graduated...
JEFFERY HASTIE: Well, That’s inconclusive. They shouldn’t of graduated.
NEWS12: Right. They are for all intensive purposes are graduates now. What will happen to them. What will happen to their record I mean because it’s a graduation that they didn’t earn.
JEFFERY HASTIE: Again, we can’t say that. The report’s inconclusive about whether they should have graduated or not we just know that those credits were needed for graduation but we can’t say they would have graduated or not so at this point nothing is going to be going on with those two students.
NEWS12: So, they get to keep their diploma?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Uh, yeah.
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: There was a part of the report that said that it appeared a transcript had been physically altered with white out the font didn’t match. So. Has anyone take a look...First of all, have either of you seen that actual transcript that was physically altered with white out and has anybody reviewed all the other transcripts to see if there was similar changes made to those?
JEFFERY HASTIE: So, I honestly can’t recall if that was one of the exhibits in the report so it might not have been. I have not seen that again that change was for a student who had already graduated and the online system is essentially supposed to give a pass fail grade for any course that you take and the change was made from a numeric grade to a pass fail grade so that’s what the change that happened in that transcript but again that was a student that had already graduated.
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: Just to follow up on that, the transcript was physically altered with white out and it looks like maybe somebody physically typed over it so I am not really asking about the fact that it was changed but that you have transcripts that are sort of sacrosanct in education being physically altered and I’m just asking if you anybody went back to look to see if there are any other transcripts that have been similarly altered?
JEFFERY HASTIE: And I can’t speak to that all I can do is what’s in the report so.
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: As you undoubtedly know there’s a high level of anxiety in New Rochelle given a series of events, people make their lives here, a lot of us chose this community for reasons including the school system, what is your message to parents on what can only be described as another black eye for the District?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Well our message to parents is that our teachers do have integrity and put educating students at the forefront at all times and that this is the first step in restoring trust and we do have a great school system in which we have graduated students that have had high accomplishments and that we want to keep that at the forefront and we will continue to work on trust but our system is sound and we are putting practices in place to ensure that.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: In the District, are you all planning on moving forward with a credit recovery program Edgenuity I assume next semester or is it already underway?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : So, staff members are currently being trained by BOCES, its a partnership with BOCES. So, we’re making sure all our processes are in place before launching but the hope is to launch this year
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: This school year?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : Yes, this school year
JEFFERY HASTIE: Again, we want to get New York State Education Department’s view on our policies and practices to make sure that it’s sound.
LOHUD/COLLEEN WILSON: OK.
FOCUS MEDIA: Any other questions?
CBS2NEWS/TONY AIELLO: Based on what you know now should this Coordinator, house 4 Principal have been hired in the first place?
JEFFERY HASTIE: Based on what we know now I can’t hindsight’s always 20/20 so we have to be comfortable with the practices that we use going forward and again we along with the other policies that we review on a regular basis we’ll be reviewing our hiring processes as well going forward.
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: I can also ask about the school Shadia Alvarez came from? It was Collegiate in the Bronx. There was an investigation that you know several people there got in trouble, in the SCI Investigation one of the persons took the fifth amendment, would you have any issue with hiring people that came out of that school at that time when Shadia Alvarez was running it?
DR. MAGDA PARVEY : I don’t understand the...I’m sorry...what are you asking.
TALK OF THE SOUND/ROBERT COX: Shadia Alvarez was the Principal at Collegiate in the Bronx and and there was several, three Investigations, an Ernst & Young audit, an OSI Investigation and an SCI Investigation that found significant wrong doing on her watch, one of her subordinates was banned from the City School District and she took the fifth amendment during an investigation and I am asking if you would have any concerns about hiring anyone out of Collegiate that was working there under Shadia Alvarez?
FOCUS MEDIA: This is clearly not connected to this report...
JEFFERY HASTIE: Right.
FOCUS: ...this isn’t what this news conference is about. I don’t think we want to go completely off the rails so if anybody has anything else about the report. We’re good? OK. Great.