Friday, October 30, 2015

FERPA complaint from Fatima Geidi to US Dept of Education re Eva Moskowitz violation of student privacy

Since the original PBS program and the subsequent illegal disclosure of educational records by Eva Moskowitz (see our cease and desist letter), more details and instances of the widespread nature of suspensions and push-out tactics of Success Academy charters have been documented in this NY Times article.  

Fatima's FERPA complaint to the US Department of Education sent this morning is below; for more on how Moskowitz violated FERPA and the federal student privacy rights of Ms. Geidi's son, see this Slate article.  Sign the Color of Change petition, to demand that the US Dept of Education stop granting Success Charters millions of dollars and contributing to the Kindergarten to prison pipeline. 

October 30, 2015

U.S. Department of Education
Family Policy Compliance Office
400 Maryland Ave, SW
Washington, DC 20202-8520

By postal mail and email to: 

My name is Fatima Geidi and I reside at the following address: [removed] I am the mother of [name removed] age 10.  [name removed] was a student at Upper West Success Academy charter school at 145 W 84th St, New York, NY 10024 from August 2011 to Feb. 2014.   

The principals of the school during that period were Caroline Roby and Paola Zalkind. The current principal of the school is Jennifer Haynes. The CEO (or Superintendent) of the Success Academy Network is Eva Moskowitz, whose office is located at the following address: 95 Pine Street, Floor 6, New York, NY 10005. 

On October 12, 2015, PBS News Hour ran a segment with an interview of my son [name removed] who spoke about his experiences at Upper West Success Charter Schools, where he was repeatedly suspended for minor offenses. His face and name appeared in the video, and his name in the transcript as well, which are posted here: [removed]

On October 19, Ann Powell, Executive Vice President of Public Affairs and Communications at Success Academy Charter Schools, sent out a media release to reporters, composed of a long letter from Ms. Moskowitz to Judy Woodruff of PBS that included non-directory personally identifiable information from my son’s education record in connection with certain disciplinary issues.  This media alert is attached, as well as the letter. The letter was posted on the Success Academy website the same day at: [removed]

I was not contacted at any time beforehand and did not give my consent to the disclosure of my son’s non-directory education record. 

The letter by Ms. Moskowitz includes an email from John Merrow of PBS, in which he wrote that I “was unwilling to release [my] son’s records.” This is further documented by PBS, in their response to the letter, where they write: “…the mother was not willing to allow Success Academy to release her son’s school records.”  Ms. Moskowitz herself wrote that I was “refusing to waive her son’s privacy rights.”  [removed]

I learned about this nonconsensual disclosure of my son’s non-directory information on October 20, from a friend.  I sent a letter to Ms. Moskowitz on October 22, also attached, demanding that the original letter be taken down and all further disclosures from his record to cease.  link here:
I subsequently learned that on October 21, Ms. Moskowitz had sent a second letter to Ms. Woodruff, repeating her false claims that my son was suspended for “conduct dangerous to other students and himself.” This letter is still posted at [removed] and is attached.

On October 23, Ms. Moskowitz replied to my cease and desist letter, claiming a “constitutional right” to divulge details from my son’s disciplinary record. This letter was originally posted to the Success Academy website but now only the first part is, with my name removed at:  [removed]. The original full letter is attached.

On October 25, a press release from Success Academy again contained details from my son’s purported disciplinary record and is posted here:  [removed]

As of today, October 30, 2015, these letters containing non-directory information from my son’s education records are still displayed at the Success Academy website at the above URLs. These letters have been linked to by many blogs and media outlets, including the PBS website.  

These repeated disclosures by Ms. Moskowitz of my son’s disciplinary record are egregious and willful violations of FERPA and his federal right to privacy.  I request your urgent intervention in this matter to limit the harm that has already been done to my son in violation of federal law.  

I certify that this information is accurate and true to the best of my knowledge

Signed Fatima Geidi, October 30, 2015 

Moskowitz Letter_10.19.15
Success Academy Press Release_10.19.15
Moskowitz Letter_10.21.15
Success Academy Press Release_10.21.15
Cease and Desist_Geidi_10.22.15
Moskowitz Letter to Geidi_10.23.15
Moskowitz Letter_10.25.15
Success Academy Press Release_19.25.15
Geidi FERPA complaint 10.30.15

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Helen Rosenthal to DOE: more public transparency around millions of dollars in contracts needed!

