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Teacher misconduct scandals were kept quiet for years at Queens high school: reports




Teacher misconduct scandals were kept quiet for years at Queens high school: reports

An esteemed Queens high school quietly fired a physics teacher who carved “DEAD” on his chest in photos seen by students, and a chemistry teacher who stayed in the classroom for eight years after investigators found he touched girls, records show.

The alleged misconduct at Townsend Harris HS  — kept under wraps for years from most staff, students and parents —  is detailed in public reports released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation for city schools at The Post’s request.

The revelations follow news that SCI found Joseph Canzoneri, a Townsend Harris English teacher, coach and drama director, had sex with a former student. After the girl refused to testify against him, Canzoneri was returned to the school last fall, where he still had contact with kids unaware of the charges, The Classic student newspaper reported. 

“This really shows that the system is broken and it’s not really safe for everyone,” a freshman said at a sit-in to protest students being exposed to accused predators.

Previous scandals were also hushed, The Post learned. Thomas Sangiorgi, an award-winning chemistry teacher, was the target of two probes, in 2008 and 2016. Both found that he touched and rubbed up against girls, and made leering comments. He finally retired from the DOE in 2016 to settle misconduct charges, avoiding public scrutiny. He has worked since as an adjunct lecturer at Queens College, where Townsend Harris is located.

Joseph Canzoneri was found to have slept with a former student, according to reports released by the Special Commissioner of Investigation.
Townsend Harris HS

“This personnel matter is under review by the college’s Human Resources office,” said Queens College spokeswoman Maria Matteo. She would not say whether the college was ever informed of the DOE charges.

In the first SCI report, sent to then-Chancellor Joel Klein, one student said Sangiorgi passed behind her in a narrow passage and “intentionally,” she believed, rubbed the front of his body against her backside. Two other students told SCI that Sangiorgi had touched or rubbed against them.

The principal at the time merely slapped Sangiorgi with a “letter of reprimand,” the DOE said. Sangiorgi stayed another eight years until the second probe.

In the 2016 report, one student said Sangiorgi played with the zipper on her dress, put his fingers up her sleeve and twirled her locks, saying, “I wish my girlfriend had hair like you.”

Thomas Sangiorgio
Thomas Sangiorgi was the target of two probes, in 2008 and 2016.

The report, sent to then-Chancellor Carmen Fariña, said two students told probers that the teacher raved about their appearance at the prom – telling one she “looked like a woman” –  and asked them for photos.

“Student A” said the teacher once massaged her neck, using his thumb “in a circular fashion.” She “described feeling sick when Sangiorgi touched her.” In another incident, she said Sangiorgi told her the unbuttoned cardigan sweater worn over a shirt was too loose for the chemistry lab. He then “physically removed the sweater from Student A’s body.”  He stood so close “she could smell the coffee and cigarettes on his breath and it made her want to vomit.”

“Student C” told SCI that Sangiorgi “touched her breast using his index finger” five to 10 times from 2015 to 2016, and “touched her thigh just above her knee” other times as she sat on a desk, the report said.

Sangiorgi also commented to a girl on Facebook, “I know you have a dark side,” and “I’ll try not to excite you too much,” the report said.

The teacher declined to speak with SCI investigators, and did not respond to The Post’s messages. 

In another case, physics teacher Edward Gruszecki posted disturbing photos on Facebook – where some of his students were “friends” – showing self-inflicted cuts on his face, torso and arms, the SCI said in a 2015 report to then-Chancellor Fariña.

Edward Gruszecki
Edward Gruszecki was terminated by the DOE in 2014.
Leanne Gonzalez

“In addition to the photo showing ‘DEAD’ carved on Gruszecki’s chest, another showed cuts spelling out ‘WHY,’” said the report sent to then-Chancellor Fariña. Some students became alarmed and alerted school staff. In one posting, Gruszecki wrote that he was not suicidal.

A former student, now 26, told The Post she developed a highly emotional and wrenching personal relationship with Gruszecki, exchanged intimate emails with the married instructor, and viewed the photos. “I know a bunch of students saw the Facebook pictures,” she said. “He did it for attention, to make others feel bad for him, for sympathy.”

Gruszecki, now 51, displayed another photo showing what appeared to be blood smeared on his mouth in a creepy “Joker” grin. Sources told The Post he dressed up as the fictional villain in a school production and at Halloween. The teacher also posted an invitation to a local bar with free drinks “if you’re underaged,” the SCI found.

The DOE quickly terminated Gruszecki in 2014, officials said. Untenured, he was not entitled to a disciplinary trial. He failed to respond to investigators in January 2015, the SCI said, and did not return The Post’s messages.

 Edward Gruszecki
Gruszecki dressed up as the Joker in a school production and at Halloween.

Both Gruszecki and Sangiorgi are still licensed to teach in New York, a state Education Department website shows.

“This conduct was completely unacceptable and the DOE took action to ensure these former employees could no longer work in our schools ever again,” said spokeswoman Katie O’Hanlon.

