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Exclusive: Frank Tassone, the true story behind HBO's "Bad Education”

04/21/20

Full Transcript

(Z-61058V) CM1012 FRANK TASSONE PT. 1

 

COACH MIKE BAYER: Welcome to the “Coach Mike Podcast”. I have quite a story for you today, well look, we’ve all done things in the past we’ve regretted. Things we wish we can take back that has caused us tremendous shame and guilt. Things that have haunted us or ‘caused us to cringe at the very notion of our transgression. Now imagine this, you’ve committed a crime, pay your dues to society, perhaps even serve time in prison, but what if life just wouldn’t let you forget? What if the unthinkable happened and twenty years later, Hollywood decided to make a film about you, and your sin, and cast A-list stars to showcase your crime and even used your name. That is exactly what happened to Frank Tossone. A blue collared kid from the Bronx who made good until one fateful day he would make a horrible mistake and he would live with for the rest of his life. On April 25th, “HBO” will premiere “Bad Education” starring award-winning actors: Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney. Jackman plays beloved school superintendent, Frank Tossone, who is involved in one of the biggest school scandals in Long Island history. Today, years after Frank Tossone walked free from jail, he will from the first time share this complex tale of arrogance, greed, and ultimately, shame. We will meet a man who now lives for one thing and one thing only, redemption. Frank, welcome to the “Coach Mike” podcast. So how are you doing?

 

FRANK TOSSONE: I’m nervous and um, very upset since everything happened from the very beginning and now with the film coming out. I finally thought I was past it, because I, you know, made full restitution and I served my time in prison, and then my—when I found out, after I’ve not been consulted, when I found out that a film was coming out, it upset me more.

MIKE: Maybe just to help me understand your, your background right?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: You’re seventy, you’re seventy-three years old.

FRANK: I am.

MIKE: So it may take a lot of time to get to know all—what’s happened all through the years, but in terms of like, when you were younger, talk to me about what did life look like and how did you end up working in education?

FRANK: Um, my family is a blue-collar family um, in area of the Bronx. Pelham Bay, Pelham Bay Bronx. I was an altar boy for many years in fact I almost became a priest.

MIKE: Wow.

FRANK: My elder sister was my model; she was a teacher for thirty-five years. My mother and father believed in education, so we all were educated. I um, went to Iona College.

MIKE: In New York, that’s upstate right?

FRANK: That was in Westchester County. I actually have a (UNINTELLIGIBLE) scholarship and so I went to Catholic Elementary and Catholic High School so the only colleges that were really presented to us at the time were Catholic colleges and I, and I received an outstanding liberal arts education at Iona College. And when I graduated um—well actually, let me um, say that in my senior year, uh, I met my wife. She was beautiful, lovely, and when I asked her to marry me because I knew then, I know who I wanna be at first, when I asked her to marry me, she said I have something to tell you, I have Hodgkin’s disease.

MIKE: Let me rewind that a little quick. You grew up in a family; education was important; you were an alter boy; you went to—I went to Catholic high school too and then I went to Fordham University, which is a Jesuit school up in the Bronx

FRANK: Right, yes.

MIKE: Which I dropped out of, but what was the moment you’ve decided you did not want to pursue being a priest? And why?

FRANK: It really was when I met my wife, because we were both teaching and she was so charming, so lovely, so kind. And so, I knew at that point that I really wanted to marry and have a family. I loved, I loved children so growing up I had a very wonderful upbringing. My parents were very lovely—loving, uh they always supported us, they just were, were really wonderful and I had two sisters.

MIKE: Do you remember when you were growing up kind of what your biggest fears were?

FRANK: I think my biggest fear was not succeeding.

MIKE: And when you say not succeeding kind of this idea that like you wouldn’t make enough in your career or your life or?

FRANK: No it was always that I wanted to be the best, you know? I always wanted to excel and, and, and, and you know if I didn’t get a hundred that I was very upset, and my parents would say, well you if you did ninety-eight that’s still good.

