Bronx Coach Of Top-Ranked Chess Team Under Investigation
Some Bronx school kids who are top-ranked chess players will be heading to a national tournament in Texas this week, but their longtime coach won't be with them. It turns out he is under investigation by school officials and as Education reporter Michael Meenan explains, that has parents crying foul.
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On Thursday, some Bronx parents were told their top ranked chess playing kids from P.S. 70 would not be heading to a national tournament in Texas this Thursday.
But on Monday, school officials said the trip is back on but the coach Jonathan Alejandro won’t be going because he's under investigation.
He said that's news to him.
"As far as I know, I know nothing about any allegations,” said Alejandro. “I just know that there’s been about four hurdles to not allow us to go on this trip."
Hurdles like lack of money. The department of education said Principal Kerry Castellano got the needed sixteen thousand dollars in the nick of time from a private donor on Monday.
School officials say an investigation of Alejandro started in mid-November — about the time earlier checks to pay for the trip were botched up by the school, said a chess player's grandmother.
"The donor, to my knowledge, offered the checks early on in November,” said Wanda Greene, the grandparent of a P.S. 70 student. “They were here. Through procrastination they weren’t deposited the way they were supposed to be."
Alejandro, a veteran teacher, and union leader at P.S. 70, denies any wrongdoing. He blamed the controversy to friction he said he has with Castellano. She declined an interview.
One chess mom said it's no secret the two don't get along.
"If it's something personal between them, like we told them, let them work it out as adults and professionals because they're not acting like professionals here,” said P.S. 70 parent Annette Rodriguez.
Speaking with parents of kids on the chess team, one thing's clear: Mr. Alejandro has their support and these parents say the charges against him are probably bogus.
"I have no problems with Mr. Alejandro. None whatsoever,” said P.S. 70 parent Evelyn Rosa.
One local businessman made up T-shirts featuring a newspaper article about the controversy. He said Alejandro is being framed.
"It’s a political move. The man's a good man,” said Muhammad Abdurraheem.
The DOE and the Department of Investigations refused to comment on specifics in the investigation.
The DOE also said in a statement that the new private money was enough “to send the team and a Chess-In-Schools director along with an assistant principal. We wish them the best of luck in checkmating their opponents."
Meaning Alejandro won’t be with P.S. 70 if it extends its winning chess streak.
— Michael Meenan