Sunday, October 26, 2014

The Farina Follies: OSI Charges Substantiated Against Former Principal Arisleyda Urena, Most Recently Director of School Quality

Urena and Joel Klein

Due to the fact that Ms. Urena failed to maintain itemized receipts and records as mandated by the DFO Standard Operating procedure, this investigator was unable to account for over $11,000 in purchases that Ms. Urena made from Apple, Inc. Regardless of the school funds used, Ms. Urena acknowledged using school funds to purchase items that were intended to be used for educational purposes. It is clear that Ms. Urena did not use these items for any educational purpose. Rather, Ms. Urena chose to give the items to individual students as gifts, creating a condition in which other students at X365 were denied access to the same technological resources.
The allegations that Ms. Urena misappropriated school funds, by purchasing items that had no educational purpose, is therefore substantiated.

The allegation that Ms. Urena engaged in employee misconduct by giving DOE property to students as gifts is
substantiated.

Ms. Urena's poor record-keeping interfered with this investigation. In addition, the DF030 requires that detailed receipts be maintained for at least 6 years after any purchase is made with school funds. The allegation that Ms. Urena failed to adhere to the DFO Standard Operating Procedure is therefore substantiated.
Urena was promoted despite her record. When we examine the record of new superintendents appointed by Farina we will find further horror stories.

Details of the Arisleyda Urena ISO investigation below the break.

Department of Education
armon f.inna C/'m1cnllor
Courunayc Jackson­ Cbasc
General Counsel
Christopher J. Dalton
IA Director
Norris W. Knowles
Associate Director


OFFICE OF SPECIAL INVES'TIGATIONS INVESTIGATIVE  REPORT
DATE:            July 14, 2014
TO:                 Christopher Dalton, IA Director FROM:           Investigator Katherine Higginbotham
SUBJECT:         Arisleyda Urena, Director of School Quality, 1 File #733406 Office of School Quality
OSI Case #13-09422X

ORIGIN OF COMPLAINT



On December 27, 2013, the Office of Special  Investigations  ("OSI") received  a referral  from  the Special Commissioner of Investigation ("SCI") concerning the conduct of Arisleyda Urena director of School Quality,
---------, former teacher,'* alleged that, during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, Ms. Urena and Jose Viñales, the then-Assistant Principal held "unsanctioned  raffles'' for students.  ------- stated that students in "good standing" were permitted to purchase tickets in order to have the opportunity to win sports equipment and electronics as prizes.
Furthermore, ------- alleged that Ms. Urena purchased the items that were raffled using her DOE-issued Procurement Card ("P-Card").5 -------- further noted that prizes that students won during the raffles were valued at over $25 dollars and were, therefore, ineligible to be used as student incentives.
During the course of this investigation, the following was also alleged: 1) Ms. Urena gave DOE property to students as gifts, and 2) during the years in question, Ms. Urena failed to keep receipts detailing the purchases she made using X365's funds, as is required by DOE.
At the time of the incident, Ms. Urena was the Principal of X365.
4 ------- was assigned to X365 throughout the 2012-2013 school year.  She was terminated from the Department of Education ("DOE") on July 14, 2013.
$ A P-Card is a credit card issued by the DOE to facilitate the purchasing of items designated to be used for an approved DOE purpose; the money for P-Card purchases comes from the school's budget, tax levies or grant money.