MIKE: Hm.

FRANK: But that’s still bothered me because it wasn’t a hundred.

MIKE: How important was it for others to believe that you were the best?

FRANK: It wasn’t that important, actually. I just felt the necessity to be outstanding and to really do a wonderful job.

MIKE: And then you went through college and you—did you have a vision of I wanna be a teacher, I wanna run a school, I wanna run a anything during that period of time?

FRANK: Yes, um actually I became an English chairman after three years and it was a wonderful heterogenius uh, high school.

MIKE: Yeah.

FRANK: And I was senior class advisor um, year book advisor, senior class director. So it gives you an indication of how I was very much appreciated in that school district.

MIKE: And why did you love it so much?

FRANK: Well there’s a quote Willa Cather is one of my favorite writers and I used to have it in my office, “The best thing about teaching is that you’re learning all the time.” Even up until I left Rosalyn I was always—because I ran book groups in Rosalyn. I used to find that I learned so much from other people. Things that I had not seen in a novel or in a book. And so I just loved it, and I love it still to this day.

MIKE: And so your career kept advancing, right? It just…

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: …and all this and all of a sudden paint the picture for me of where your career ended up in terms of being the top of your accolades and like paint that picture for me right? So like, I’ll give you an example, so like I played basketball and in a certain point I was first team all over Orange County. Everyone thought I had it all together, you know was ranked top twenty-five in the country, you know, all of, all of that tell me like what you build, you worked so hard and then it ended up…

FRANK: In the garbage.

MIKE: …but before that.

FRANK: Before that after ten years, I wanted to be an assistant principle…

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: …and I applied for the position because I wanted to move up and the superintendent said to me at that time, and my wife had passed away in 1973. When he interviewed me, he said I have a question to ask you. There’s a rumor that you were seen in a gay bar, is that true? This was 1979.

MIKE: So your wife passes in 1973 to cancer.

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: And during that period of time, where was your—what was your career looking like in that?

FRANK: Was—it was stellar. She would work with me.

MIKE: But didn’t you have one of the top like school districts and…

FRANK: Oh yes. In, in Rosalyn we were one of the top ten in 1999 in the “Wall Street Journal”.

MIKE: Got it so but prior to that, you were just building, building and then on 1973 you and your wife—your wife passed.

FRANK: My wife passed.

MIKE: In 1979 there was a rumor that you were seen in a gay bar?

FRANK: Yes, that’s correct. And actually, what happened was um, I was lost after my wife died and I moved into an apartment close to my parents. All my friends were married; having children, you know I would go to films. I would do a lot of reading, but I always had an you know an interest. I used to be inquisitive about men and so believe it or not, in those day I took out a telephone book and looked up gentlemen’s bars and this was about six months after Joanne had passed away.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: When I went into the bar, I met my partner of forty-five years, Steven, and we hit it off immediately. And in any event, I was still you know, wanted to be more and more successful.

MIKE: So, let me, let me ask you so your wife passed and, and up until that point you started to become interested. How long were you interested in meeting men?

FRANK: I always, I always found both men and women attractive, but I used to find some men even more attractive.

MIKE: Do you think that that’s what was drawing you initially to becoming a priest like—

FRANK: No.

MIKE: Like me when I say that, when I say that meaning you would have a celibate life or was it really you were that fascinated with religion?

FRANK: I was very, very, very fascinated with religion and it had nothing to do with celibacy because I had a very fruitful marriage and uh, a loving marriage.

MIKE: Mm.

FRANK: And there was never an issues in terms of our sexual relationship.

MIKE: I’m wondering when you’re going to a gay bar in 1973 or four were you terrified?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: So walk me through the first time you went to a gay bar. Like what you’re—you’re like, I lived the straight lifestyle and I’m this successful guy.

