In more fallout from the Maspeth HS grade-fixing scandal, the city Department of Education has removed five teachers and charged them with “testing improprieties,” officials told The Post.
Ousted are math teachers Daniel Sepulveda and Christopher Grunert; history teachers Keith Powell — who also was the union chapter leader — and Justin Lacoff; and science teacher Nasreen Jawaid. They remain on the payroll pending the disciplinary process.
The DOE also charged Sepulveda with “inappropriate physical force.” Videos of the husky wrestling coach show him slamming a slight teen to the floor and putting him in a headlock.
The teachers were taken out of the classroom this month after two separate probes found Maspeth rife with academic fraud and other malfeasance — one by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, and one by the Department of Education’s own investigative arm.
The probes concluded two years after The Post reported a culture of cheating at the highly regarded school, and administrators who threatened teachers who refused to pass undeserving students. Kids called it “the Maspeth Minimum.”
The DOE would not explain the “testing improprieties,” but whistleblowers said some teachers gave kids answers during Regents exams, among other breaches.
“As a teacher you should know right from wrong,” said a former colleague of the exiled instructors. “Even if your administration is telling you to do something wrong, you’re supposed to be a leader for your students and do the right thing.”
Several teachers who left Maspeth hailed the dismissal in July of Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir after investigators found he demanded that teachers pass failing students to get them to graduate — and get rid of them.
Abdul-Mutakabbir was taken off the city payroll. He faces a hearing to determine whether he should be terminated, officials said.
An acting principal was named, but whistleblowers blasted the DOE for keeping assistant principals Stefan Singh and Jesse Pachter in place.
Former teachers said Singh and Pachter were instrumental in creating what SCI found were multiple fake classes to grant credits to students who didn’t have to show up. They also approved giving bogus assignments to troubled students, so they could graduate early and leave.
“They were the masterminds behind all of this. It was Pachter and Singh calling all the shots,” a teacher said. “They gave the green light to these [removed] teachers.”
The principal and two APs favored a clique of teachers who followed orders, rewarding them with lucrative overtime jobs, including coaching gigs, whistleblowers said.
Those who refused to toe the line suffered negative reviews and harassment. They were driven out or quit.
The power wielded by Singh and Pachter was exhibited in their stylish offices, furnished and decorated with leather couches, throw pillows, and coffee tables, plus rugs, flooring, and wall coverings. Singh’s office features a large fish tank, while Pachter’s boasts a fireplace.
Shown photos of the decor, officials said they will ask SCI to look into any violations. “These renovations are from three years ago, but out of an abundance of caution, we have referred the matter to an outside investigator to ensure all proper procedures were followed,” said DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.
The DOE noted that SCI recommended discipline “up to and including termination” of Abdul-Mutakabbir “as the chief individual in charge of running Maspeth,” but did not recommend any discipline of his assistants Singh and Pachter. Both of them, as well as Abdul-Mutakabbir, refused to be interviewed by investigators.
“Nonetheless, we have retrained, held disciplinary meetings with district leadership and they both have gotten a letter in their files,” O’Hanlon said of the APs.
The DOE has not yet released a report on Maspeth misconduct by it’s own Office of Special Investigations.