PS 24 assistant principal sues DOE

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The Spuyten Duyvil School’s (P.S. 24) Assistant Principal Manny Verdi says northwest Bronx Assemblyman Jeffrey Dinowitz is seeking to keep minority and lower-income students out of the school, one of several bombshell allegations in a suit he filed on Tuesday against the Department of Education (DOE), Schools Chancellor Carmen Fariña and District 10 Superintendent Melodie Mashel.

Mr. Verdi alleges that Mr. Dinowitz’s Chief of Staff Randi Martos reviewed applications for prospective kindergarten students on school grounds from March 25 to April 1 with an eye to preventing minorities and lower-income children from enrolling. Further, Mr. Verdi claims that since he filed a complaint with the New York City Special Commissioner of Investigation last month, Ms. Mashel intends to fire, demote or otherwise punish him — the latest in a series of alleged efforts by the superintendent to remove the assistant principal.

Mr. Verdi referred press inquiries to his lawyer Ezra Glaser.

“Do parents know that some political hack is going through kids’ records, has access to their records?” he said. “It’s a phony racist political football that they’ve created. There’s never been any proof whatsover that people who aren’t from the district are coming in.”

[Find out about Mr. Dinowitz and Mr. Glaser's history at this link.]

Mr. Dinowitz confirmed that Ms. Martos went to P.S. 24 to help review prospective kindergartners’ applications, but strongly denied any intent to prevent minority and lower-income students from enrolling. Mr. Verdi claims that Ms. Martos’ presence violated the Civil Rights Act, the Family Education Rights & Privacy Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act, but Mr. Dinowitz denied that Ms. Martos had access to students’ medical records or anything other than the two proofs of address required to enroll at P.S. 24; Mr. Verdi claimed Ms. Martos was in fact requiring parents to show three proofs of address, which Mr. Glaser described as an intentional extra hurdle.

“In a desperate attempt to create a smokescreen to divert attention from the fact that he’s the main reason for the severe overcrowding crisis at P.S. 24, Manny Verdi has brought a lawsuit containing one lie after another,” Mr. Dinowitz said.

The assistant principal claimed that Ms. Mashel began targeting him after an Oct. 21 parents’ association meeting in which parents were furious to learn that city authorities had failed to renew a lease for an off-site annex for nearly 150 fifth-grade students. At the meeting, a reporter saw a heated exchange between Mr. Verdi and Mr. Dinowitz, with each man seeming to blame the other for failing to prevent the loss of the lease.

“You never miss a photo op, but you did not come into our office to discuss this matter,” Mr. Verdi told Mr. Dinowitz in front of dozens of parents. “This is beyond our scope of doing this.”

Mr. Verdi’s suit said after the meeting, Ms. Mashel and local elected officials conspired to remove Mr. Verdi from P.S. 24. The suit said after then-Principal Donna Connelly refused a request from Ms. Mashel to “write up” Mr. Verdi for “usurping the Principal’s authority,” Ms. Connelly “chose to retire to avoid future confrontations with local officials and the school administration.”

Ms. Connelly recently told The Press she felt bullied in the aftermath of the October parents’ association meeting.

Search suspended

Mr. Verdi’s suit claimed that since Assistant Principal Andrea Feldman became the interim principal in the fall, Ms. Mashel told Ms. Feldman to fire Mr. Verdi if Ms. Feldman wanted to become the permanent principal.

Last week, the DOE announced it was delaying the hiring of a new principal so it could conduct an investigation into the process so far. The department did not specify the cause of the investigation, but it appears Mr. Verdi’s complaints may have been the reason.

On Monday night, Ms. Mashel and other school officials met with about 100 P.S. 24 parents to address a recent letter from the parents’ association calling for the speedy appointment of a new principal and an explanation for why the process was halted, among other demands. People who attended the meeting said Ms. Mashel said it could take months to resolve the investigation, outraging parents.

“To protect the due process of one or two complainants, on the one hand, against the needs of 1,000 students didn’t make any sense to us,” said PA co-president Bob Heisler.

Parents also were worried about the fate of next school year’s fifth-grade students. Since P.S. 24 lost the lease for the annex, the DOE is planning to convert the school’s cold lunchroom and three adjacent rooms into classrooms. Work is expected to begin over the summer.

Mr. Dinowitz blamed the overcrowding at P.S. 24 — a building built for about 500 students that has a population around double that — on Mr. Verdi.

“He alone is responsible for that school not having a principal and this overcrowding crisis would not have happened but for Manny Verdi,” the assemblyman said. “For whatever reasons, he thought it advisable to enroll more and more students at that school. If the school had empty seats, I would welcome them. But when the school is overcrowded, you can’t do that.”

Mr. Verdi’s suit claims that Mr. Dinowitz’s intent to keep minority and lower-income students out of P.S. 24 was evident from remarks in two meetings. Mr. Verdi claimed that in one, in 2009,  Mr. Dinowitz said “he knows who the children are that are not from Riverdale ‘by the way they walk, talk and wear their pants.’” The assemblyman has denied making any such remarks.

Mr. Dinowitz said that when Ms. Martos sought to help P.S. 24 process kindergarten applications in the spring, most families were approved. Asked how many families she may have found lacking adequate proof of residency, he did not know. He also did not know their ethnic background.

The student body at P.S. 24 was 45.7 percent white, 37.6 percent Latino, 7.1 percent Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 7.1 percent black in the 2013-14 school year, according to DOE stats.

Key meeting

The DOE referred an inquiry about Mr. Verdi’s suit to the city’s Law Department, which provided a short statement saying, “We will review the complaint.”