FRANK: The first time I, I just went and sat in the bar and had a drink and talked to no one, and then it might have been the second or third time that I came into the bar, and for some reason I walked to the back of it, and there was Steven standing there. And he was drinking “Campari” and soda which I love and he loves. And I, and I said to him—my opening line was, you drink a “Campari” and soda? We just talked the whole night and the second time we met for dinner. I felt a lot of guilt as a cat—Roman Catholic.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: But I also said, this maybe who I really am. After a year and a half, Steven and I moved in together and we have been together now for forty-five years.

MIKE: Five years later, you’ve together for four or five years and then a rumor circulates that you’re…

FRANK: Gay.

MIKE: …And what came up for you? What feelings when you heard that?

FRANK: Superintendent started the interview by saying, I have to ask you something and it’s a very touchy situation. And I said, okay doctor so-and-so, and so we went through the whole interview and at the end, he asked me the question and I had omitted the truth.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: And he said well you know as a teacher, it’s one thing but as an administrator, is something different.

MIKE: So you were told because you are gay it was an inappropriate if you were in an administration role?

FRANK: That is correct, and so I was um, I did not get the job. I began to apply to other districts and a few weeks later I was hired as an assistant principle.

MIKE: And then, and then fast forward for me your—when did you end up at Rosalyn?

FRANK: I get a call from Colombia saying, we want you to apply for Rosalyn.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: They’re doing a national search and your first interview is at “LaGuardia Airport” and so I went to the first interview then I went for the second interview with the Board of Education and I began my career in Rosalyn in 1992.

MIKE: And you had a super lustrous big career at Rosalyn, you had a uh, a ton of success and it was one of the top school districts in the country, right? In terms of great?

FRANK: That’s correct. That’s correct.

MIKE: And it was families, it really changed this paradigm where suddenly people were looking at your school and saying we need to create more schools like this or more school districts like this, right?

FRANK: That is correct, I presented as a lot of national conferences.

MIKE: When did it all start to go wrong?

FRANK: It all went—started to go wrong for the last couple of years. It was such a major mistake and such a major error, but I had a school credit card and I would always give the business office a check for my personal expenses and the assistance who pretend that the business changed, she had been there and right there I noticed that my checks weren’t being cashed. And I said to her, why aren’t my checks being cashed? Because I didn’t have much on that credit card and she said because you know you work so hard, you give so much, you’re here twelve to fourteen hours a day. You know you really deserve it. And what I should of said was no, this is not going to work. I’m gonna have to go to the Board of Education and if you do not change, but I not do that. I made the wrong choice.

MIKE: So that’s how the embezzlement started was the assistant superintendent…

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: …essentially—

FRANK: For business, for business.

MIKE: For business? And what was her name?

FRANK: Pamela Gluckin.

MIKE: Pamela Gluckin essentially said you look, you’re working so hard and we don’t need to uh, run the checks through in this way and so essentially how much more cash did you start getting every paycheck?

FRANK: Well I would get a separate check you know a few hundred dollars of personal expenses at first.

MIKE: Mm, with the credit cards?

FRANK: With the credit card.

MIKE: Mm.

FRANK: The rest she would pay because all of the conferences.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: Went on that credit card when the board members accompanied me. And I guess, you know, greed began to set in, and I began to say to myself, you know in some ways, I’m intitled to this.

MIKE: Hm.

FRANK: Because look at how hard—they put in a bathroom so I could, shower. Because, I worked all day and I went to every night meeting. I went to every function. I loved that community, and parents really admired and respected me.

MIKE: And you knew that your role in the sense. The accomplishments you had, that there was a cap in turns in how much money you could also make, right?

FRANK: The longer I stayed, I would have gotten a huge amount of money which of course I did not get in the end and it was never like, they never asked. Well what are your expense this month? There was never anything of that nature.

MIKE: So essentially—and how long did this go on for?

FRANK: A couple of years.

MIKE: And so during those couple of years it just became, oh well this is just how it is and you did you start spending more money as the years go on?

FRANK: Yes I did.