RESULTS OF INVESTIGATION

------------
On January 29, 2014, -------- appeared at OSI to be interviewed regarding the above-referenced allegations.
--------- stated that, on the day before the Winter Recess break in December 2012,6
Ms. Urena7 came to her classroom while she was teaching, and stated, "Gather your students in a half hour; we are going to have an assembly."  -------- stated that she did so, atnd on the way to the auditorium, Student A informed her that the "assembly" was actually a raffle that was held every year; Student A further informed ------- that all of the students in the class had been issued tick1ts earlier that dav.
When asked to explain her allegation that only students in "good standing" were eligible to receive a ticket, ------- explained that ------, teacher, had informed her that students were eligible for a ticket as long as they had a good disciplinary record.  ------- stated that, during her conversations with these other
teachers, she had also learned that a similar raffle had also occurred during the 2011-2012 school year, also on the day before Winter Recess. 9
------- stated that, when she arrived in the auditorium that day, she saw what appeared to be most of the students who attended X365, as well as most of the teachers,                    Ms. Urena                               On the stage, there were approximately 10 iPads, 20 iPod touches, various pieces  of athletic equipment such as basketballs, footballs and Nike apparel, and an unknown number of miniature laptops. According to --------, the laptops and iPads were labeled "Property of DOE." ------- explained that teachers at the front of the room took turns "drawing names of students," from a container, and the -items on the stage were awarded as prizes to students whose names were called. ------- noted that, when students won one of the electronic items as prizes, Ms. Urena wrote their names down and told them that they could come back to the school the following day with their parents to collect their prizes.
------- acknowledged that she had no specific knowledge regarding which funds were used to purchase the prizes in question. Rather, she stated that she "suspected" that the items had been purchased with a P-Card. ------- stated that, based on these suspicions, she had filed a Freedom of Information Law request for Ms. Urena's P-card transactions. She stated that, upon receiving a list of transactions, she noticed that Ms. Urena had made purchases from Apple, Inc.,10 Modell's,11 and Frank's Sports Shop, which she presumed were prizes for the raffles.
6 -------- indicated that the incident in question occurred on a regular school day.  The DOE Academic Calendar for the 2012-2013 school year indicates that Winter Recess began on Monday, December 24, 20 12.
7 ------- could not recall which administrator came to her room on the day of the incident.
- ------ informed this investigator that she had located two videos of raffles from the 2011-2012 school year. She explained that the videos in question were posted on Vimeo, a public video sharing website, by students in the journalism club at X365. She agreed to forward the relevant links to this investigator after her interview.
10 Apple, Inc. designs and sells consumer electronics. Both iPods and iPads are exclusive products of Apple, Inc.
11 Modell 's is a sporting goods store.
Chancellor"s Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922 Brooklyn,NY 11201 Telephone:718935 3800; Fax:718 935 3931


Video: 12
At 00:23, a large number of students and apparent staff members can be seen gathered in an auditorium. Ms. Urena and Mr. Viñales are present. On a table at the front of the room, there are a number of packaged basketballs and iPods.
At I :04, a staff member holds up a small laptop in order to display it to the students sitting in the auditorium. No label is visible on the laptop. A student walks to the front of the room while the other students cheer. The same staff member then holds up another small laptop in the same manner, and another staff member reaches into a jar and pulls out a piece of paper, then reads from it. A label is visible on the second laptop, but it is unreadable.
At 2:23, a student walks to the front of the room, and a staff member hands her what appears to be a new iPod.
At 2:32, a staff member holds up an iPad in order to display it to the students sitting in the auditorium. Ms. Urena picks a piece of paper out of the jar, reads something from the paper, and a student comes to the front of the room and takes the iPad.
At 4:27, 18 students gather on stage in order to have their picture taken. A number of them are holding basketballs, iPads and iPods.

Student Interviews

On March 14, 2014, this investigator was present at X365 to interview Students B through G regarding the allegations; all student interviews were conducted in the presence of Carron Staple, Superintendent.

Student B,  -year-old,             .1              grade:

Student B did not recall whether there was a raffle during the 2012-2013 school year or the 2011-2012 school year.

Student C,     -year-old,           grade:

Student C confirmed that, during the 2012-2013 school year, on an unknown date around Winter Break, each student who appeared at school on time received a ticket, free of charge.  Student C stated that, the next day, all of the students in the school gathered in the school's auditorium.  She explained that staff members then picked
12 On January 29, 2014, -------- sent this investigator an email containing two links that she stated were videos of raffles:                                                                          and                                                           . After reviewing both links, this investigator determined that                                        not contain any footage of a raffle as described by --------. A disc
containing the entire video  linked by                                                          is enclosed in the case file. The video is a mock newscast and appears to have been edited.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922 ·Brooklyn , NY 11201
Telephone:718 935 3800; Fax:718 935 3931


tickets out of a box or jar, and 1each student who had a corresponding ticket would win a prize. When asked to describe the available prizes, Student C indicated that there were approximately four iPods, two laptops, unspecified gift cards, and sports equipment, such as volleyballs. Student C explained that she did not win anything, and she could not name any of the students who did. Student C could not recall whether this also occurred during the 2011-2012 school year.

