The True Story Behind the $11.2 Million School Scandal Inspiring HBO's Bad Education
Hugh Jackman is swapping out his Wolverine claws and P.T. Barnum top hat to portray charming school superintendent Frank Tassone, HBO's latest scammer in Bad Education. Between McMillions and The Inventor, the network has been a leader in scam documentaries. It's no stranger to a great dramatization either. Based on a real school scandal, Bad Education features Jackman, Allison Janney, Ray Romano, and more. It follows the true story of the $11.2 million embezzlement scandal in Long Island's Roslyn district, where writer Mike Makowsky was a middle school student the time of Tassone's 2004 arrest for grand larceny. Suffice to say, Tassone didn't execute his scam with flying colors — here's how his scheme came crashing down.
Who Was Frank Tassone?
Beginning in 1992, Tassone served as superintendent at Roslyn, Long Island in one of the most renowned school districts in suburban New York. He was not merely amicable but well-loved by students, staff, and parents. He reportedly made a point to meet with new students and often dined with high schoolers. Tassone even facilitated a book club for district parents. And most importantly, students produced great test scores and got into competitive colleges under his reign. The community trusted him.
How Did Tassone Get Caught?
Tassone's scheme was a slow burn, one that lasted over his 12 years as superintendent. But people began to piece together that Tassone's life was simply too extravagant, even for a well-paid school administrator. Tassone took luxurious vacations and gambling trips. He also owned a ritzy apartment and drove a Mercedes. He served lobster tails at luncheons and wore expensive suits. As Tassone flaunted his wealth, school problems remained the same. Budget requests increased, but Roslyn High's roof continued to leak.
His partner-in-crime was Pam Gluckin (Allison Janney), his assistant superintendent for business who had been discovered stealing $250,000 from the school district. When she was caught in 2002, he asked for her punishment to be lenient. Gluckin resigned on her own after Tassone argued that she would still make $160,000 a year as a tenured administrator while the school waited for the case to go to court. After she left without the money, he could cover his own tracks.
Together, they had kept a fake set of books where they recorded ostensibly normal payments to vendors for school supplies and services, sending that money instead to friends and family. Prosecutors later linked Tassone to $2.2 million, Gluckin to $4 million, and others to $1 million, but they couldn't account for the other $4 million.
What Happened to Tassone?
Once an upstanding member of the school community, Tassone found his private life the stuff of salacious gossip upon his scandal. Though Tassone said that he was a widower, people discovered that he was actually in a domestic partnership with a man who was in on the scheme.
In 2006, Tassone was sentenced to four to 12 years in prison. In 2010, he was released eight months early on good behavior. While still in prison, he continued receiving his New York State pension of $173,495.
Bad Education premieres on HBO on April 25.