MIKE: What were you starting to pay for that was just completely?

FRANK: First of all I have no background in busines, so I had to rely totally on the business department. I began to feel guilty about the whole thing and because I, I had—the bathroom was put in and I would change my seat twice a day and my shirt and tie twice a day to say, now they want you at the meetings and concerts and there was always something at night in Rosalyn. You know at one point said, it’s costing me a great deal of money for all this dry cleaning. And she said, oh I’ll cover it with the audit it, don’t worry about it. You know, just summit the bill and we’ll pay for it.

MIKE: And how much, how much did you end up taking over those years?

FRANK: They said I took 2.2 million dollars.

MIKE: Wow, that would be a lot of dry, that would be a lot of dry cleaning.

FRANK: Yeah.

MIKE: Two point two million.

FRANK: But, but, but you would have to remember, also on that credit card they just took only the “American Express” charges and lumped them together, so every time we went on a conference with the Board, I paid for all of the accommodations, the lunches, the dinners, the meals. You know every—when we had a holiday lunch-ins for all staff.

MIKE: All right, yeah so what do you, what do you see? They say two point two, where did—how much did you believe you spent on your own personal?

FRANK: I would say maybe a million dollars.

MIKE: Million dollars?

FRANK: Maybe eight hundred thousand I really don’t want to know.

MIKE: Yeah.

FRANK: I never kept a record.

MIKE: Yeah.

FRANK: Because some things were actually in my contract and those charges were not removed from the two point two million.

MIKE: And so you’ve eventually, you were charged and found guilty.

FRANK: I did not want to go through trial.

MIKE: Okay.

FRANK: I was guilty. I did take money that I should not have and so I, I plea bargain and the plea bargain was that I had to pay back the full amount, 2.2 million and I would go to prison for four to eight years.

MIKE: Wow.

FRANK: Yeah it was a very stiff sentence.

MIKE: And are you still paying that off?

FRANK: I just finished. I just finished twenty years later, but I paid back every penny and the way I was able to was every district I worked in, there’s something called a tax sheltered annuity and I had a lot of money in all the different districts and they froze all that money and took it all, and they took my stock portfolio, and then my sister’s—we’ve had a family house we sold and my sister’s took a home equity loan in their homes, and I was able to come up with the 2.2 million.

MIKE: And how long ago was that?

FRANK: In 1994.

MIKE: When did you complete serving um, prison?

FRANK: Well for two years they kept on postponing the hearings.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: They, they tended to have hearings in September, when the parents were all there and very angry at me and I understand why, they felt that I had betrayed them and I was always available to them and so I understood that. So finally in 2006, I was sentence to (UNINTELLIGIBLE) County Prison and then Upstate New York.

MIKE: How many years later was that though ‘cause this happened in what year?

FRANK: Two thousand four, it was two years later.

MIKE: Two years later is when you ended up going to prison.

FRANK: To prison.

MIKE: For four years?

FRANK: For three years, three months and twenty-two days because I made my first parole.

MIKE: And then your partner who of forty-five years also had to go to prison, right?

FRANK: Yes, he had a um, word processing company. He had women who worked them and I had told my assistants if you don’t want to hire them, don’t hire them. But they did and he did the work, but I did encourage him to pay the bills somewhat.

MIKE: Got it. So you just kind of got carried away in terms of the availability of the funds and feeling at the time just some sense of like entitlement with it, because it was so easy.

FRANK: And I was so successful.

MIKE: Right.

FRANK: I was man of the—I won the “Martin Luther King Scholarship” award; I was man of the year in the rotary.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: I mean I had a list of accolades. An—everybody I could do no wrong and of course you begin to have a sense of uberous almost, you know as though well, I deserve this. Look at what I’m doing, I’m working from eight in the morning to sometimes two in the morning when we have Board meetings and so erroneously, I felt I was entitled to it.

