In further fallout from the class-rigging scandal at Maspeth HS, the city’s education department has fired five teachers and accused them of “testing irregularities,” officials told The Post.
Mathematics teachers Daniel Sepúlveda and Christopher Grunert have been fired. History teachers Keith Powell – who was also Union Branch Leader – and Justin Lakoff; and science teacher Nasreen Jaweed. They remain on the payroll pending disciplinary action.
The Department of Energy also accused Sepulveda of “improper physical strength”. Videos show a Husky wrestling coach hitting a teen lightly on the floor and locking him in the head.
Teachers were taken out of the classroom this month after two separate investigations found that Maspeth was riddled with academic fraud and other wrongdoing – one by Special Commissioner for Investigation for city schools, and one by the Department of Education’s special investigation arm.
The investigation concluded two years after The Post reported on cheating culture at the prestigious school, and administrators threatened teachers who refused to pass undeserving students. The kids called it “Maspeth’s Minimal.”
The Education Department will not explain the “test violations,” but the whistleblower said some teachers gave answers to children during Regent’s exams, among other violations.
“As a teacher, you must know right from wrong,” said a former classmate of exiled teachers. “Even if your management tells you to do something wrong, you are supposed to be a leader to your students and do the right thing.”
Many of the teachers who left Masbeth applauded Principal Khurshid Abdul Mutakbir’s dismissal in July after investigators found that he had demanded teachers pass failing students to get them to graduate — and get rid of them.
Abd al-Mutkabir was withdrawn from the city’s salaries. Officials said he is facing a hearing to determine whether he should be impeached.
An acting director was named, but the whistleblower criticized the Department of Energy for keeping associate directors Stephan Singh and Jesse Butcher in place.
Previous teachers said Singh and Pachter were instrumental in creating what SCI found were multiple fake classes to give credits to students who didn’t have to attend. They also agreed to give dummy assignments to troubled students, so that they could graduate early and leave.
They were the brains behind all of this. “It was Patcher and Singh who were shooting,” said one of the teachers. “They gave the green light to these [removed] teachers.”
The informants said the principal and two teachers favored a group of teachers who followed orders, rewarding them with lucrative additional jobs, including coaching gigs.
Those who refused to follow the line suffered negative reviews and harassment. They were expelled or quit smoking.
The power of Singh and Basher was displayed in their elegant offices, furnished and embellished with leather sofas, cushions, and coffee tables, as well as carpets, floors and wall coverings. Singh’s office features a large aquarium, while Pachter’s has a fireplace.
The pictures shown are of the decor. Officials said they would ask the SCI to look into any wrongdoing. “These renovations are from three years ago, but out of great caution, we have referred the matter to an outside investigator to ensure all appropriate procedures are followed,” said Katie O’Hanlon, a spokeswoman for the Department of Energy.
The DOE noted that SCI recommended discipline “to include the termination of ‘Abd al-Muttakbir” as the principal person responsible for the management of Masbeth”, but it did not recommend any discipline for his associates Singh and Pachter. Both of them, as well as Abdul-Mutakabber, refused to be interviewed by investigators.
“However, we retrained, had disciplinary meetings with district leadership, and both got a message in their files,” O’Hanlon said of the Associated Press.
The Department of Energy has yet to issue a report of Maspeth’s misconduct by its Office of Special Investigations.