Susan Edelman and Cynthia R. Fagen, New York Post, July 4, 2010
Tatiana Reina wanted to graduate in the worst way–and she did.
The 21-year-old was enrolled at Lafayette HS in Bensonhurst, Brooklyn, for six years with a dismal record marked by truancy and failing grades. She faked her own graduation in 2007, donning a cap and gown and sneaking into the receiving line. Faced with “aging out” of the school system this year, she got a last chance and still didn’t bother going to class.
“She was a no-show all year,” a school insider said. Regulations call for at least 90 percent attendance to be promoted or to graduate.
But that didn’t stop the principal, Jacqueline Boswell, from granting Reina a diploma.
In June, Reina showed up for the last five days and was given some health and chemistry assignments in the guidance office, school staffers said. “She sat at a computer and Googled her answers,” a worker said.
Finally, teachers were pressured into giving Reina–and a half-dozen other failing students–minimally passing grades of 65, the equivalent of a “D,” to get the credits needed to graduate, sources told The Post.
“They’re giving out diplomas like it’s a lemonade stand,” one disgusted staffer said.
What happened at Lafayette HS, one of five city high schools that closed their doors for the last time last week, is not a fluke, critics say.
“This is happening all over the city, especially at closing schools,” said Leonie Haimson, executive director of Class Size Matters. “If you’re a principal or a teacher and your chances of getting another job depend on how many kids you successfully graduate, the vast majority will give these kids credit, whether they deserve it not,”
Reina first entered Lafayette in June 2004. Four years later, her credits fell short. But she bought a cap and gown and “snuck into the line” to walk on stage. A staffer noticed, but told the announcer to call out her name so as not to “make a scene.” Reina, like the others, was handed a piece of paper with instructions to pick up her diploma later.
Still enrolled at Lafayette in 2008, Reina flunked everything but Spanish, earning a single credit and then another in summer school, records show. She then enrolled in Borough of Manhattan Community College, a CUNY campus, but got kicked out when officials finally got her high-school transcript.
So she returned to Lafayette last year. On Jan. 12, a school day, she was arrested for buying goods at Bloomingdale’s at Roosevelt Field, LI, with $400 in fake traveler’s checks; the felony charge is pending.
She failed everything until the second term, when she snagged the last two required credits.
“I got my diploma!” she said last week, but didn’t want to comment further.
Asked about her atrocious attendance, she explained, “There wasn’t no problem. I just didn’t go.”