A Queens principal accused of using fraudulent schemes to boost his school’s graduation rate can never again work with city students — but will get a $1.8 million desk job, The Post has learned.
Khurshid Abdul-Mutakabbir, who was removed as principal of Maspeth High School last July, won’t return to any city school as a principal, according to a settlement of misconduct charges. But he can stay on the Department of Education payroll for another seven years.
Under Abdul-Mutakabbir, Maspeth HS created fake classes, awarded credits to failing students, and fixed grades to push kids out the door, the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools found, confirming exposès by The Post.
Instead of trying to terminate Abdul-Mutakabbir, as city investigators recommended, the DOE settled the charges on Jan. 25 by fining him $12,000 – and barring him from working as a principal.
But under the sweetheart deal – which DOE officials kept hidden for months – the disgraced educator, now age 47, will sit in an office until he “irrevocably” retires on Nov. 30, 2029.
He will pocket his current $187,043 annual salary, and get all union-negotiated pay raises for principals. He will also enjoy paid vacations and holidays, plus full health and retirement benefits, which will cost at least $78,558 a year in addition. The total cost will come to more than $1.8 million.
City Councilman Robert Holden (D-Queens), who first called attention to Maspeth HS malfeasance after meeting with a group of whistleblower teachers three years ago, was outraged to learn of the golden parachute.
“Nothing is more absurd in city government than rewarding dishonesty and cheating,” Holden said, calling Abdul-Mutakabbir’s lucrative deal a huge waste of taxpayer funds.
Chancellor David Banks, who promised to cut waste and bureaucratic bloat when he took the DOE reins on Jan. 1, would not comment on Abdul-Mutakabbir’s case.
“When I see evidence of egregious actions amongst a small number of individuals in our schools, we will move aggressively and expeditiously to remove those people from our schools and payroll permanently. We seek the best outcome for students and taxpayers,” he said in a statement.
Teachers told investigators that Abdul-Mutakabbir pressured teachers to pass students whether they learned anything or not, the SCI said in a report completed last June.
“I don’t care if a kid shows up at 7:44 and you dismiss at 7:45 — it’s your job to give that kid credit,” Abdul-Mutakabbir was quoted as telling a staffer. He said the school would give a lagging student a diploma “not worth the paper on which it was printed” and let him “have fun working at Taco Bell,” the report said.
Former student Thomas Creighton told The Post how he spent most of his junior and senior years drunk or stoned. He rarely attended class and did no homework his senior year. Instead of helping the teen straighten out, administrators simply awarded him a diploma – six months early – and pushed him out the door. When his parents asked to see his classwork, the school had nothing to show.
Faculty and students called it the “Maspeth Minimum” because everyone, regardless of effort or performance, would pass and graduate. Administrators pressured teachers to fix failing grades. Some teachers gave answers to students during Regents exams, records show.
The principal and his two assistant principals rewarded “a clique” of favored staffers and ex-fraternity brothers with overtime assignments, SCI reported. They threatened others to “fall in line” or get bad reviews that could jeopardize their jobs. Some teachers were forced out or quit.
Maspeth made the DOE look good – its 99 percent graduation rate helped to land it a federal “Blue Ribbon Award” in 2018.
But Abdul-Mutakabbir and assistant principals Stefan Singh and Jesse Pachter refused to speak with SCI investigators, citing their right to remain silent. Despite their refusal to cooperate, the DOE kept Singh and Pachter in their Maspeth HS jobs, slapping them only with letters of reprimand.
“Here’s the message [the DOE] is sending: “If you clam up, if you cover up, you can keep your job and keep your paycheck,” Holden said, noting that NYPD cops can be fired for failing to cooperate with investigations.
“Good teachers were driven out, children were robbed of their education. This was organized crime, in my estimation.”
A former Maspeth teacher who spoke with investigators and provided stacks of evidence is disgusted.
“It makes me lose faith in the education system,” he said. “Any teacher or administrator can do something dishonest or illegal to raise their ratings and get away with it. Just say, ‘They did it at Maspeth and nothing happened.’ That’s your get-out-of-jail-free card.”
The DOE’s own Office of Special Investigations also spent months on the case. The OSI completed a lengthy report on Maspeth misconduct in June 2021. The DOE has refused to release it, saying last week it awaits the outcome of charges of cheating and testing irregularities against five Maspeth teachers.
After the investigations dragged on for two years, the DOE finally removed Abdul-Mutakabbir from the school last July, claiming it would take steps to terminate him for “inappropriate behavior.”
The DOE said it would bring the principal up on charges at an administrative trial, which is required to fire a tenured teacher or administrator. In such a trial, the DOE presents witnesses and evidence to a state-appointed hearing officer who decides whether termination is justified.
DOE officials told Holden they didn’t believe their lawyers could win the termination. In some cases, teachers who still work for the city were reluctant to testify. Maspeth grads would have to testify that staffers helped them cheat or fixed their grades.
In the settlement, the DOE agreed to drop the hearing and “take no further disciplinary action relating to the allegations in the charges,” which are not cited. Abdul-Mutakabbir admits only that during the 2018-19 and 2019-20 school years he “failed to fully follow or abide by the department’s academic policy.”
The case recalls another example of fraud with few consequences. In 2015, Brooklyn’s Dewey High School put hundreds of failing kids in bogus classes without instruction by certified teachers. The school called it “Project Graduation.” Kids dubbed it “Easy Pass.”
Principal Kathleen Elvin was removed, but charges against her were tossed on a technicality. Instead of appealing, the DOE gave Elvin a six-figure administrative job. Raises brought her salary to $184,104, plus health and fringe benefits, by the time she retired in 2019. She now collects a $106,058-a-year pension.
Retired teacher Wade Goria, one of the Dewey HS whistleblowers, isn’t surprised by the Maspeth outcome, saying the DOE would rather cover up than air its dirty laundry.
“It just shows the ongoing corruption,” Goria said. “They don’t want [the principal] to squeal. If they don’t take care of him, he might say they put him up to it.”
A Queens teacher at a neighboring school denounced the settlement. “The idea that Abdul-Mutakabbir has guaranteed raises and benefits until 2029 all while doing little to nothing compared to his colleagues is unacceptable. ‘Cheat, bend the rules and be rewarded’ should be the DOE motto.”
Abdul-Mutakabbir did not respond to a request for comment. A spokesman for the union that defended him, the Counsel of Supervisors and Administrators, said only, “The matter has been resolved, and we have no further comment.”
Among alleged wrongdoing at Maspeth HS: