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Home Schools Cheating Teachers? Westchester DA Called in on Standardized Test "Improper Coaching"

Cheating Teachers? Westchester DA Called in on Standardized Test “Improper Coaching”

Just in from Rye City Schools. Outrageous. What do you think? Leave a comment below.

May 24, 2013

Dear Rye City School District Parents:

On May 6, the Rye City School District was informed by a parent of a possible testing irregularity with regard to the New York State Standardized Tests for English Language Arts and Mathematics. As soon as this allegation was brought to the District's attention, District officials immediately filed a report with the State Education Department and began an internal investigation on May 7. The District has since notified the Westchester County District Attorney.

The ongoing investigation has led to the administrative reassignment of two elementary school teachers from Osborn School and one from Milton School. It is alleged that the teachers provided improper coaching to a small number of students during the administration of the assessments in late April.

We are disappointed to be facing this situation here in Rye. We respect the integrity of the testing process and take this matter very seriously.


Frank R. Alvarez
Superintendent of School

  1. Thank you Dr. Alvarez for informing everyone as soon as you could. Transparency and accountability are real old fashioned Rye values and I’m glad to see them in you. Others among us should take note.

  2. Whoa, whoa, can we ratchet back the rhetoric a bit? MAYBE it was one teacher (or a couple of teachers) explaining a question to kids who didn’t speak English well – or some special needs children. MAYBE the parent who complained was mad because his/her kid wasn’t going to do as well as the ‘small’ number who ‘got help.’ And even the allegation says it was a SMALL NUMBER – not a widespread issue. WE DO NOT KNOW WHAT HAPPENED. Whatever happened to ‘innocent until proven guilty’?? Really.

  3. I have to agree with tedc. Knowing nothing about the circumstances surrounding this incident, I too am impressed that Dr. Alvarez got it right out there to the extent he could while still protecting employees’ due process rights. The superintendent appears to be the right leader for Rye Schools, and the decision to hire him is a credit to an informed and involved board.

  4. I am appalled that teachers’ reputations and careers are in jeopardy because of an “allegation”. Dr. Alavarez should not be commended for his actions; they are self serving. I stand behind the Rye teachers and hope that the Rye community does not allow this witch hunt to ruin the lives of dedicated professionals.
    Clarita Zeppie

  5. I find it appalling that the former principal of Osborn School finds comfort in dismissing the district’s legally obligated efforts to investigate this serious matter. Does Ms. Zeppie plan to run for the Rye Teacher Association’s presidency too?

  6. I commend the Dr. Alvarez for keeping the parents informed about the investigation. What a change from the cloak and dagger days of Shine! And what’s up with Zeppie chiming in? Sour grapes? Thanks for supporting your teachers, but what about the kids? What about their interests? How many allegations did she hide while “standing behind the Rye teachers”? What about Rye’s kids? Speaks volumes.

  7. I respect our teachers and administrators equally. But they are the caretakers of our children and must be held to higher standards. I for one am happy the district listens to parents concerns, and follows due diligence. It looks like the wild-west days at Rye are coming to an end, regardless of the outcome of this issue.

  8. So let me get this straight – there are allegations against teachers for “improper coaching” to students during state exams? Then the former principal of one of the schools is running to support her teachers? But the district discloses to the public that an investigation is proceeding? If I had one chance to advise these teachers and their advocates, I would tell them to shut up – really fast. I bet there are teachers all around the county and state waking up in cold sweats. Welcome to the age of testing and accountability!

  9. I find it interesting that so many can comment freely but will not identify themselves. I wonder how Rye achieved #1 school system status. I think it is due to the dedication of teachers, students and parents. Let’s not be so quick to condemn the teachers and admininistrators of Rye who love the children and guide them in their quest for success.
    Clarita Zeppie
    Retired Principal


    I need to set the record straight

    I teach my students that their reputation is the most important asset they own. Your reputation is determined by your actions, your deeds, and also how you are viewed by others. Therefore, it is vital that you understand that your reputation ultimately defines you. Success is not judged by how much you make, but rather, real success is judged by your character and how others view your actions and deeds. I believe this with my heart and soul.


