I've been working as a volunteer with FIRST since I retired in 2002 and as we kept growing through the years we were forced to set up borough events with the 80 finalists going on to the NYC finals at the Javits Convention Center on April 5. The winner of that goes to the national/international tournament.
Running a tournament is a major task and there is no little irony in that Portelos can't walk into his own school but can enter a NYC school to run a tournament.
Long before Francesco Portelos' troubles with the principal and the DOE began I met him when he was the co-coach of the IS 49 robotics team. The team at IS 49 originated way back when I got involved with FIRST robotics in 2002 with a long-time math teacher as the coach. She showed up every year with a well-prepped team. Francesco began working with her and when she retired (or pushed by Principal Linda Hill) he became the regular coach.
Since he was removed from the school in , IS 49 has not been able to field a team. Think of that -- the principal's and the DOE's vendetta has killed a decade old program.
In March 2012, I was handling registration at the 80 team finals at the Javits Convention Center, about 2 months before Portelos was removed. It was a Sunday and he was there. He showed me an article in that day's NY Post about him and the school. It was written by Sue Edelman. I thought it was not a really fair article and I called Sue that morning to inform her that Portelos was with his kids on a Sunday and not so gently suggested that the Post should run a photo of him coaching robotics on a Sunday instead of their usual shady looking photos designed to make a teacher look like a perp.
Portelos told me that the week before he was removed a student came up to him and said "Mr. Portelos...you made me want to be an engineer." Portelos says now that's a mission accomplished.
For a list of the teams going on to the finals at Javits: