|REEL FACE:||REAL FACE:|
Born: October 12, 1968
Sydney, New South Wales, Australia
Born: November 1946
Born: November 19, 1959
Dayton, Ohio, USA
Born: December 21, 1957
Queens, New York City, New York, USA
Born: July 1951
Renamed Bob Spicer in the Movie
Born: June 20, 1995
Born: April 4, 1986
Birthplace: New York, USA
Renamed Rachel Kellog in the Movie
Yes. During Superintendent Frank A. Tassone's 12-year long reign, Long Island's Roslyn School District, which was home to approximately 3,300 students, had become one of the top-ranked districts in the country, at least according to The Wall Street Journal in 1999, who put it in sixth place. The Bad Education true story confirms that not only did the affluent district see a rise in its ranking, housing prices went up too as a result, which pleased residents. Tassone, who is portrayed by Hugh Jackman in the HBO movie, was well-liked. He ate lunch with high school students on a regular basis and even led a book club for parents in the district.
In 2006, Superintendent Frank A. Tassone (portrayed by Hugh Jackman) and the assistant superintendent for business, Pamela Gluckin (Allison Janney), were sent to prison for their roles in an embezzlement scheme that funneled $11.2 million from the Roslyn School District. They were two of six people who pled guilty in connection to the scheme. Four were district employees, including Pamela Gluckin's niece, Debra Rigano, who was a business clerk for the school district. It is believed that Frank Tassone personally siphoned $2.4 million from the district and Pamela Gluckin admitted to stealing $4.3 million herself. The office of state Comptroller Alan Hevesi alleged that over 25 school officials, as well as their families and friends, benefited from the embezzlement scheme, which lasted more than a decade (AP News). They are listed below.
A Bad Education HBO fact check confirms that one of the primary ways they stole from the district was by keeping a fake set of books and recording seemingly standard payments to businesses for school supplies and services, sending the money instead to family and friends. As the money dwindled, their requests for budget increases were approved by the school board, largely because of the students' outstanding test scores. The district was nationally ranked, had a 95% graduation rate, and parents were happy that their kids were getting into competitive colleges, including Ivy League schools. In turn, their property values had also increased. Yet, like in the movie, Roslyn High's roof leaked, and it should have been more obvious to the community as a whole that something wasn't right.
Yes, but in answering the question, "How accurate is Bad Education?" we discovered that the student's name was changed from Rebekah Rombom to Rachel Kellog for the movie, and actress Geraldine Viswanathan's character in the film is only partially based on Rombom (pictured below). In the movie, she sets out to write an article about a skywalk the school is planning to have built, telling Superintendent Frank Tassone (Hugh Jackman) that it's just a puff piece. Tassone tells her, "It's only a puff piece if you let it be a puff piece," which prompts her to dig deeper, eventually discovering the embezzlement story.
The real Roslyn High School journalist, Rebekah Rombom, was co-editor of the school's newspaper, the Hilltop Beacon. She was a senior in March 2004 when she wrote and published a story about the assistant superintendent for business, Pamela Gluckin, who had been quietly fired by the school board for embezzling $250,000 from the district (it was later discovered Gluckin likely stole more than $4.6 million). Rombom had been tipped off to the story and then attended a school board meeting where she gathered more information.
"I did some interviews in the process," Rombom told The New York Times. "[The movie character] Rachel does a little more investigative reporting than I did. I had tried to do a Freedom of Information Act request to dig a little bit deeper on some of the documents that I thought revealed more detail about what was going on, but I couldn't figure out how to do it in time, so I reported the facts that I had from interviews that I was able to do before we published."
Rombom's article meant that the Hilltop Beacon was the first media outlet to report on the district's embezzlement scandal, which would eventually also lead to the convictions of Superintendent Frank Tassone and four others.
In studying the Bad Education fact vs. fiction, we discovered that Frank Tassone was more remorseful at his real-life sentencing. He tearfully apologized for stealing the money. According to authorities, the former Roslyn School District Superintendent stole in excess of $2.2 million himself, which took him 20 years to repay (a separate state audit put the number at $2.4 million). "I think he should serve the maximum sentence," said former Roslyn School Board President William Costigan at the time, who partially inspired Ray Romano's character in the HBO movie. "We have become the poster boys for school scandals" (The Boston Globe).
In September 2006, Pamela Gluckin pled guilty to first-degree grand larceny and spent close to five years in prison. Frank Tassone pled guilty to both first-degree and second-degree grand larceny and spent approximately three years and four months behind bars, becoming a free man in February 2010 at age 63. To the ire of people in the Roslyn community, Tassone was released eight months and four days prior to his minimum sentence of four years. He had been facing a maximum of 12 years in prison. -Newsday
Unbelievably, yes, he continues to receive an annual state pension of a whopping $173,495.04 per year, as he did while in prison, which is essentially being paid by the taxpayers he stole from (to their disgust). The shocking number is a reflection of the control that unions have over districts. Not only do bad teachers stay employed, employees who steal millions from a district are still guaranteed lucrative pensions. In fact, all of the employees who were caught up in the embezzlement scheme receive pensions, including Pamela Gluckin who receives $54,998 annually. Gluckin gives half of her pension to the Roslyn School District in an effort to pay back what she stole.