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Substitute Teacher Banned for Selling Donated Books on eBay

By Serena Solomon | January 23, 2013 8:31am

EAST VILLAGE — A substitute teacher at an East Village junior high school stole donated books bound for Africa and sold them on eBay, city investigators have found.

Sean Nguyen, who worked at the East Side Community School on East 12th Street between Avenues A and B, has been suspended from teaching after admitting to investigators that he hawked books — including "Diary of a Wimpy Kid" and "Girl with the Dragon Tattoo" — that were collected during a book drive for Africa, according to a report from the the Special Commissioner of Investigations for the NYC School District.

Nguyen was hired at a rate of $25 an hour to substitute for absent teachers and to tend to the school's book inventory. But for more than six months, between May and December of 2011, he snatched books from the inventory and put them up for sale on two of his eBay accounts, investigators found.

When interviewed by the DOE, Nguyen claimed that despite the books being recent titles, "he was under the impression that these books were being discarded" and that he was authorized to take any books that were being thrown out, according to the report.

He said the books, including "Moneyball" and "Ann Frank: The Diary of a Young Girl," were not deemed appropriate for the book drive to Africa, according to the report. In the investigation, Nguyen also admitted to taking books that had been intended for the Principal's Book Club program at the school.

Nguyen could not be reached for comment.

The principal of the sixth through 12th grade school, Mark Federman, said he was shocked and saddened by the incident but declined to comment further.

Federman was sent a letter of reprimand from the DOE following the conclusion of the investigation, according to Connie Pankratz, a Department of Education spokeswoman.

That same investigation also found that another teacher, William "Billy" Rohan, who was hired to teach skateboarding to students at the East Side Community School, had a criminal history of trespassing and attempted car theft. 

In August of 2011, the school's principal learned of Rohan's criminal background and confronted him, but "allowed Rohan to continue with the skateboard program," the investigation found.

Rohan, who also made $25 an hour, was fired from the program in January 2012, the report stated.

Rohan, 31, told DNAinfo.com New York that he received a misdemeanor for trespassing and attempted car theft about six years ago. He said he was slapped with a three-year probation order.

"I made mistakes when I was younger, and I didn't intend to make it public," said Rohan, who now lives in Florida. 

Rohan said he never dealt directly with the school in terms of his employment but was hired to teach classes by Open Road, a nonprofit skateboard advocacy group that revamped Open Road Park, a once-vacant lot next door to the school.

The troubled skate park has been closed on numerous occasions due to illegal activities.

The school's assistant principal, Tom Mullen, said school leaders were under the impression that Open Road had already screened its own employees who were working with students. 

"When we found out he wasn't screened," Mullen said, referring to Rohan, "we let him go."

The director of Open Road, Paula Hewitt Amram, said Rohan was never a staff member of the nonprofit but was hired by East Side Community School for their school skate program.

"He was never an employee with Open Road. Instead, Billy solicited donations directly from companies for events we ran together with schools and the Parks Department," she wrote in an email.

Mullen said Rohan never taught students without supervision.

"No student was ever mistreated. He was a good helper with the class, and it was a very successful program," said Mullen.

The school has continued its skateboarding program with a state-licensed teacher, he said.