Whistleblower: Concerns over attendance scheme dismissed in Newburgh schools
Richard Desderio, a former Newburgh Free Academy teacher and coach, spoke exclusively with News 12 Friday – one day after his bombshell allegations of forged student athlete attendance records went public in an explosive grand jury report.
It accuses the Newburgh Englarged City School District of doctoring test scores and student athlete attendance records for years.
Desderio says those students had dozens of absences, so in 2016 he reported his concerns to the principal. He says the complaint was never acknowledged and instead the student's records were changed.
"The girl, her attendance has been completely scrubbed clean. It now looks like she's completely eligible," says Desderio.
He says it kept happening. Desderio showed News 12 the same documents he brought to the district attorney in 2017, and says he found some students had hundreds of absences while all still competing in sports. He says he notified administrators, the board and even the state – but nothing was ever done until he went to law enforcement.
But before long, Desderio was transferred to teach district fifth graders after being brought up on disciplinary charges at least four times and suspended twice.
"It started to dawn on me that we weren't educating these children," says Desderio. "I didn't do anything wrong and thought what I was looking at was horrific and they're trying to fire me while all the same people are coaching and in positions of administration."
While the district attorney’s investigation did not result in any charges, the hope now is that the publicity will force the district to make changes.
"I do think things are going to change because I'm not going to be silent," he says.
Newburgh School District is expected to comment on the grand jury report at a Board of Education meeting next week. So far, the administration has only said that they are reviewing the report and plan to make changes.
The state Department of Education says they're aware of the grand jury findings but wouldn't say if they knew about the allegations before or what, if any, action may be taken against the school.
Exclusive interview with whistleblower on allegations of doctored attendance records in Newburgh