According to Newsday (7/23/13), Carlos Ramirez was fired from his job as the Hempstead School District director of technology July 18. While the school district maintains that Ramirez was fired for reasons of job performance, Ramirez maintains he was let go because he exposed a grade-changing scheme that reportedly resulted in failing grades systematically rounded up to become passing grades.
According to the report, the Hempstead District carries one of the lowest graduation rates of any school on Long Island, with only 38 percent of eligible students successfully graduating from the 2011-12 school year. Of Long Island’s 124 public school districts, Hempstead came in at the very bottom.
According to Ramirez’ New York wrongful employment termination claim, he exposed a regular practice employed by the district of rounding up final course grades from 63 and 64 - both failing grades - to the passing mark of 65. Prior to an emergency school board meeting July 9 that saw the practice rescinded, various district officials with Hempstead indicated in prior comments that the practice of rounding up grades was standard practice in public schools.
However, according to Newsday, officials from other districts indicated that in their view the practice was unique to Hempstead.
“I feel that I’m being punished for just bringing up something that was wrong,” Ramirez said during a news conference in Manhattan where his lawyers cited New York wrongful termination law, in comments published in Newsday. “It’s corruption and it’s lying to the parents. It’s lying to the community.”
It should be noted that two months before Ramirez blew the whistle on the grade-changing practice, the district school board held a meeting during which five senior administrators with the district were let go. Ramirez, according to the report, was also on the chopping block. However, the vote to terminate Ramirez lost on a 3-2 vote.
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The district maintains that Ramirez’ firing was not an act of New York wrongful employee termination, but was related to job performance. The district would not elaborate on what those alleged issues of job performance might have been. However, a spokesperson for the district maintained that Ramirez’ termination was not related to his exposure of the district’s previous practice of rounding up borderline failing grades to a passing score.
“There's no correlation between him blowing the whistle and being fired,” Nathan Jackson, a spokesman for Hempstead District, said in comments appearing in Newsday. Nonetheless, Ramirez was pursuing his alleged wrongful termination with guidance from his New York wrongful termination attorneys.