No one mentioned Allison Risoli by name during Tuesday’s Peekskill School board meeting.
They didn’t have to. The crying gave her away.
A group of four dozen people made up of students, parents and teachers attended the meeting in support of Risoli, a tenured high school social studies teacher.
Risoli, who has taught in the district for 22 years, was placed on administrative leave about a month ago after allegations surfaced that she altered state Regents exam scores for students. The allegations came shortly after the district announced an unrelated investigation into course credits that were improperly given to some students in the high school.
“It’s a strain,” Risoli said as she fought back tears. “It’s been difficult, but I’ve had a great deal of support from my colleagues, from my students and from parents. That support keeps me going.”
An earlier version of Tuesday night’s meeting agenda had a resolution stating that the district has probable cause to institute disciplinary charges against Risoli and that she will be dismissed if she is found guilty of the charges. That resolution was taken off the agenda when the meeting began.
School officials did not name Risoli directly and members of the public where asked not to mention and staff members by names when they gave their public comments.
Risoli, who has retained an attorney, said that she is limited in what she is able to say Tuesday and declined to answer any direct questions regarding the allegations.
Risoli said her next step is contingent on whether or not district tries to have her removed.
“If the board makes that decision, then there’s a hearing process and that will decide if I’m innocent or guilty,” Risoli said. “It’s kind of like a trial, but it’s held in front of an arbitrator.”
A number of people addressed the school board and were frustrated with the lack of answers that were given Tuesday.
“The board can’t talk about legal issues,” Joseph Urbanowicz, president of the school board, said Tuesday. “It’s not that we wouldn’t like to say something. We can’t.”
Correction: Risoli did not teach the students whose Regents test scores were allegedly altered.