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From the archives: How the Roslyn school scandal, depicted in 'Bad Education,' played out

Frank Tassone, former Superintendent of the Roslyn Schools,

Frank Tassone, former Superintendent of the Roslyn Schools, is taken to his arraignment on July 6, 2004 on charges of first degree grand larceny after he was accused of stealing in excess of $1 million from the district. Credit: NEWSDAY/Karen Wiles Stabile

In HBO’s new film “Bad Education,” Hugh Jackman stars as Frank Tassone, the Roslyn schools superintendent convicted in 2006 of stealing millions from his district. The movie airs Saturday, April 25, at 8 p.m. on HBO.

The following Newsday article, a timeline of the true events on which “Bad Education” is based, was originally published on Oct. 11, 2006. It has not been updated.

Frank Tassone, the former Roslyn schools chief, was sentenced yesterday to 4 to 12 years in prison in a financial scandal that rocked the district. Here is a chronology of the case.

2002

October: Roslyn school officials discover that Assistant Superintendent for Business Pamela Gluckin has embezzled $250,000, but do not report theft to police on advice of an attorney brought in by Superintendent Frank Tassone. The lawyer said the board had no legal obligation to notify authorities, and Tassone warned the bad publicity might prejudice Ivy League colleges against Roslyn students. Instead, Gluckin repays the money and quietly retires. When residents ask about Gluckin's sudden departure, Tassone suggests she is gravely ill, prompting a parents' group to send flowers.

2004

February: Two anonymous letters about Gluckin's embezzlement two years earlier are sent to various law enforcement agencies, including the Nassau County district attorney's office, which launches a criminal investigation. Letters also make new allegations against Gluckin, and charge Tassone also has stolen money from the district. School board publicly admits it caught Gluckin embezzling in 2002 and announces that it appears the amount she stole may be closer to $1 million.

May: Board fires independent auditing firm of Miller, Lilly & Pearce of East Setauket and its general law firm, Jaspan & Schlesinger of Garden City. The same night, board vice president Michael Barkan, a certified public accountant who headed panel's audit committee, abruptly resigns. Voters angry over burgeoning scandal reject district's proposed $83-million budget for the first time in 20 years. A report to the board from the fired auditing firm outlines $7.8 million in suspicious transactions, including district payments to a dry cleaner used by Tassone, and payments made to banks that were later determined to be for home mortgages for Gluckin and others.

June: Gluckin is arrested on charges of first-degree grand larceny. The state comptroller's office announces an audit of the district. The school board suspends Tassone with pay after learning the district paid hundreds of thousands of dollars to a word processing firm owned by Tassone's domestic partner, Stephen Signorelli. Business clerk Debra Rigano, Gluckin's niece, is also suspended with pay. A week later, Tassone resigns. Then, board member Ellen Siegel resigns. Siegel and panel member Patricia Schissel had been under fire for getting a district-issued laptop and cell phone without other members' knowledge and being reimbursed for questionable expenses.

July: Tassone is arrested on charges of first-degree grand larceny. Board suspends Buildings and Grounds Supervisor Thomas Galinksi amid questions about trips he charged to district. A week later he resigns. Voters approve a proposed $78-million school budget by wide margin.

August: Roslyn High School Principal Jayson Stoller is re-assigned to desk job at district's central office because of questionable travel expenses. A few months later, he decides to retire at end of school year. Board announces hiring of former East Williston schools chief David Helme as Roslyn's interim superintendent.

October: Rigano, the business clerk who is Gluckin's niece, is arrested on charges of second-degree grand larceny.

2005

January: State comptroller's office releases report on Roslyn's external auditing firm, Miller, Lilly & Pearce, blasting company's work, saying it ignored glaring signs of fraud. State turns over findings to Nassau prosecutors investigating case.

March: Second state comptroller's report details $11.2-million embezzlement scheme that went on for more than a decade and benefitted not only school officials, but at least 25 family and friends. Report is also referred to Nassau district attorney.

April: School board votes to remove member Schissel, and files $11.2- million lawsuit against 10 former and current board members who served on panel during period when alleged embezzlement took place.

June : Nassau County grand jury indicts Gluckin, Tassone, Rigano and Signorelli, who is accused of submitting phony bills to district from his word processing company, WordPower.

July: Gov. George Pataki signs into law the School Fiscal Accountability legislation, spurred by Roslyn scandal, which tightens fiscal oversight of local school districts, requires financial training for all board members and mandates that state comptroller audit all school districts at least once before 2010.

August-September: Tassone pleads guilty to first- and second-degree grand larceny in exchange for reduced prison term of no more than 4 to 12 years and agrees to repay the more than $2 million authorities say he stole from Roslyn. Andrew Miller, managing partner of Roslyn's former auditing firm, Miller, Lilly & Pearce, is indicted on charge of tampering with evidence. Firm, which audits most Long Island school districts, goes out of business.

