Fired grade-change tipster to sue Hempstead

Carlos Ramirez was the director of technology at Carlos Ramirez was the director of technology at the school district until he was fired last week. Today, he joined his attorney in announcing a lawsuit against the district. Photo Credit: News 12 Long Island

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The former Hempstead school district director of technology who exposed a grade-changing campaign in the district announced Monday that he will sue the school system for wrongful termination.

Carlos Ramirez, who was fired by the school board on Thursday, informed state authorities last month that the 6,000-student district systematically rounded up some students' failing grades to passing scores.

He and his attorney said Monday that Ramirez considers the firing an act of retribution, and that he will file a notice of claim this week, citing wrongful termination and violation of the state's whistle-blower act.

The district voted July 9 to no longer round up final course grades from 63 and 64 to a passing mark of 65, approving the change in an emergency board meeting.

Ramirez was removed nine days later.

"I feel that I'm being punished for just bringing up something that was wrong," Ramirez said during a news conference in Manhattan. "It's corruption and it's lying to the parents. It's lying to the community."

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The district maintains that Ramirez was fired because of job performance, said Nathan Jackson, a district spokesman. He declined to elaborate on the nature of Ramirez's alleged performance problems.

"There's no correlation between him blowing the whistle and being fired," Jackson said.

Rodney Gilmore, the district's associate superintendent for human resources, declined to comment and attempts to reach other district officials were not successful.

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The school board attempted to terminate Ramirez at an April meeting in which five other top administrators were fired, but the motion failed on a 3-2 vote.

Ramirez's attorney, Aymen Aboushi of Manhattan, said the lawsuit will seek monetary damages yet to be determined. Aboushi said he has not determined in which court he will file the lawsuit, as he believes the district also might have violated federal Equal Employment Opportunity laws in terminating Ramirez.

The district will be served with a notice of claim this week, Aboushi said. The lawsuit likely will follow within three months, he said.

"We're here today to stand against the injustice that we believe is going on," Aboushi said during the news conference. "My client is here today as a whistle-blower and someone who stood up for the right thing."

Hempstead is consistently one of the lowest-performing districts on Long Island, with a 38 percent graduation rate in 2011-12 -- the lowest among the Island's 124 public school districts.

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District officials, including Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown, said before the grade-changing policy was rescinded that the practice of rounding up grades is standard in public schools.

But officials from other districts said they believed it was unique to Hempstead.

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