Let them work at Taco Bell.
Maspeth High School created fake classes, awarded bogus credits, and fixed grades to push students to graduate — “even if the diploma was not worth the paper on which it was printed,” an explosive investigative report charges.
Principal Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir demanded that teachers pass students no matter how little they learned, says the 32-page report by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools, Anastasia Coleman.
“I don’t care if a kid shows up at 7:44 and you dismiss at 7:45 — it’s your job to give that kid credit,” the principal is quoted as telling a teacher.
Abdul-Mutakabbir told the teacher he would give the lagging student a diploma “not worth the paper on which it was printed” and let him “have fun working at Taco Bell,” the report says.
The teacher “felt threatened and changed each student’s failing grade to a passing one.”
The SCI report confirms a series of Post exposes in 2019 describing a culture of cheating in which students could skip classes and do little or no work, but still pass.
Kids nicknamed the no-fail rule “the Maspeth Minimum.”
Chancellor Meisha Porter, who received the SCI report on June 4, removed Abdul-Mutakabbir from the 1,200-student school and city payroll in July pending a termination hearing set for next month.
But she left Maspeth assistant principals Stefan Singh and Jesse Pachter — the principal’s chief lieutenants — on the job.
Singh and Pachter executed the principal’s orders, informants said, and helped create classes to grant credits to students who didn’t have to show up — because the classes weren’t even held, according to the report.
Abdul-Mutakabbir, Singh and Pachter all refused to answer questions by investigators, citing a right to remain silent, SCI says.
In addition, three teachers in the principal’s “clique” – a favored few who followed orders and got lucrative overtime assignments — also remain.
One of them, Danny Sepulveda, a wrestling coach, was caught on video slamming a skinny young teen onto a floor mat and putting him into a headlock. Witnesses called it bullying. SCI called it “aggressive” and dangerous.
In addition, Sepulveda “likely provided answers to students while proctoring a Regents exam,” the report says.
SCI obtained messages from a teacher to Sepulveda about a girl who did little in class but scored high on the test. “Giving that many answers to her was outrageous,” the teacher texted.
Sepulveda defended helping kids pass the exams, which were required to graduate. “She was smart enough to realize what was happening and took advantage lol. No other kid in that room got that many.”
Among a raft of other wrongdoing, SCI found the school did not properly voucher drugs and weapons in what whistleblowers called a contraband cover-up.
“This is more like an organized crime ring than a school administration,” said City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens).
Holden first met with a group of fed-up Maspeth teachers — some who had left rather than be complicit in the corruption — in the summer of 2019. The whistleblowers turned over stacks of evidence.
But under Mayor de Blasio and ex-Chancellor Richard Carranza, the city Department of Education’s own investigation — a report it’s withholding — as well as SCI’s took two years while Abdul-Mutakabbir, Singh and Pachter continued to run the school.
Holden is outraged by the official foot-dragging. “If somebody refuses to be interviewed by an investigative body, they should be suspended immediately,” he said.
Among the SCI’s findings of academic fraud:
- Maspeth enrolled students in numerous classes scheduled during “zero (before school), eighth, ninth and tenth periods — all of which were not actual class times.
- Students on the rosters “did not actually attend any classes or submit any work.”
- Singh set up 9th-period classes for about 20 juniors and 15 to 20 seniors in English, government and economics worth a total of four credits. The kids checked in but rarely met.
- Maspeth repeatedly sought to have troubled students with attendance, behavioral or academic issues graduate early — sometimes as soon as the end of their junior year — “to get them out.”
Thomas Creighton, who spoke to investigators, told The Post he spent 11th and 12th grades drunk or stoned, rarely attended classes and did no homework his senior year. Finally, the school gave him “a few worksheets” to complete in a week. He had a pal fill them in, and received a diploma six months early.
Upset about his quick dismissal, Creighton’s parents asked to see his classwork. The school had nothing to show, but insisted he had earned a passing 65 in all classes.
“I was looking for some school authority to push back and let him know that there were consequences to his actions,” said his mother, Annmarie. “But nothing happened.”
Another student told SCI that Pachter or Sepulveda said it was too late to join a government class, and was put in a different one. A week later, the teen was told “there was no need for him to stay and he could complete his assignments at home.” The boy felt he was “probably pushed out” after being accused of selling drugs in school. He was offered an early diploma.
A girl said she was told to report to the office for one period a week to fulfill a class requirement.
Another girl said she was told “it was fine” if she didn’t come to class: “I kind of got princess treatment there.” She received “a list of assignments with little structure and no deadlines.”
In other cases, Sepulveda told colleagues that several students “cut a deal” with Singh and Pachter to come to school once a month to pick up “a packet of work.” The students were all chronically absent, yet graduated in summer 2019.
Pachter handed one staffer a list of problem students at risk of not graduating, asking to ensure they got enough credits “so they would no longer have to be dealt with.”
The DOE’s own Office of Special Investigations conducted a separate probe of Maspeth, but refused to release its report pending a termination hearing for Abdul-Mutakabbir set for next month.
“We did not hesitate to take action at Maspeth High School as soon as the SCI report was completed. Our schools must uphold the highest ethical standards, and we’re taking action against any employee found to have engaged in misconduct,” DOE spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon said.
Besides seeking to terminate Abdul-Mutakabbir, “we will be taking appropriate action” against Sepulveda, and additional disciplinary action may result from the OSI’s investigation, she said.
Singh, Pachter, and two other teachers named by SCI, Daniel Franchese and Christopher Grunert, have been “retrained,” attended meetings with district leaders, and “all of them have gotten a letter in their files.”
Holden, who sent letters last week to the Queens District Attorney and the US Attorney’s Office, is renewing his call for a criminal probe of academic fraud in Maspeth and other city schools.
“They took money and didn’t do the work,” Holden said. “It’s stealing taxpayers’ dollars, and it’s stealing childrens’ education.”