Helen Rosenthal, chair of the City Council Contracts Committee, has been a persistent advocate for more public transparency around DOE contracts, to stem the waste, fraud and corruption that caused millions of dollars in taxpayer dollars to be squandered, as occurred during the Bloomberg administration.  After last year's mindboggling fiasco of Custom Computer Specialists, in which the Panel for Educational Policy rubberstamped a contract originally worth up to $2 billion over nine years, later reduced to  $1.1 billion, for a company that had engaged in a kickback scheme against the DOE just a few years earlier, the DOE  promised her that they would make more information public about proposed contracts at least seven to ten days before the PEP vote. 

Luckily, City Hall eventually rejected the Custom Computer Specialists contract, but the same lack of transparency persists -- with the same educrats in charge, including David Ross, head of contracts at DOE for the last eleven years.

Below is a letter Helen wrote Ray Orlando, CFO of DOE, last week.  During the Nov. 19 PEP meeting, they will vote on a $105 M no-bid contract for Apple computers and some high-priced consulting contracts.  Every month, numerous preK contracts are approved, with little or no information provided in advance.  After she sent this letter, the approval of some potentially huge technology contracts, including  a mysterious new data system called TAARIS and the possible replacement for the Custom Computer Specialists contract, was shifted from from the November meeting to the December meeting, as usual with no information about the potential cost or vendors provided.  None of this inspires confidence in the integrity and the rationality of the process.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

Cease and Desist letter sent today to Eva Moskowitz of Success Charters

A FERPA complaint to the US Dept of Education Family Compliance Office will follow soon.

October 22, 2015

Eva Moskowitz, CEO
Success Academy Network
95 Pine Street, Floor 6, New York, NY 10005
By US Postal Service Priority Mail and email to:

Dear Ms. Moskowitz; 

I demand that you immediately remove the letter you wrote to PBS and sent to the press on October 19, that contained details of my son’s disciplinary record and is posted at [link removed] , as well as the second follow up letter you posted and sent on October 21 at [link removed.]

As you are well aware, regulations governing compliance with the Family Educational Rights and Privacy Act of 1974 require that educational agencies and institutions obtain a parent’s signed and dated written consent before they are allowed to share non-directory personally identifiable information from a student's education records to third parties (34 CFE 99.30).

Some of the details of my son’s disciplinary history are accurate but many are not.  In any case, I was not contacted at any time beforehand, and I did not give my consent to the disclosure of any part of his education record.

In fact, your first letter includes an email from John Merrow of PBS, saying that I “was unwilling to release [my] son’s records.”  This is further documented by PBS, in their response to the letter, in which they write: “the mother was not willing to allow Success Academy to release her son’s school records.”  You yourself admitted that I was “refusing to waive her son’s privacy rights.”

Your first letter has now been linked to by many blogs and media outlets, including the PBS website.  Your action by disclosing this information which contains significant inaccuracies have caused me and my son great harm, and I demand that you immediately take it down from your website. 

This disclosure of my son’s disciplinary records without my consent is not only unethical, but also a serious violation of federal law. I hereby demand that you immediately cease and desist from causing further harm to my son’s privacy rights by removing the letter from your website, and ending all unauthorized disclosures. I also demand that you produce an accurate record of all third parties to whom you specifically disclosed my son’s non-directory information without my consent.

I will follow up with the remedial steps you need to take to mitigate the damage caused by your unlawful conduct, and to schedule a complete review of all of my son’s school records to correct the inaccurate and libelous information the school has apparently inserted in his education records.


Fatima Geidi
[address and email removed]

Monday, October 19, 2015

Are 5,485 classes this fall that violate the union contractual class sizes a cause to celebrate?

Update:  I've added videos of Assemblymember Jeff Aubry and CM Donovan Richards.  More on the press conference, including some quotes from me in the Daily News, ChalkbeatSchoolbook, NY Post and PoliticoNY. See also the UFT website for more stats.

Today, Michael Mulgrew, the President of the UFT,  organized a press conference on the steps of Tweed about class size.  He thanked our   legislators for bringing home more education funds for NYC schools in last year's state budget, and the Mayor and the Chancellor for seeing that much of it went to schools.  He applauded the fact that there were fewer class size violations during the second week of school than last year, 5,485 compared to 6,447 the year before.  Then he added that we needed to  push to ensure that the full $2 billion extra that we are owed by the state as a result of the Campaign for Fiscal Equity decision in 2003 -- 12 years ago-- is finally provided to our schools.

According to UFT data, more than 3,400 high school classes exceeded the 34 students permitted in the teachers contract, and in elementary and middle schools, more than 2,000 classes exceeded thecap with class size limits range from 25 in Kindergarten to 32-33 students.  Which means that  about 150,000 students -- or more than 10% of all students -- may be disadvantaged by being crammed into classes of more than 32 or 34 kids per class. 

