Newburgh school board holds meeting on forged records

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The Newburgh school board for the first time addressed the DA's investigation into the district allowing ineligible students to participate in sports and graduate at a meeting Monday night. 

The meeting comes after News 12's exclusive interview with a whistleblower behind those allegations. Former Newburgh Free Academy teacher and coach Richard Desderio says he first noticed problems with student-athlete records in 2016. He says he brought his concerns to the principal, administration, the board and even the state, but nothing was done until he went to the district attorney.

A grand jury found that the district forged records dating back to 2013 so ineligible students could participate in athletics and graduate. The report also found that district staff systematically changed failing online test scores to bolster graduation rates. 

School officials called the allegations in the 87-page report concerning, but they stressed that the report was incomplete and didn't reflect the work they've done to address the issues.

"I've been working on this for some time. We've hired new staff, we created new divisions...further reviewed by the board and administration," says Superintendent Roberto Padilla.

At least one board member wasn't satisfied with what he heard, calling for more answers into how the school is run.

"Everybody wants transparency. It's a frustration with the system," says board member Darren Stridiron.

School officials say Monday's meeting was just the first step in addressing the grand jury report.

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