DOE network leader fined $7,500 for ethics violations
By Sarina Trangle
The city’s Conflicts of Interest Board fined Robert Cohen, who leads a school network that includes six area schools, for using his public position to benefit a private rival.
Mr. Cohen, the Children First Network 104 Leader, admitted to two ethics violations and agreed to pay a $7,500 fine in a disposition released Jan. 23.
CFN 104 is among about 60 school support networks run by the Department of Education. Every city school is required to join a network, or cohort of schools, that collaborate with a team of educators to offer one another support. Schools may opt to join DOE networks or those run by outside organizations.
In March 2012, Mr. Cohen told the principals of CFN 104 schools that he planed to retire from the DOE and had signed a contract with the Center for Educational Innovation — Public Education Association, a non-profit that works with more than 220 city schools.
All of the approximately 30 schools in Children First Network 104, including PS 7 in Kingsbridge, PS 24 in Spuyten Duyvil, the Sheila Mencher Van Cortlandt School, PS/MS 95, the David A. Stein Riverdale/Kingsbridge Academy, MS/HS 141, Robert J. Christen, PS 81, and IN-Tech Academy, MS/HS 368, then applied to CEI-PEA, according to the disposition.
Eighteen weren’t permitted to join Fordham’s network. Mr. Cohen then sent an e-mail to schools Chancellor Dennis Walcott urging the DOE to allow the schools that had joined CEI-PEA to switch back to CFN 104, according to the document.
Mr. Cohen wound up staying at the DOE.
He did not return calls for comment. According to the disposition, Mr. Cohen “was unaware” that his March announcement would inspire several schools to switch networks.
According to the disposition, he admitted to having had “deliberately ignored the subtext of my remarks to principals in March 2012, with its purport that they elect to purchase the support services of CEI-PEA instead of CFN 104 …”
Schools typically pay between $25,000 and $60,000 annually to join a network, which assists with human relations, legal needs, professional development, special education, guidance counseling and other needs.
Keywordsconflicts of interest board, robert cohen, department of education, DOE, fine, sarina trangle