Acting Queens District Attorney John Ryan is conducting his own inquiry into allegations that Maspeth High School was boosting the grades of students to reap the benefits of a high graduation rate.
This coincides with another investigation that is underway by the city Department of Education after the claims from former teachers came to their attention recently as well.
“The matter is under review by our Public Integrity Bureau,” a spokeperson for the acting DA said on Tuesday.
The allegations, if proven credible, could signal the downfall of the school’s shining reputation which in 2018 was one of only 349 across the country to receive the national Blue Ribbon Award for excellence in education.
Maspeth High School was one of only eight across the city to get the recognition from U.S. Secretary of Education Betsy DeVos.
It could also be a black mark on the record of founding Principal Khurshid Abdul Mutakabbir who has, according to the latest data from U.S. News & World Report, driven the graduation rate to 98 percent.
A spokeswoman for the DOE said the agency requires its staff to undergo rigorous training to administer exams as well as “mandatory procedures for allegations of academic dishonesty and misconduct.”
“We take any allegation of academic misconduct very seriously, and there are strict protocols in place to ensure complaints are reported, investigated and addressed,” the DOE spokeswoman said. “These allegations are currently under investigation.”
The school is an attractive option for parents not just for its credentials, but because it boasts a 15:1 student/teacher ratio.
The specifics of the allegations, however, are murky.
Councilman Robert Holden issued a letter to the Special Commissioner of Investigation Anastasia Coleman claiming a former teacher had come to his office with the claims that they were pressured to give students credit despite scarce attendance as well as giving away answers on exams.
The letter also overviewed incidents in which the teachers were pressured to fall into line with the administration’s demands or face “negative observations.”
“For a high school to have a 100 percent pass rate on its regents exams and courses with a turnover of 15 to 18 teacher every year, according to the whistleblowers, is questionable,” Holden said in the letter. “A school’s leadership should not be run as a ‘boys club’ nor should teachers feel like the administration runs the school like ‘gangers.’ Its sole mission is to ensure an environment that fosters excellent teaching and learning so that its students are prepared for college and adulthood.”
Holden’s letter even charged that the school’s union rep had pressured teachers to fill out a positive review of the school and the administration.