Guillermo Linares, Donovan Richards, Nick Perry, Bill Perkins and me.
Also speaking with passion and conviction about the need to reduce class size and the importance of NYC schools getting their fair share of funding were Assemblymembers Keith Wright, Guillermo Linares and Nick Perry; and Senators Velmanette Montgomery and Bill Perkins.

Assemblymember Keith Wright pointed out that "“There’s no secret to improving schools," merely great teachers and small classes.  "We have great teachers and now all we need is smaller class sizes." Senator Perkins said,  "Even Stevie Wonder can see that class size matters."

 Here's Assemblymember Jeff Aubry on the inequities of class size in NYC compared to elsewhere in the state:

Of course money matters!


City Council Education chair Danny Dromm, and Council Members Alan Maisel, Julissa Ferreras, Mark Levine, Corey Johnson spoke about how class size matters and their commitment to fair funding.  Council Member Donovan Richards of Queens said it was a matter of social justice, and that he almost fell through the cracks because of class size at Jamaica high school (now closed.).

Council Members Dromm and Maisel, both former teachers, said they simply couldn't do their best with the large classes they were assigned.

When it was my turn, I said that Cuomo has a moral obligation to fulfill the judgement of the state's highest court, which found that NYC kids were deprived of their constitutional right because of excessive class size. I pointed out the smaller classes were the top priority of parents in the DOE own surveys, and a top priority of most teachers as well.

But I added that the Mayor and the Chancellor also have a real responsibility to reduce class size in our schools, especially since they had made repeated promises to do so, that have gone so far unmet.  Here are some of the pledges they have made,  in relation to another contractual commitment -- the Contracts for Excellence law passed in 2007 that required NYC to reduce class size in all grades:

Bill de Blasio on June 14, 2013, at a Mayoral forum at Murry Bergtraum HS  at which he promised to commit to specific class size goals and if necessary, raise funds to pay for this.  You can see how he checked off the form and signed it himself:

Bill de Blasio in July 2013in his completed KidsPAC candidate survey, in which he promised to set reduced class size goals to achieve by the end of his first term, which he has failed to do, as well as achieve the city's original Contracts for Excellence class size goals of 20 in K-3, 23 in 4th-8th grade, and 25 in HS classes:

DOE in December 2015, in their official response to public comment to their C4E plan.

For the 2015-16 School Year, NYCDOE will focus Class Size Reduction planning efforts on the School Renewal Program. The criteria for selecting Renewal Schools is [sic] aligned with C4E goals to target schools with the greatest needs.  

DOE, now, in their current C4E power point (see slide 14):

Yet we have reports of many schools on the Renewal list that have huge class sizes, including some  that violate the union contract. At PS 111 in Queens, Kindergarten class sizes have risen to 27 this fall,  and to 30 in 1st grade.  Long Island City high school, another Renewal school, was reported as having the 4th highest number of class size violations, at 140.  

We have repeatedly asked DOE for a list of Renewal schools where they have actually lowered class size, and to what levels, without success. Reporter Patrick Wall of Chalkbeat tried as well: 

"Education department spokeswoman Devora Kaye said the city shares the goal of reducing class sizes. She would not say whether the city has set any specific targets around class size, or what steps it is taking to create smaller classes in Renewal schools."

Meanwhile, here is the list of Renewal schools with the most UFT class size violations as of September 18:
According to the UFT, Long Island City, Richmond Hill, and Martin Van Buren HS have since reduced their contractual violations to zero or nearly so. But violations mean classes of 35 or more, and reducing them to zero could mean class sizes at 34 - far from the C4E goal of 25 or less. 
These class sizes are unconscionable for students who are way behind, in schools in danger of closing, whose classes should be capped at 25 or less to give them a real chance to succeed.   This is especially true as the city has a surplus of $7 billion, the Mayor promised us he would reduce class size and yet has been silent on this since his election, and the DOE specifically claimed they would focus their efforts at lowering class size in the struggling schools.

At the end of the press conference, Michael Mulgrew was asked about the fact that the Chancellor Farina does not agree that reducing class size should be a priority; and how she has made that clear to parents at numerous town hall meetings.  He responded that  the union will "keep pushing" and emphasize that "we are willing to work" with the administration on class size.  Let's hope they push hard, and make progress with a Mayor and a Chancellor who are not on the same page as parents and teachers on this critical issue.
On Nov. 15, we will see whether class sizes have significantly declined this year citywide or in  the Renewal schools, when the city releases their annual class size reports.