Published: February 23, 2015
Publication: Daily Voice
By Joe Jenkins
Tina E. Sciocchetti, head of the state test security unit, Education Department is waiting on Rye schools, not the other way around, according to the lawyer for the teacher in the case.
(Photo: Joe Larese/The Journal News)
RYE – The head of the state Education Department’s test security unit is alarmed that the case of reassigned Rye teacher Carin Mehler has been open for almost two years, her lawyer told The Journal News.
Tina E. Sciocchetti, the executive director of the Test Security and Educator Integrity office, has told Mehler’s lawyer, Arthur Schwartz, in several telephone conversations that the office is seeking a speedy resolution of the case, Schwatz said.
“She said she was alarmed the case has been open this long,” said Schwartz. “They had never had a set of charges open for so long and expressed amazement that no charges had been brought.”
Mehler, a tenured fourth-grade teacher at Osborn Elementary School was placed on administrative reassignment in May 2013 amid allegations of “improper coaching” on state tests. She is being paid close to $200,000 a year to stay at home.
The district has not brought any disciplinary charges against her, preventing her from having an administrative hearing with the state Education Department at which she could defend herself.
Schwartz said Sciocchetti brokered a call between the district and Mehler in November in search of a resolution. Sciocchetti stayed on speaker phone during the meeting, he said.
“At the end of the conference call she said that the testing integrity unit would take no action until the district concluded its process, which their counsel said was forthcoming,” said Schwartz. “That was four months ago.”
Meanwhile, every time The Journal News has asked Rye why no charges have been filed, the district has pointed to the fact that the state’s case is still open.
“The Testing Integrity Unit’s case regarding Mrs. Mehler remains open,” Rye district spokesperson Sarah Derman told The Journal News last week.
When The Journal News asked the state Education Department if they bring charges or close a case before a school district has brought charges against an employee, Jonathan Burman, a spokesperson for the department, said that was not the order in which the process works.
“It is not the practice of the Test Security Unit to bring charges against an educator nor close an investigation while the school district has pending educator misconduct charges related to NYS Assessments,” he wrote.
Burman said he couldn’t confirm Sciocchetti’s statement to Schwartz because it was against department policy to comment on open cases.
Last month, an Osborn School parent created a website, www.reassigned.org, to bring attention to a lack of resolution in the case. Many parents have sent letters to the school board regarding the inaction of the board.
Mehler has rejected an offer from the Rye school district to pay a $25,000 in fine in exchange for being reinstated in her job. The amount was to be payable over two years. She is demanding a full hearing instead. The state allows the district three years to bring charges.
“I was disgusted to be asked to pay an amount without having a chance to defend myself,”said Mehler.