The suit said Ms. Mashel was scheduled to meet with Mr. Verdi on Wednesday, May 4. While the document said the assistant principal originally expected punitive action to take place at that meeting, on Tuesday, Mr. Glaser said he did not know what will happen. The suit said Mr. Verdi wants damages for interference with his contract and violations of his rights as a whistleblower, but Mr. Glaser indicated it was still possible for the situation to be resolved out of court.

“I want to see what plays out in terms of what happens from May 4 and what kind of retribution they might take against my client,” he said.

Due to a typo, a previous version of this story incorrectly said the student body at P.S. 24 was 3.6 percent Latino in the 2013-14 school year

Comments

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bronxrunner

Mr. Glazer, an extremely unstable person who also supports the war criminal Hilary, is absolutely delusional with the following statement:

"“There’s never been any proof whatsover that people who aren’t from the district are coming in.”"

Well, here's some upfront proof there Mr. Glazer. My kid plays with a kid in his class and when I drive him to the kids house, it is deep, deep up in Yonkers. Like Palmer ave deep. There is another kid just down the block who also go to 24. They both use addresses of relatives who live in Riverdale to game the system.

Maybe you're just not quite smart enough to figure this out, but to say the statement above is just ridiculous. It's the biggest open secret of PS24 that many kids from Yonkers go there. I could name names, but I'm not interested in ratting people out like that.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
JDewey

Sorry, Bronxrunner, you can't have it both ways: if you aren't willing to report enrollment fraud, which is something you can do very easily and with complete anonymity, then you don't get to complain about all these kids from Yonkers attending the school.

The idea that PS 24 is loaded with kids from out of the zone and from Yonkers smells like a conspiracy theory to me.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
BxJu

Please make correction to the following sentence: "The student body at P.S. 24 was 45.7 percent white, 3.6 percent Latino, 7.1 percent Asian or Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander and 7.1 percent black in the 2013-14 school year, according to DOE stats." Your numbers don't add anywhere close to 100, and any PS 24 student would know that it should. These numbers are also outdated. DOE register as of April 30th is here: http://schools.nyc.gov/SchoolPortals/10/X024/AboutUs/Statistics/register.htm. 39% white, 42% Hispanic, 6% black, 9% Asian, 3% multi-racial, 1% the rest.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
you cannot be serious

Please also revise the piece to show that according to the complaint, it wasn't just Dinowitz's chief of staff who was in the office reviewing enrollment documentation, but also the parents association co-president. To say this is way out of bounds would be an understatement.

Wednesday, May 4, 2016
WMC

There are just as many out of zone kids at PS 81 where the overcrowding problem has been going on even longer. Why doesn't the Assemblyman care about the families in North Riverdale?

Thursday, May 5, 2016
bronxrunner

@Jdewey. I don't exactly know why you'd bring up the term "conspiracy theory" to smear what I said in my initial post. The fact is my statement is 100 percent accurate and true. I drive my kid to Yonkers quite often to play with his PS24 classmates. Since I am not a rat, I would never publicly name these kids, but that doesn't change the fact that they exist, so0called "conspiracy thoery" or not.

Also, the term Conspiracy Theory was coined in a CIA memo in the 60's to discredit anyone persuing truth about subjects. Smearing people with that name has worked for people like you for many years. But I gotta say that those days are over. The vast majority of the American people are so-called "conspiracy theorists" who have woken up to the truth that the elite are criminals persuing criminal aims at the expense of the people. So thanks for the "smear," but it didn't work.

Friday, May 6, 2016
LuciaPilson

Jeffrey Dinowitz may not be everyone's cup of tea. Through the years, he has taken positions that I don't agree with in any way, shape or form. However, to call him a racist is insulting not only to him but to every Riverdale resident, black, white, Hispanic, Asian, Jewish, whatever. And as a member of a minority, I find it offensive. Jeff Dinowitz is a fighter for his constituency. He believes in the people of this neighborhood, in their families and in their children. P.S. 24 is a neighborhood school, intended for the children of the area. Not for the children of Yonkers or anywhere else. It is a good public school and it is sad that parents resort to lies in order to get their children into a good school. It might be done out of love, but it is wrong and unfair. Worse, to try to destroy a persons’ character by claiming they are racist is unethical in the extreme. Ezra Glaser has for years tried to get something on Mr. Dinowitz. He is the kind of individual who in his quest to get even, will stoop to any level to exact his revenge. This is very much a personal vendetta. As for Manny Verdi, he should remember the old adage, “lay with dogs, get up with fleas” and I would add, you might step into a lot of messy, smelly stuff.

Friday, May 6, 2016
EllenA

Thanks to WMC for pointing out that P.S. 81 includes kids who do not belong in that school. Not only do kids come in from outside the zone but they also come from the Russian Mission. These kids are not U.S. citizens and add to the overcrowding. There is even at least one child who apparently comes from New Jersey! It's an open secret but no one in authority seems to care or wants to do anything to rectify the situation. What a shame! 81 is a fine school with great teachers and a really good principal.

Friday, May 6, 2016
NYC Dweller

Not only does PS 24 have children from other parts of the Bronx and Yonkers I know some who are coming in from Mount Vernon also

Also FYI a lot of people who live in section 8 or city housing actually sublet their apartment as they live out of state.

Marble hill housing for example has numerous tenants subletting.

NYC tax payers foot the bill and these leaches of society take full advantage of the inept politicians that housing authority officials that never do spot inspections

BX Runner is correct as many students come from Yonkers and even as far as NJ to attend the BX HS of science

We had a cousins son attending school here from PS 81 through 141 and he would go home to NJ on the weekends .

This has been going on for years now even worse with illegals over crowding the system and the INS is doing nothing to stop this invasion . Being a 1947 boomer I know what over crowding of a class room is

Saturday, May 7, 2016