Among reforms, she added, a Chancellor’s regulation amended in 2019 forbids any DOE employee to “create a hostile school environment for a student by conduct and/or verbal or written acts.”


Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death




Sports world reacts to John Madden’s death

Legendary NFL coach and broadcaster John Madden died Tuesday morning at 85, the NFL announced. News of the football icon’s passing hit Twitter on Tuesday evening, and athletes, coaches and broadcasters from across the sports world reacted.

Fellow broadcasting legend Dick Vitale, who is currently battling cancer, called Madden “the greatest analyst of all time of any sport” in his Twitter tribute.

Former Yankees pitcher and notable Raiders fan CC Sabathia said “your legacy will live forever.” Madden coached the then-Oakland Raiders from 1969-78, a couple of years before Sabathia, a Vallejo, California native, was born. Lakers star LeBron James had similar words about Madden’s lasting legacy, adding an infinity emoji.

Former tennis star and social justice activist Billie Jean King recalled meeting Madden as a “privilege.”

Radio voice of the Rangers Kenny Albert, a five-sport broadcaster who’s been with FOX Sports since its inception in 1994, shared a photo circa 26 years ago to remember Madden.

ESPN’s Bomani Jones took a bit of a shot at current color commentators, noting that Madden “set an unreachable standard.”

Frank Caliendo, who’s made a career out of impersonations, including one for Madden, said he was surprised how emotional he felt.

Several football players, and others, including Saints running back Mark Ingram II and former Cowboys receiver Dez Bryant, credited Madden with being part of the reason why they love football.

Rams wide receiver and NFL MVP contender Cooper Kupp quote the late coach in his tribute: “The road to Easy Street goes through the sewer.”

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Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence




Miles McBride’s Knicks role will lessen with Kemba Walker’s resurgence

MINNEAPOLIS — The Knicks got back another body in rookie point guard Miles McBride, who was cleared from protocols Tuesday and rejoined the team in Minnesota.

But there is no longer any hype for the rookie’s return. Kemba Walker is back as the starting point guard and coming off winning Eastern Conference Player of the Week honors with four standout games, including his Christmas Day spectacular. The Knicks have gone 2-2 since Walker regained the starting job.

“It’s great,’’ coach Tom Thibodeau said. “He had a great week. He’s playing great basketball. The team winning helps him get recognized and he was a big part of driving that winning. It’s great for the team.’’

McBride was also spectacular in his last outing before getting COVID-19, when he played the entire second half Dec. 16 in Houston and seemingly earned a spot in the rotation. In fact, McBride had strung together two decent outings before he was ruled out. But things have changed since his emergence and McBride is likely back to being a bit player.

Without a practice, McBride wasn’t even expected to see time when the Knicks faced the Timberwolves to kick off a four-game road trip.

Miles McBride
NBAE via Getty Images

Of course, with Walker’s arthritic knee, anything is possible. The Knicks play Detroit on Wednesday in a back-to-back, so it’s uncertain whether Walker will complete both contests. In addition, Immanuel Quickley is out of COVID-19 protocols but Thibodeau wasn’t sure he was ready for meaningful minutes.

That left Walker against the depleted Timberwolves, who were missing their three top players (Anthony Edwards, Karl-Anthony Towns, D’Angelo Russell), all because of COVID-19 .

Kemba Walker
Kemba Walker

When McBride got sidelined by the virus and Derrick Rose needed ankle surgery, Walker was resurrected by Thibodeau and it’s been a stunning comeback story.

Though Thibodeau has clear reservations about Walker based on his nine-game banishment due to his defensive malaise as an undersized point guard, he admitted after the Christmas Day triple-double against Atlanta that Walker is playing “much more aggressive.”

Walker’s triple-double that featured 10 points, 12 assists and 10 rebounds was a lot different than his prior outing, when he scored 44 points against Washington.

“I thought his passing was terrific,’’ Thibodeau said before the Knicks resumed their schedule.

“Kemba had control of the game. The game tells you what to do. That’s what I loved about the way he played. I don’t think he forced anything. They puts size on him and were aggressive in their pick-and-roll coverage. He didn’t fight it. He attacked pressure the way you like to attack pressure. You don’t fight pressure with pressure. Don’t try to split it. Get rid of it, go to the backside. Let the game tell you what to do.’’

The Knicks coach is finally seeing all the elements of what Walker can do. Before his demotion, Walker was nothing more than a no-defense, 3-point shooter whose plus-minus was an abysmal minus-122.

Thibodeau was also concerned about his durability in sitting out two of the three back-to-back sets. The last load management game in Atlanta in late November triggered Thibodeau’s decision.

But now it’s only superlatives from Thibodeau in judging the last four games.