November: Gluckin, who prosecutors say stole more than $4 million, pleads guilty to first-degree grand larceny in exchange for reduced sentence of no more than 3 to 9 years. Her niece, Rigano, also pleads guilty as part of deal that will net her a sentence of between 2 and 6 years. Meanwhile, Signorelli files court papers to prevent Tassone from testifying against him at any trial based on the state law that bars spouses from incriminating each other. Signorelli says he and Tassone have been life partners for more than 30 years. Auditor Miller pleads guilty in exchange for sentence of 6 months.

December: Gluckin's son, John McCormick, a Center Moriches contractor, is indicted on charges of grand larceny. He allegedly used a district-issued Home Depot card given to him by his mother to buy building supplies.

2006

January: A judge rules Tassone can testify against Signorelli. A week later, Signorelli chooses to avoid trial and pleads guilty to second-degree grand larceny in exchange for a prison term of no more than 1 to 3 years. Miller begins serving a 4-month sentence in county jail.

March: Signorelli begins serving state prison term of 1 to 3 years. McCormick pleads guilty to grand larceny and gets 5 years' probation and 100 hours of community service and must make restitution to Roslyn.

September: Gluckin sentenced to 3 to 9 years in prison. Rigano sentenced to 2 to 6 years.

Yesterday: Tassone sentenced to 4 to 12 years in prison.

Compiled by staff writers Karla Schuster and Eden Laikin

ANONYMOUS LETTER PROMPTED INVESTIGATION

Embezzlement, Corruption, Theft, Scam and Cover-Up Found Within the Roslyn School District!

To: Nassau County District Attorney

Suffolk County District Attorney

Nassau County Executive

New York State Offic of the State Comptroller

New York State Education Department

New York State Attorney General

Mayors of the Roslyn Villages

We, here at the Roslyn School District, would like to make.......that was recently...

brought to our attention, and has ben stiflingly enignmatic.....

ARRESTED JUNE 1, 2004

Pamela Gluckin

Former assistant superintendent for business, 60: Gluckin, hired as a clerk in Roslyn in 1990, rose steadily through the ranks after Frank Tassone became superintendent. She had access to district financial records, and along with her third husband, Harvey, she created several shell companies and gave them phantom contracts with the district. She also bought several expensive homes and paintings, took trips and paid her utility bills with school funds. After being caught in October 2002, Gluckin resigned and - according to prosecutors - took copies of hundreds of incriminating documents that she later turned over to them and used to get a reduced sentence. She pleaded guilty to first-degree grand larceny, admitted to stealing more than $4 million and was sentenced last month to 3 to 9 years.

ARRESTED JULY 6, 2004

Frank Tassone

Former superintendent, 59: Hired in Roslyn as schools chief in 1992. Investigators say he used multiple district-issue credit cards for cash advances, botox treatments, mortgage payments and purchases at Tourneau, among other things. Tassone pleaded guilty to first- and second-degree grand larceny, admitted to stealing more than $2 million and was sentenced yesterday to 4 to 12 years.

Others involved

Debra Masiello-Rigano, 47: Hired in Roslyn by her aunt, Pamela Gluckin, as a business clerk, Rigano got extra stipends on top of her $50,000-a-year salary and double-dipped by getting commissions for steering travel bookings to a local agency for which she worked. She handled all the district's bills. She used school funds for jewelry, vacations and to pay personal credit card debt for herself and family members. Has pleaded guilty to second-degree grand larceny and admitted to stealing about $780,000. Now serving 2- to 6-year prison sentence.

Stephen Signorelli, 61: Tassone's live-in partner admitted to conspiring with Tassone to submit phony invoices to Roslyn from his word processing company, WordPower. School board members say when they hired his company, they had no idea he was living with Tassone. Currently serving a prison term of 1 to 3 years.

Thomas Galinski, 53: District's former buildings and grounds supervisor, he was suspended with pay in July 2004 amid questions about his charging the district for trips to Las Vegas and New Orleans. He resigned shortly after from his $119,000-a-year job. No criminal charges.

Jayson Stoller, 56: The former Roslyn High School principal. Popular because of his connections with Ivy League college admission officers, Stoller was re-assigned to a desk job in August 2004 after the district accused him of taking several trips with Galinski and Tassone to Las Vegas and New Orleans that did not involve conferences. He retired in May 2005. No criminal charges.

John McCormick, 41: Gluckin's son and a contractor from Center Moriches, McCormick was caught using the district's Home Depot credit card to buy supplies for his business in 2002, leading to his mother's resignation. Sentenced to 5 years' probation and 100 hours of community service.

Andrew Miller, 57: Was managing partner of the district's now-defunct external auditing firm, Miller Lilly & Pearce. In February 2004, after an anonymous tipster prompted a criminal investigation, Miller went into the district's computerized accounting system and changed vendor names to cover up thefts by Gluckin, Tassone and Rigano, authorities say. His firm went belly-up, and the state has stripped Miller of his accounting license. Recently completed a 4-month sentence in Nassau County jail.

Ellen Siegel, 56: This 11-year board member resigned in June 2005 after criticism of her having a district-issued laptop and cell phone and running up $16,152 in expenses.

Patricia Schissel, 63: A board member who was also criticized for using her district cell phone and computer for personal use, and for billing her home Internet service to Roslyn. The school board removed her in March 2005 and sued her to recoup the $29,379 it says she misappropriated.

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