2015-12-09 / Front Page

Bryant HS ‘Whistleblower’ Teach Vindicated

By Liz Goff

An ousted Bryant High School phys ed teacher who said he was targeted by school authorities for blowing the whistle on missing student funds, grade-changing and other issues as the Astoria school has been awarded a six-figure settlement from the city.

Teacher Peter Maliarakis, 37, filed a federal lawsuit in 2014 alleging his role as a “whistleblower” resulted in retaliation by school authorities, who he said tried to make an example of him for speaking out on issues at the troubled school.

Maliarakis claimed in the lawsuit that school administrators tried to have his teacher’s license revoked after he went public with grade-fixing charges and their failure to account for approximately $195,000 in missing funds collected from students to support school activities.

Maliarakis, who is currently teaching at city schools in the Bronx, said he was also targeted for complaining about unsanitary conditions in a fitness room at the Bryant. Records show that Maliarakis filed a complaint with the State Public Employee Health Bureau in 2011, claiming filthy conditions in the fitness room created such a stench that students “put their shirts over their noses” when they entered the room.

The charges filed against Maliarakis included an allegation that he refused to bring one of his classes into the fitness room in September 2013.

Maliarakis was slapped with 12 charges of insubordination and incompetence and was ordered o sit a student desk in the main office at the school after he sent letters to the city Department of Investigation (DOI) and the Department of Education (DOE) demanding answers about the missing student funds.

Parents said the money came from items purchased at the Bryant Student Union store, where students buy food, drinks, gym uniforms and other “authentic” school gear. The funds were earmarked to pay for phys ed equipment, repairs to the school gymnasium and school activities, parents said.

Maliarakis said when a year went by without a response to his letters, he reached out to the office of the Regional Superintendent for help “Still, no one came up with any answers,” he said.

Maliarakis filed a Freedom of Informaion request in 2013, demanding an accounting of the missing Student Union funds. DOE officials responded, saying they were unable to find receipts for student purchases at the school store from 2011 to 2013 – and had only found several receipts from 2014. A DOE spokesperson said the agency is investigating the matter to determine exactly what happened to the money.

Maliarakis went public again last year, revealing an alleged affair between a Bryant assistant principal and a female student on a Facebook page he created dubbed, “Things You Never Knew About Bryant High School.”

Maliarakis said the student reached out to him through a series of text messages where she told him about the alleged affair between herself and Bryant assistant principal Pelagin Papoutsis.

Papoutsis, 36, was booted from her job just days before the school opened in 2015, after the former student told her mother about the alleged affair, parent sources said. Maliarakis said the student told him that Bryant principal, Namita Dwarka, was aware of the relationship and did nothing to stop it.

Maliarakis, who is dubbed the “True Voice of Bryant High School” by many parents, said he is relieved that his name has been cleared. “I feel completely exonerated,” Maliarakis said.

A parent spokesperson, speaking on the condition of anonymity, told the Gazette this week that parents intend to follow up on their demand for answers on the missing Bryant student funds.

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