“Sometimes it’s going to be his shooting, sometimes it’s his penetration and getting in the paint to force a collapse and sometimes they’re being aggressive with their traps get rid of the ball quickly,’’ Thibodeau said. “The overall play, his rebounding. When your guards rebound, those are key to fast breaks. The more guard rebounding we get the better we can be. ‘’

The Knicks still have three players in protocols — centers Nerlens Noel and Jericho Sims and the newly infected Wayne Selden. Quickley and Kevin Knox were cleared on Christmas but were held out for conditioning.

No matter. The Knicks go as Kemba goes.

“He’s much more aggressive,’’ Thibodeau said. “That was the challenge. At the beginning of the year he and Evan were two new starters. Sometimes guys are trying to fit in. he’s being very aggressive which is the way we want him to play. Not deferring at all. When he and Julius [Randle] are aggressive like that our team is different.’’

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Bar raises dramatically for Zach Wilson in matchup with Tom Brady, Buccaneers




Zach Wilson and Tom Brady

When Zach Wilson stares across the MetLife Stadium field at the opposite sideline this Sunday, it won’t be Trevor Lawrence he’ll be looking at as his game-day counterpart.

Lawrence, drafted by Jacksonville one spot before the Jets selected Wilson at No. 2 overall last April, is a contemporary.

This Sunday at MetLife, the Jets rookie quarterback won’t be staring at a contemporary on the other sideline. He’ll be staring at the GOAT.

Tom Brady.

The bar raises dramatically for Wilson and the Jets, who are coming off of their feel-good, get-well win over the woeful Jaguars and Lawrence this past Sunday.

Brady and Buccaneers, who are 11-4, NFC South division champions and seeking to repeat as Super Bowl champions, play the Jets, who are 4-11 and seeking more signs of development from their rookie quarterback.

To say this is a step up in competition for Wilson and the Jets going from Lawrence and the Jags to Brady and the Bucs is as obvious as pointing out that Tampa Bay receiver Antonio Brown has had a few off-the-field incidents during his otherwise stellar NFL career.

There hasn’t been a lot to keep the interest of the Jets fan this season — other than watching Wilson’s development. That took an unfortunate pause for the four games Wilson missed with a knee injury, but he’s been back for five games and has looked like a better quarterback, throwing only two interceptions in those games (none in the last three) since returning from his injury.

The problem, though, is that Wilson hasn’t been producing enough touchdowns, throwing for three of them and rushing for four others in the past five games.

Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
Zach Wilson and Tom Brady
N.Y. Post: Charles Wenzelberg; AP

Baby steps, though.

Wilson was the better quarterback this past Sunday when matched up with Lawrence, who threw for more yards than Wilson did, but Wilson ran for 91 yards, including his electric 52-yard scoring jaunt, and made key throws when he needed them.

Wilson will not win Sunday’s game against Brady and the Bucs throwing for the 102 yards he had against the Jaguars. He and the Jets will need more.

Consider this: Brady enters the game having thrown 37 TD passes and for 4,580 yards this season and averages a league-high 305.2 passing yards per game.

Then this: The Buccaneers average 29.5 points per game this season, second most in the NFL.

And this: Wilson doesn’t have a single 300-yard passing game, averages 183 passing yards per game and has thrown seven TD passes in 11 games.

Seven TD passes is a pedestrian two-game total for Brady.

Wilson and the Jets are playing with house money anyway in what always has been a developmental season, so Sunday against Brady should, at its very least, be a great measuring-stick learning experience for Wilson, who’s studied Brady on tape.

Wilson revealed this month that he watched film of Brady before the Jets played the Eagles on Dec. 5 in an effort to pick up tips on how Brady worked against the Eagles defense when he played them earlier in the season.

“I thought it was really cool to see kind of how he went through his whole process, how he navigated the pocket, different things like that,” Wilson said at the time.

On Sunday, Wilson gets to see that process up close as Brady tries to dissect a Jets defense that has yielded 29.9 points per game this season, the most in the NFL.

That puts an added onus on Wilson to produce on the other side of the ball, because he knows Brady is going to get his. Wilson will likely need to produce four TDs — any way he can — for the Jets to simply remain competitive with the Super Bowl champs.

That’s a lot to ask of a 22-year-old kid who’s produced just 11 TDs in his 11 starts, up against Brady, who’s thrown 618 TD passes and for 83,784 yards in his remarkable career.

It, too, is a lot to ask playing against an aggressive Tampa Bay defense that’s ranked No. 9 in the NFL in points allowed (20.8 per game) and is led by former Jets head coach Todd Bowles, who’d surely like to send a holiday message to his former employer.

If you don’t think Bowles will be blitzing the bejesus out of Wilson, then you probably think Antonio Brown is a living saint.

The good news for the Jets is that Wilson has shown incremental improvements, particularly when it comes to his decision-making and quicker releases on his throws.

“He’s coming along, he’s getting more comfortable, he’s calmer back there,’’ Jets coach Robert Saleh said Monday. “He’s in a great headspace and it’s going to be fun to watch him grow, continue to grow.’’

A big part of that growth will take place this Sunday as he watches the GOAT operate from the opposite sideline at MetLife.

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