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Hempstead schools ponder firing grade-change whistle-blower

The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing

The Hempstead school district has been systematically changing some students' failing final course grades into passing grades. (Jun. 22, 2013) Credit: Anthony Lanzilote

The Hempstead school board at its July 18 meeting will consider firing the district administrator who informed state officials about its grade-changing policy, according to documents obtained by Newsday.

Carlos Ramirez's attorney, Michael Starvaggi of the Hauppauge-based Council of Administrators and Supervisors, said the proposed firing is a clear case of retaliation and would violate whistle-blower laws.

Last month, Ramirez, the district's director of technology, sent a letter spelling out his concerns about the grade-changing to state Education Commissioner John King and Nassau BOCES Superintendent Thomas Rogers. The district has routinely lifted final course grades of 63 or 64 to a passing score of 65 for all students in grades 6 to 12, according to district Deputy Superintendent Julius Brown, who has defended the policy.

School board member Waylyn Hobbs said Monday that the board has not yet been informed of the proposed firing, but he was aware that Ramirez was reassigned to work from home.

A letter from district Superintendent Susan Johnson to Ramirez, obtained by Newsday, said Ramirez's termination would be effective Aug. 18, if approved by the board.

"The superintendent wants to fire a clear whistle-blower," Starvaggi said. "This is something that they clearly can't do."

Johnson did not return calls seeking comment Monday. Other district officials also did not return calls.

Hobbs declined to comment further, beyond saying: "Hempstead is full of rumors." Attempts to reach other school board members were unsuccessful.

The Nassau County district attorney's office contacted and interviewed one staff member involved in Hempstead grade-changing, two Hempstead sources have said. A state Education Department investigator has also visited the district, the two sources said.

Johnson has instructed school administrators not to talk to the media about grade-changing, according to an email obtained by Newsday.

The Hempstead Classroom Teachers Union has also instructed middle- and high school staff members to issue "no comment" to state investigators, the district attorney's office, BOCES and the media about grade-changing, according to an email obtained by Newsday.

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