Student D,      ·year-old,                     grade:

After being given a brief synopsis of the allegation, Student D said that she did not believe that students ever took home iPods or laptops. She explained that she had only a "little understanding of English," and was therefore questioned no further.

Student E,     -year-old,                 grade:

Student E confirmed that, during the 2012-2013 school year, on an unknown date immediately before Winter Break, students received tickets, free of charge, when they arrived at school. When asked if students who arrived late also received a ticket, Student E stated that he did not know. Student E confirmed that, toward the end of the day, the students gathered in the school's auditorium, where every student who had a ticket had the opportunity to win a prize. When asked to describe the prizes available, Student E stated that, during the 2012- 2013 school year, there were less than ten iPods, less than ten iPads, approximately five basketballs, footballs
and baseballs, board games, and a number of laptops. 13  Student E noted that Student G won an iPod during the
2012-2013 school year, but he could not name any other student who received one of the electronics as prizes.

Student F,     · year-old,         ,_       grade:

Student F confirmed that, during the 2012-2013 and 2011-2012 school years students received tickets before Winter Break so that they would have an opportunity to win a prize. Student F stated that, on both occasions, every student received a free ticket. When asked to describe the prizes, Student F stated that, during the 2012- 2013 school year, there were basketballs, backpacks, and gift cards.  Student F denied that any electronics were
offered as prizes during the 2012-2013 school year; Student F indicated that, during the 2011-2012 school year, however, approximately five iPods, one iPad, and an unknown number of laptops were offered as prizes.14 When asked if any miniature laptops were offered as prizes during the 2011-2012 school year, Student F stated that there were none; rather, he stated that laptops were offered as prizes during the 2010-2011 school year.

Student G,      ·year-old, male,         grade:

Student G confirmed that, during the 2012-2013 school year, there was a raffle at X365.
When asked to describe the prizes that were offered, Student G stated that there were "a lot" of basketballs, one iPod, and approximately 7 laptops. Student G stated that he won an iPod, which he described as an iPod 3 with a '”touchscreen.”  Student G explained that, even though he won the iPod, he was not permitted to take it home on the date of the raffle. He stated that Ms. Urena told him that he had to come to the school the next week to pick it up. Student G stated that, accordingly, he and his father went to X365 the following week, and signed a paper, then took the iPod home.
13 Student E noted that the prizes were different during the 2013-2014 school year; be noted that no electronics were offered as prizes in December 2013.
14 Student F noted that be did not recall there being a raffle during the 2013-2014 school year.
ChanceUor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Slreet ·Roo m 922 Brooklyn, NY 11201 Telephone:718 935 3800;Fax:7 18 93S 3931


Purchase orders15 and P-Card transactions: 16

In 2010, 2011, and 2012, Ms. Urena made 19 purchases in total from Staples,17 Modell's, Best Buy,18 Frank's Sport Shop, and Apple, Inc., using her P-Card and by submitting purchase orders.
On March 14, 2014, this investigator provided a list of the relevant P-card and purchase order transactions to
Mr. Viñales; this investigator requested that he provide Ms. Urena's detailed receipts for each purchase and a justification for each purchase.  On March 27, 2014, Viñales informed this investigator that he was only able to find records for three of the purchase orders and five of the P-Card transactions; he provided a legitimate justification for each of these eight purchases.19
Ultimately, no detailed receipts or invoices were located for approximately $11,700 in P-Card purchases and purchase orders from the Apple store,20 $379 in P-Card purchases from Frank's Sports Shop, $918 in P-Card purchases from Modell's, $125 in P-Card purchases from Staples, and $43 in P-Card purchases from Best Buy.
Mr. Viñales was also unable to account for 2 purchase orders that were submitted for products from CDW Government, LLC,21 totaling approximately $4,428.

