NFA’s Valedictorian Status Has Been Challenged

NEWBURGH – Graduating Newburgh Free Academy senior Matthew Stridiron was named valedictorian and then a week later, demoted to salutatorian until his father, school board member Darren Stridiron challenged that and the district then named his son and another graduate as co-valedictorians.

Stridiron has filed a formal appeal with the state education commissioner seeking the valedictorian status for his son.

In legal papers filed with the state, Stridiron alleged “The rescinding and subsequent diluting of the designation to M.S. [his son Matthew] was based on (1) an arbitrary and capricious criteria change that was made after the designation was awarded, and (2) in retaliation against M.S.’s father, Petitioner Darren Stridiron, who was a whistleblower against the district.”

The complaint contends “This intentional act by the [Newburgh Enlarged City School District], faculty, and certain members of the Board of Education acting outside of their duly elected roles, caused the Petitioner, M.S., and his family to suffer irreparable harm and has skewed their reputation in the community.”

Stridiron’s appeal maintains the school district “changing the criteria at the last minute, seven days after the Valedictorian designation was made is inconsistent with the established criteria at the school. The Petitioner’s position was hurt because of arbitrary changes made after the decision had been made and widely announced.”

The district maintains it changed its decision based on factoring in third-quarter grades. But, Stridiron’s appeal includes an email he sent to Christine Harrold, an NFA guidance counseling, where he asked, “Does third quarter contribute to class rank?” Her response was, “Nope. It is calculated only by Final course grades.”

Stridiron’s appeal is asking the education department for a stay pending the decision of the merits of the appeal, reverting Matthew Stridiron’s status as stated in the May 13, 2019 letter as sole valedictorian; and for permanent relief naming Matthew Stridiron as the 2019 NFA sole valedictorian.

Among the exhibits included in Stridiron’s appeal are a May 13 letter from the NFA co-principals announcing their son is the valedictorian and a May 21 letter stating he would be the co-valedictorian. Classmate Martin Peticco is the other graduate to be co-valedictorian after the district made an about face.

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