  11. Ms. Zeppie is retired, and not sure what exactly is her purpose and role getting involved in any district matters. We wish her all the best in her retirement, but I feel that it is unfortunate that she felt it necessary to chime into this situation to “stand behind the Rye teachers”. After condemns Dr. Alvarez, she now includes the administrators in her praise.

    Ms. Zeppie is not a resident of Rye, but she collects over $100,000 in retirement from our taxes, I assume that she feels that gives her the right to comment on issues concerning the district. Or maybe it’s the rumors in the community that such allegations were brought to her attention while she was principal – I did not hear about any investigations then, did you? And the reason some of us make comments on this blog without identification is about reprisals – as Ms. Zeppie was well known for during her tenure as principal. Her comments here obvious shows her difficulty letting go and moving on, and I am sure her allies continue to stir the pot in her absence. And she will feel the need to respond – so waiting in 3, 2, 1….

    Thank you Dr. Alvarez for turning the page at Rye, especially knowing how difficult that can be. Thank you to concerned parents for fighting the fear, and putting your child’s best interest first.

  12. “I find it interesting that so many can comment freely but will not identify themselves.”

    So do I Ms. Zeppie. Agreed.

    I think it’s because they possibly fear some form of retribution – retribution for themselves in their Rye social circles, retribution upon their children who are still matriculating in the RCSD – or retribution of another form. As a K-12 graduate of this district (and a life long resident who’s well known for his tedc screen tag) I am troubled that our commentators here feel this need to remain anonymous. That’s not the RCSD I remember from the Watergate Era. And that’s not the kind of town so many generations here, and so many good teachers here, have worked to constantly improve.

    That said, I don’t think the State Education Department or the Westchester DA are entities automatically suspected of being anti-teacher. I think the facts are all that honest people here want. And there is no apparent “condemnation” of anyone evident here as of yet. Except – perhaps a bit prematurely – by you?

  13. Ms. Zeppie, this is my real name. If you read carefully what I wrote, instead of having a spasmodic knee-jerk reaction, you would see that I took a neutral position on this subject. You, however, call it a “witch hunt”— which means you’ve already conducted an investigation in your mind and find the accused as innocent as the persecuted in the Salem Witch Trials.
    You also contradict yourself when you say you stand by the administrators, after you just called Frank Alvarez “self serving”. You deplore the impact on the teachers’ reputations, but I have no idea who they are. I do know who the Superintendent is, however, and you just took a very public shot at his reputation.
    Your tired rhetoric of “standing behind the Rye teachers” tells me its a good thing you retired. No one needs that Us against Them mentality. Good teachers are worth their weight in gold. Bad teachers should be fired. I don’t stand behind any group or profession en masse. I do stand for honesty and the flow of information wherever that may lead.

  14. “Values: Pass it On. “ Have you seen the billboards? Maybe not in Rye. The real “witch hunt” is for those who chose to speak out. Stay classy, Rye, the kids are watching – and listening!

  15. As a Rye alum (Class of 1989), I find this entire episode disturbing – not because of the allegations, but because it challenges what we have been brought up to believe. Teachers are human, they make mistakes, just like you and me. There are bad teachers and good ones – just like there are bad lawyers and doctors, and good ones. The problem is that teachers wield enormous power and influence over children and their parents – and sometimes they don’t even realize the positive or negative experiences they bestow. I know, I am a teacher (not in Rye). I became one in part because of the great experience I had in Rye. In my younger days, I would have vociferously defended any of my former teachers. Yet I am a realist and I have years of educational experience myself. Now, I am too wise to just say, “No, that couldn’t have happened in Mr. and Mrs. X’s class.” Also, much to the dismay of my colleagues and union leadership, I do believe that school and district administrators are challenged even more than teachers. Who wants to be a principal? Who wants to be a superintendent? Who really wants to leave a tenured classroom position to pursue one with greater responsibilities, threats, and heartaches? I highly doubt this is a fun experience for the Rye administrators. You know the easy choice in these situations, and it appears that they selected the only probable route. And to those who think it’s easy to just speak up really doesn’t understand the Rye community. My parents still live there, and I can vividly remember and feel the social dynamics and pressures from 20 years ago.