Noli Hourahan, Director, Accounts Payable, Division of Financial Operations ("DFO"):

On February 20, 2014, this investigator interviewed Ms. Hourahan at 65 Court Street, Rm. 1502, in the presence of Charlene Dash and Philip Harrison from the P-Card Unit. On June 30, 2014, this investigator spoke with Ms. Hourahan and Ms. Dash once again, via phone. Both statements are summarized below.
Ms. Hourahan stated that items paid for with a P-Card must have an "educational" purpose. She noted that schools are required to keep detailed receipts for all P-Card purchases, according to the DFO Standard Operating Procedure, in order to justify P-Card purchases. Ms. Hourathan stated that, while student incentives could be purchased with a P-Card, the amount of money used for student incentives is limited to $100 per year. Ms. Hourahan explained that, because students receive incentives for behaviors related to academics, such as attendance or grades, student incentives are considered to have an educational purpose. When asked, Ms. Hourahan explained that any program, in which students had the opportunity to win prizes based on chance, rather than based on individual merit, could not be considered a "student incentive" program. Ms. Hourahan confirmed that using a P-Card to purchase items that were prizes students could win in a game of chance would constitute a misuse of the P-Card.
i s Purchase orders are purchases made through a web-based purchasing application.  The money for the purchases comes from a school's budget, and the individual who submits the purchase order must certify that the item purchased has an educational purpose . On February 25, 2014, this investigator obtained a list of all purchase orders for iPods, iPads, and Dell laptops submitted byX365 during the 2011-2012 school year from Heather Phillips, Finance Support Specialist, Division of Financial Systems. The relevant emails and the purchase order numbers are enclosed in the case file.
16 This investigator obtained Ms. Urena's P-card transactions from Charlene Dash, P-Card Unit supervisor, on January 16,
2014. The relevant email chain and a list of the transactions is enclosed in the case file.
17 Staples is an office supply store; it sells laptops and similar electronics, iin addition to other items.
18 Best Buy sells electronics, computers, and appliances.
19 The receipts and                            notes regarding the items in question are enclosed in the case file.
20 All of the P-Card purchases from Apple, Inc., for which Mr. Viñales was unable to account, occurred during the 2009- 2010 school year.
21 CDW Government, LLC., sells various technology items, including Dell and Apple products.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922 Brooldyn. NY 11201 Telephone: 718 935 3800; Fax: 718 935 3931


48-Hour Notice:

On March 27, 2014, this investigator notified Ms. Urena that she was the subject of this investigation, via email.
Arisleyda Urena, Director of School Quality:
On April 9, 2014, Ms. Urena appeared at OSI and was interviewed in the presence of Robert Colon, a representative for the Council of School Supervisors & Administrators.
Ms. Urena acknowledged that, during the 2011-2012 and 2012-2013 school years, she provided tickets to students so that they would have a chance to win prizes during an assembly that occurred immediately before Winter Break. She denied that this was a "raffle." Instead, Ms. Urena characterized the prizes as "incentives ." When asked what behavior she had intended to incentivize, Ms. Urena stated that all of the students at X365 deserved incentives for their various personal achievements. She maintained that every student who was present at school on the days that these "incentives" were distributed received a prize.
When asked, Ms. Urena acknowledged that she had used her P-Card to purchase the sports equipment that she distributed as prizes. When asked if the P-Card purchases that she made in 2011 and 2012 from Modell's, for which no receipts were found, were for these prizes, she indicated that she was not certain, but that this was possible. When she was informed that P-Cards may only be used for educational purposes, she responded "[X365 is] a PSAL school." When pressed for additional information, however, she acknowledged that the sports equipment was intended for students' personal use and recreation, rather than for the school's sports teams.
When asked about the origin of the iPods and miniature laptops that were distributed as prizes, Ms. Urena responded that, at the end of the 2008-2009 school year, X365 obtained a Cisco22 grant through iZone23 for the purpose of supporting ''virtual learning." She stated that the grant had been for approximately $100,000, and she explained that the money had been used to purchase 70 iPod touch4eS and an unknown number of miniature laptops during the 2009-2010 school year. She stated that, before the 2011-2012 school year, the items in question were not in use at X365. Ms. Urena reasoned that, because these items were intended to be used for students, it was appropriate to use them as prizes.  When asked, however, she could not explain why she decided to distribute the items piecemeal, years after she obtained them, rather than distributing the iPods and laptops equally upon receipt. Ms. Urena contended that the iPods and miniature laptops that students won during the 2011-2012 and 2012·-2013 school year were intended to be used for schoolwork. She noted that students were able to download math applications. When asked if anything prevented students from using their prizes for recreation, Ms. Urena responded, "That's the risk we [took]."
22 Cisco is a private corporation that designs and sells networking equipment.
23 iZone, within the DOE Office of Innovation, assists schools in implementing technologically driven learning models.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922·Brooklyn. NY 11201
Telephone: 718 935 3800;Fax: 718 935 3931


