The principal of Columbia Secondary School, who was already on probation after a sixth grade student drowned during a class trip to the beach (a trip that parents didn't give permission for, at a beach where lifeguards were not on duty), was removed yesterday after a Department of Education investigation found that he "used a school employee, with whom he later became romantically involved, as a baby-sitter, and allowed her to live rent-free in his apartment." The DOE said, "Looking at the full history of [Dr. Jose Maldonado-Rivera]'s conduct, we have determined that his repeated failures in judgment make it inappropriate for him to continue as principal."

Apparently Maldonado-Rivera enlisted parent coordinate Monica Marin-Reyes to baby-sit his son and also watch him during summer trips to Puerto Rico. He also allowed her to live in his apartment, rent-free, for many months (previous tenants paid $700-1000/month). The pair said he didn't pay her for the baby-sitting and claim their relationship only began when she left the school. Maldonado-Rivera adds that he only allowed Marin-Reyes to live at his home rent-free because she was having financial issues, "I misread the rule book for the [Education Department] on this. I'm new to the public sector, and this constituted a stupid mistake on my part... This is an extreme penalty. These mistakes were made out of ignorance. No one's accusing me of stealing money from the school or harming a child."

Maldonado-Rivera also spoke of 12-year-old Nicole Suriel's drowning death. He told the NY Times it was "a horrible tragedy, but it is not clear to me that my conduct was causally related to the tragedy," but admitted, "I failed to check my assistant principal’s permission slips... Look at my résumé. I am a very successful leader and principal." Some of his supporters claim the investigation was a witch hunt, but the Times points to high turnover among the school's teachers.