    I am saddened to hear about allegation against any teachers, especially ones from my hometown. But I am not naive to believe that this is just “witch hunt.” I agree with MrRye-boto (funny name!) – based on my knowledge and experience growing up in Rye, the real hunt with be against the parent(s) and child(ren) who raised a concern. And that is even sadder.

  16. Two kids, two separate teachers, two separate schools, and the common dominator is…..RYE!

    Has any one stopped to think, if true, what pushed these two teachers into this direction and poor judgement, start with the parents of these children.
    Do not be so quick to dismiss any parent in Rye of any guilt!

    Do not be so quick to forget we live in the land of…”check the spelling of their last name & then look the other way”


    WALL STREET JOURNAL, 4/13/13 – The Nassau County district attorney’s office Friday said it opened an investigation into whether 18 elementary-school teachers in the city on Long Island’s North Shore had coached students during last year’s state tests. The school district disclosed this week that it opened an internal inquiry in November 2012.


  18. Posted today at RyePatch where a one Meg T reports that her child was victimized. Call it coaching or otherwise, it seems a teacher was walking her classroom and advising students their answer was “wrong” and returning a few minutes later to advise “it is still wrong.” I am and have been a happy camper in RCSD, but my gosh what where these teachers thinking?

  19. Surprised to see Zeppie’s posts and positions. It is well recognized that during her tenure she ran a National School of Excellently protecting teachers, where in one instance it almost landed her in Federal court.

  20. Testing 1,2,3,

    Did you read Meg T’s post? To me it reads 1 child in 1 class monitored by 1 teacher where the other two instances have yet to be revealed. Stopped into RGC for an impromptu diving pre- practice where Amy (a Midland aide) reveals that RCSD has put a lid on this where teachers and aides are prohibited from revealing the inner workings. If Janet steps into the batters box, this space is getting hot

  21. The RCSD’s release said they were informed by, “a” parent of possible irregularities. Meg T is “a ” parent, whose first hand account you re-counted with what fact checking?

    It is when the other two teachers are thrown in the mix that we loose transparency, or are given less info. How did the other two teachers become implicated?

    “Through the investigation” is very vague.

    Were there more parents who came forward? Were third graders asked? Did teacher turn on teacher?

    I assume you do not know. If you do, you should speak to the DA immediately.

    Nobody knows everything that happened yet. So why pretend like we do.

    Just don’t see the need to jump on these teachers backs when there are very few facts out there–except for the ones that the school board cherry-picked and published.

    They may very well be guilty. But they are innocent until proven so.

  22. Breaking News:

    In part to support my candidacy for Rye City Council in general and obligation for open and transparent communication with my constituents, I sadly must report the following email exchange with a well known, but anonymous source:

    Candidate Lamont: “There is talk running rampant that State tests scores “are heavily tied” to teacher compensation, plum assignments, and tenure/no tenure. Is this true?

    Anonymous source: “Under the new NYS teacher APPR (annual professional performance review) 25% of the 3rd-5th grade teachers’ evaluations come from NYS assessment scores.

    So sadly, this seems to be the rhyme and reason…

  23. The way this story unfolded it does not appear that Dr. Alvarez had much choice but to distribute a statement. With multiple teachers being suddenly “reassigned” it is not like the administration could have not said anything. Likewise, Dr. Alvarez had no choice but to reassign the teachers during the investigation, and notifying the DA was simply due diligence.

    ryeismytown, Regarding your comment “I find it appalling that the former principal of Osborn School finds comfort in dismissing the district’s legally obligated efforts to investigate this serious matter. Does Ms. Zeppie plan to run for the Rye Teacher Association’s presidency too?”

    What makes you think Ms. Zeppie “finds comfort” in any of this? Why do you characterize her statement that “Dr. Alvarez should not be commended for his actions” as “dismissing,” when, as you say, they are “legally obligated” actions?