Ms. Urena stated that the iPads that were distributed as prizes had originally been purchased for use by teachers during the 2008-2009 school year. She stated that she purchased iPad 2s for her teachers, so they were no longer using the iPads 1s that were distributed as prizes.24
Upon being questioned about the location of the missing receipts and documentation for her P-Card transactions and purchase orders, Ms. Urena responded that any documentation that existed remained at X365, and she could not say exactly where the receipts might be located. When asked how many iPods and laptops remained at X365, Ms. Urena stated that she did not know how manv iPods and laptops were at X365  -      -

Inventory for iPod Touches and miniature laptops:

On April 24, 2014,                     informed this investigator that he located 28 Dell Mini Inspiron 910 laptops. He also provided a record indicating that, on March 1, 2013, 30 iPod Touches (Model Al288)25 were provided to the Computer Technology Specialist at Harry S. Truman High School, and that the "inventory database" would "reflect the change in location for [the iPods]."26

Attempts to Obtain Grant Information:

On April 24, 2014, this investigator spoke to Celine Azoulay, Executive Director of iLearn, via phone. At that time, Ms. Azoulay informed this investigator that iLearn was not established until 2009, and iZone was established in 2010. She confirmed that her office had a partnership with Cisco around the time of its inception, in which iLearn helped to organize Cisco grants for approximately ten schools. She indicated that her office did
24 Three of the previously referenced purchase orders were submitted during the 2011-2012 school year for 40 iPad 2s.
25 According to the Apple website, this model was released in 2008 and 2009 only.  See
hJm :  'support.applc.com/kb,HTl353.
26The inventory for the laptops and the documentation regarding the iPods are enclosed in the case file.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922 Brooklyn, NY 11201 Telephone: 718 935 3800;Fax: 718 935 393!


not actually assist in distributing funds or technology . Ms. Azoulay stated that her office had no records regarding the grants in question.
On May 13, 2014, this investigator spoke to Lydia St. Marie-Tommy, Chief Financial Officer for the Office of Strategic Partnerships, via phone. At that time, Ms. St. Marie-Tommy explained that, if Ms. Urena had used grant money for electronics, she would either submit a purchase order after the grant money was dispersed, or the Fund for Public Schools would retain the grant money and make the purchase on behalf of the school. Ms. St. Marie-Tom.my agreed to look for any and all information regarding a Cisco grant awarded around the school year in question.
On the same day, Ms. St. Marie-Tommy indicated that her "accounting system shows one hit on the search for direct funding to X.365 from the Fund for Public Schools."
Ms. St. Marie-Tommy provided this investigator with a "Request for Funds" form, in which X365 requested
$2,500 in April 2010 in order to pay "per session to teachers for meetings this spring to plan for increased teaching and learning online." The stated purpose of the grant money was "blended school model implementation planning." An accompanying invoice indicates that the amount of money was dispersed to cover "personnel salaries and fringe benefits ." The memo on the relevant check reads, "iZone-per session.'.27
On May 15, 2014, this investigator requested that Jerel Cokley, Director of Operations, CFN 402, research any and all Cisco grants received by X365 around the school year in question. He indicated that the DOE Grant Tracking System indicated that the total amount for the iZone Cisco grant was $151,385.00. However, the money was distributed among 17 schools, and X365 received $2,500 from that grant.  Ultimately, Mr. Cokley
confirmed the information provided b1i Ms. St. Marie-Tommy , and could find no record of any additional grant money having been awarded to X365. 8

