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Ex-Roslyn schools chief Frank Tassone: 'Bad Education' was '40 to 50% true'

Former Roslyn School District Superintendent Frank Tassone appears

Former Roslyn School District Superintendent Frank Tassone appears in 2006 photo taken at Nassau County Court in Mineola. Credit: Newsday / Karen Wiles Stabile

“Bad Education,” the HBO drama starring Hugh Jackman as a beloved Roslyn schools superintendent who embezzled millions from his district, is “40 to 50 percent” true, according to its real-life subject, Frank Tassone.

“There were things in it that were true and good,” Tassone said on the latest episode of “The Coach Mike Podcast,” which aired Tuesday. “And 40 to 50 percent was true.”

Tassone, who helped turn the Roslyn school district into a national powerhouse during the 2000s but then served more than three years in prison for his part in an $11 million embezzlement scheme, last week made a rare public appearance on the podcast, where he spoke about his fears of seeing himself on screen. Written by former Roslyn student Mike Makowsky, “Bad Education” features Allison Janney as Pam Gluckin, an assistant superintendent who was also caught stealing from the district, and Geraldine Viswanathan as a student reporter who breaks the story in the school newspaper. HBO aired the movie April 25.

“It’s been a challenging week,” Tassone, 70, told podcast host Mike Bayer, who works as a life coach. “I recognize that what I did was wrong and I broke the law, but that was 20 years ago. I thought I could finally go forward.”

Tassone, who said he typed out his thoughts after watching “Bad Education,” discussed the film in some detail. He praised the scenes that showed him as a dedicated educator who met regularly with students and parents. He also praised Janney’s depiction of Gluckin as a wisecracking chain-smoker whose sassy demeanor covered up a history of expense-account abuse.

“Pam was like that, she was very vivacious,” Tassone said. “She did know a great deal about finance. I trusted her implicitly.”

But Tassone objected to scenes showing him in a sexual relationship with a former student (played by Rafael Casal). “I have never, ever, in my 36-year career in education, had a relationship with a student or with someone who had graduated,” Tassone said. Also inaccurate, according to Tassone, was the film’s suggestion that a student reporter’s story was totally responsible for his downfall. “None of that was true,” he said.

As for Jackman’s performance, Tassone had only praise. “He did a very good job playing me. Especially at the end, when I walk out of prison and I see what I lost,” Tassone said. “That really hit home for me. Because I did lose all of that.”

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