    Testing123, My understanding is the only crime they could have possibly committed that would require the DA is if they falsified test results, which was never alleged.

    Why is Ms. Zeppie’s comments received so negatively ryeguy, ARyeParent? She is as entitled to speak her opinion as anyone else.

    I’m beginning to suspect the reason so many people don’t leave their real names is that they’re afraid their children might see what they’ve posted.

  24. For more information you can watch videos of the Rye City School Board of Education meetings where the parents discussed their concerns: http://www.youtube.com/channel/UClVIikW3rZILKkg_DIiBvoA/videos

    Or read the blog from a parent:

    Or read all the comments:

  25. Having, finally, an opportunity to listen to the entire 75 minute BOE meeting in question, the conclusion is that Mr. Kamander is 100% correct. Where there is NO record of the questioning of 8 to 10 year olds, where there is NO recording that provides verifiable proof that: (i) the children were NOT fed with leading questions; (ii) the children were NOT “coached” into making statements the Administration wanted to hear; (iii) where there is NO VERIFIABLE PROOF that children were not led or “coached” into making statements THERE ARE NO improprieties; and (iv) where THERE ARE NO improprieties THERE ARE NO ALLEGATIONS. Dr. Alvarez, and I believe your intentions are and were honorable, but what RCSD has done here is nothing less than flagrantly violating the childrens’ Miranda rights (an analogy can be made to law enforcement) and where RCSD has flagrantly violated the childrens’ Miranda rights, RCSD has flagrantly violated there civil rights and those of their Legal Guardians. At this juncture, and when viewing the improper methods above, we have nothing more here than a classic WITCH HUNT, and as the Democratic candidate for the Rye City Council (with no jurisdiction here), and on behalf of my constitutes we demand that RCSD immediately withdraw their “allegations” to New York State Education Commissioner Dr. John King (email commissioner@mail.nysed.gov), demand that RCSD immediately reinstate these teachers as of even date above, and should you wish to pursue this further, do it the right way. Now, does anyone wish to question me as to, if I were one of the parents of a child “questioned”, why I would be present at the questioning the entire time with my attorney sitting next to me? Directly after the posting of this comment I will be generating an email to Dr. King (commissioner@mail.nysed.gov) at the NYSED and I would encourage all RCSD parents to do the same.

  26. As Boukie has commented, the FIGHT FOR CARIN MEHLER IS NOW LIVE!

    More on retaliation:

    The FACTS are: (i) There was a Meeting of the Osborn Faculty on _________, 2013; (ii) at that Faculty Meeting, in a public forum, it was said by a school official that “I don’t like Carin Mehler,” or words to that effect; (iii) Mrs. Mehler filed a Complaint with________on ___________2013; and (iv) on ___________, 2013, Mrs. Mehler was reassigned.”

    …more details as they come in.

  27. If this does not fall under the job description of a Rye City Councilman, it should. In support of parents and students of the RCSD, and other similarly situated, at 4:15 PM today, I filed a FOIL request with the NYS Education Department requesting a copy of the of records or portions thereof pertaining to the May 2013 report of the Rye City School District alleging testing improprieties by Carin Mehler (4th Grade Osborn School), Gail Topol (3rd Grade Osborn School), Dana Coppollo (3rd Grade Milton School), and Shannon Gold (4th Grade Milton School) during the April 2013 New York State Standardized Tests for English Language Arts and Mathematics.

  28. Dear Esteemed Members of the Board of Education:

    A vote for charges is a vote for inflicting another stain on this community. From Rye Golf Club to City Hall and now the Rye City School District, where will it all end.

    Rye, once one of the most desirable communities on the Sound Shore to live and raise a family ,has become the butt of jokes from the Metro North station in Stamford to Grand Central Station in NYC. Possible in the Northeast, if not the nation.

    Do what your conscience tells you, then go home to your families and look into your children’s eyes where they gaze at you with the thoughts of “Mommy and Daddy did you?”