CONCLUSION

The DOE defines "raffles" as "games of chance in which a participant pays money in return for a ticket or other receipt and in which a prize is awarded on the basis of a winning number or numbers..."29
Because students did not pay for the tickets, the events did not qualify as raffles or any other form of gambling. Although Ms. Urena referred to the events as "incentives, they do not qualify as incentives by virtue of the fact that it is undisputed that each student had an equal opportunity to win a prize, regardless of individual merit. The regulations and rules referring to raffles and student incentives, therefore, do not apply in this case.
Ms. Urena acknowledged paying for sports equipment, which were distributed as prizes, with her P-card.
Ms. Urena claimed that she used grant money to purchase 70 iPods and a number of laptops, which were subsequently given as prizes. Despite an exhaustive search, this investigator was unable to find a record of any such grant.  Although X365 was awarded a Cisco grant at the end of the 2008-2009 school year, the funds were
27 The relevant documentation is enclosed in the case file.
28 The emails with Mr. Cokley and the printout from the Grant Track System are enclosed in the case file.
29 A summary of the DOE regulation on raffies is enclosed inthe case file.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Coun Street· Room 922 Broolclyn, NY  11201


not designated for the purchasing of electronics, and the $2,500 awarded would have been insufficient for such a purchase .
Due to the fact that Ms. Urena failed to maintain itemized receipts and records as mandated by the DFO Standard Operating procedure, this investigator was unable to accounit for over $11,000 in purchases that Ms. Urena made from Apple, Inc. Regardless of the school funds used, Ms. Urena acknowledged using school funds to purchase items that were intended to be used for educational purposes. It is clear that Ms. Urena did not use these items for any educational purpose. Rather, Ms. Urena chose to give the items to individual students as gifts, creating a condition in which other students at X365 were denied access to the same technological resources.
The allegations that Ms. Urena misappropriated school funds, by purchasing items that had no educational purpose, is therefore substantiated.
The allegation that Ms. Urena engaged in employee misconduct by giving DOE property to students as gifts is
substantiated.
Ms. Urena's poor record-keeping interfered with this investigation. In addition, the DF030 requires that detailed receipts be maintained for at least 6 years after any purchase is made with school funds. The allegation that Ms. Urena failed to adhere to the DFO Standard Operating Procedure is therefore substantiated.
RECOMMENDATION
SUBMITTED BY:
Katherine Higginbotham Confidential Investigator
Christopher Dalton IA Director
30 The relevant portion of the SOP is enclosed in the case file.
Chancellor's Office of Special Investigations
65 Court Street - Room 922 Brooklyn, NY  11201

2 comments:

  1. Perhaps misappropriation of $11,000 was not sufficient to hit the benchmark.

    ReplyDelete
  2. Here's another replacement that makes no sense at D26:

    Replacing Saunders (who was very popular) on Wednesday was Danielle Giunta, who last served as a network leader under the Children First reforms to provide outstanding instructional and operational support to schools. http://www.qchron.com/editions/north/farina-housecleans-saunders-is-out/article_89158f41-a9d4-5649-a6e7-bd8f4a2cea4f.html

    ReplyDelete

Comments are welcome. Irrelevant and abusive comments will be deleted, as will all commercial links. Comment moderation is on, so if your comment does not appear it is because I have not been at my computer (I do not do cell phone moderating).