Newburgh superintendent at center of forgery scandal honored as superintendent of year
An Orange County school superintendent who is at the center of a student-athlete forgery scandal is now being honored as the state superintendent of the year.
It’s been 19 months since the New York state Department of Education promised to investigate the Newburgh Enlarged City School District after a grand jury report found district educators forged student-athlete attendance records and grades for years.
On Wednesday, it came as a complete shock to some when the superintendent at the helm, Dr. Robert Padilla, was named New York state superintendent of the year.
One of two whistleblowers - Newburgh Board of Education member Darren Stridiron - says he notified Padilla in 2014 and in 2017 of the forgery before he was contacted by the district attorney’s office.
District Attorney Dave Hoovler took on the investigation to shed light on the scandal, which, at the time, he called “systemic and from the top down.”
On Wednesday, he issued a statement saying,“Our Grand Jury report exposed one of the greatest frauds on student athletes one can ever imagine. Hopefully they’ve fixed their student athlete attendance problems.”
No charges were ever filed as a result of the investigation, but the state promised to step in and appoint an auditor.
Whistleblower and Newburgh teacher Richard Desderio says nonetheless, Padilla’s award by the State Council of School Superintendents is a ‘slap in the face’ and that nearly two years later, there are still concerns.
News 12 reached out to the New York State Council of School Superintendents, which said it was unaware of the grand jury findings when naming Dr. Padilla as superintendent of the year.
The school district will receive a $10,000 student scholarship following the top superintendent designation.
News 12 spoke with Dr. Padilla over the phone. He says the problems underscored in the 2019 grand jury investigation predate his leadership. However, the grand jury report found the forgery continued under his watch.
He says "There's phenomenal talent. This train has been running in the right direction."