    Thankfully, the incidents are out of the hands of the Administration. Desperate to keep their reputations intact, if not their jobs, the Administration presses forward with nothing more than the faded memories of 8 and 9 year olds, no formal complaints in place, an allegation of retaliation, and legal fees skyrocketing off of our dime (how many staffers did the district lay off due to budgetary constraints?). Upon information and belief, a Rye dad, an expert in dispute resolution, offered the Administration his services as an “honest broker” and received no response. If Obama sees fit to take a poll of Congress prior to retribution against Syria, the Board should review iPetitions at http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/reinstate-osborn-elementary-teachers/blog and take its poll of the community of 15,000 people. Where is the Administration’s Petition? Who and how many signed it?

    The Administration put you in this position, where, as for the Superintendent, trouble seems to follow him wherever he goes:

    see http://www.northjersey.com/news/167076045_Montclair_school_district_to_pursue_tuition_from_ex-administrator.html?page=all&scpromo=1 ; and

    DOCKET NO. A-1206-03T21206-03T2

    As was stated, the Administration got you into this position and only you can get yourselves out. VOTE NO ON SEPTEMBER 3.

  29. Reassigned teachers received a hand delivered letter today from Dr. Frank Alvarez (Superintendent) stating:

    Please be informed that effective Monday, September 9, 2013, you are to report to the Central Administration Building (a.k.a. the “rubber room”) beginning at 8:30am, until further notice.

    You will be provided with curriculum assignments within your tenure area. This work will assist the District with its alignment to the common Core Learning Standards. Dr. Betty Ann Wyks, Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum, will guide you with this effort.

    For all of you who are unfamiliar with this contextual term “rubber room,” as I was, Wikipedia reports that “Reassignment centers are holding facilities for New York City Department of Education, where more than 600 teachers accused of misconduct were paid to work full time doing nothing for months or years at a time while awaiting resolution of their cases. Among teachers they are referred to as rubber rooms. They also claim that the city’s teacher union, the United Federation of Teachers, neglects to provide proper representation to teachers assigned to reassignment centers. Exonerated teachers often become absent teacher reserve teachers for life.”

    Ok, now picture this: (i) for all you members of Rye Golf Club, you were ripped off from 2006-2012; (ii) for all you fans of Rye city government, you signed up for incompetence and deceit from the Otis “administration” to the French “administration;” (iii) you have a major political party, the Rye Democrats under the “stewardship” of the outgoing Chairman Rod Brown folding their cards in the upcoming 2013 election; and (iii) the icing on the cake — you now have tenured teachers in the Rye City School District assigned to RUBBER ROOMS!!! Nice job, boys and girls, nice job

  30. Mr. Lamont:

    What on earth could you possibly be talking about? Everything is fine and dandy in Rye. Didn’t you read the glowing reviews Pickup and French gave for Connors?

    Did you fully vet your remarks?

    If Pickup and French say something it must be true, right?

    If you were forced to leave your employment in Rye, and were looking for another job, wouldn’t you want a recommendation from Pickup and French? Look how well French’s unauthorized recommendation has worked for Shew.

    Does anyone doubt French and Pickup want Connors to stay in place until the end of the year for their own protection?

  31. At this late hour, just before the start of the school year, it is clear that the BOE doesn’t get it. WE fund the school district, WE pay the taxes that pay the non-volunteer staffs’ salaries, therefore, they WORK FOR US not the other war around. Similarly, Alvarez works for them. When both see a verified iPetition with 117 signatures (more like more than 200, as not all married couples signed individually), it is time to WAKE UP AND SMELL THE COFFEE…in other words BACK OFF! Starting today, September 6, 2013 I am escrowing my school tax payments until the District that I pay for answers to those that pay them. Any seconds??? You want to pass a 2014-2015 budget with cut backs? Think again about the $500k+ (the way this is going, more than $5 million when you add legal fees) you wasted by not putting Copolla, Gold, Mehler, and Topol back to work, you don’t get my vote. You want to pass a bond to fund another expansion (Osborn needs one), forget about my vote.