MIKE: What was it like for you when the truth came to light? At first did you deny it or did you just—

FRANK: Oh. It was horrible. What happen was first Pam was discovered and she had been working with the order in a different district. Pam’s niece worked there, the Board knew as well and her son was also stealing…

MIKE: Mm.

FRANK: …and so when the Board discovered it, they called in an attorney and I tried really to stay out of it. And the attorney told them. listen you do not have to report this, legally. You can just have her pay back her money and fire her. And so that’s what the Board agreed to do. The order just says she had taken two hundred thousand dollars. When in reality it was like seven million.

MIKE: Wow and why do you think she got it, got away from that?

FRANK: Well they were afraid that the community would be angry at me because she worked with me. They did not want to lose me really.

MIKE: Got it. So they had so much loyalty towards you and you were so good for them that they wanted to do anything that they could to make this go away?

FRANK: Yes, that is correct.

MIKE: After that, why didn’t it go away?

FRANK: It was the winter break of 2004 and an anonymous letter was sent to everybody, to all the mayors in Rosalyn, and—oh, the dignitaries and they said everything about her and then they also brought me into it. And so once the anonymous letter came out, now everything blew up.

MIKE: And what was that like for you when that letter came out?

FRANK: Oh it was horrific.

MIKE: Like what? What were you feeling?

FRANK: Oh, I was—like I was drowning. Like I wanted to kill myself.

MIKE: Mm.

FRANK: And I didn’t have the courage, the sad thing is Boards member asked me a couple of times was I involved, and I lied to them. And I said I wasn’t and that was a very terrible thing to do.

MIKE: You think the it would of have a different outcome if you were honest instead of lying to them?

FRANK: No I don’t really think so, because the bottom line was, I took funds that I had no right to.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: And it really didn’t matter.

MIKE: How—let me ask you, how often do you think this actually goes on?

FRANK: I know it goes on in other districts. One that I heard of recently and they said, we’re just take getting the money back from the administration and getting them to um, getting them to leave because we don’t want what happened next door in Rosalyn to our community because I really disrupted a community. I had so many supporters who’s saying, he would never do this. I understand there were fights in parking lot of Boards of Education meetings.

MIKE: Oh gosh.

FRANK: I really disrupted the district and for that I am so ashamed. It was just awful.

MIKE: ‘Cause you’re on the cover of newspapers and...

FRANK: Oh yes, oh yes.

MIKE: ...they put you on the cover of many New York paper and what were some of those headlines against you?

FRANK: Oh I don’t remember them, but I know that a “Newsday” probably had me on the front cover every other day, “New York Magazine”, “The New Yorker” wrote a horrible story called the superintendent and if anything, I wasn’t a bad superintendent I broke the law. I did something very bad I’ve owned up to it.

MIKE: You got greedy.

FRANK: I got greedy.

MIKE: Which by the way—

FRANK: I got greedy.

MIKE: Which by the way we’re humans and humans make mistakes and sometimes the signs don’t come to us quickly enough and then we have big consequences, right?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: By the time it started to get out of control you were just like?

FRANK: How can I get ahead of this? You know, look and I, and I didn’t sleep diets and I was really so upset.

MIKE: So when you’re home, when you’re home and these newspaper magazines, and these articles are coming out about you, did you leave your house?

FRANK: Yes I did. Not that often but I did and “Newsday” on Long Island paper, I live in Manhattan, so some people in Manhattan did not see it but I remember getting into the elevator on the west side going to see an attorney and this man in the elevator said to me, you’re the master pretender.

MIKE: When he, when he said that to you, what did you say back?

FRANK: I said yes sir, I am.

MIKE: You fully owned it.

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: At a certain point.

FRANK: Absolutely. I fully owned it but I was ashamed and I thought, I love education for thirty-six years, I had a great career in the last couple of years I destroyed it.

MIKE: It’s like the opposite of what you were perceived by so many of us. You went from hero to zero overnight.

FRANK: Overnight, absolutely.

MIKE: Cancelled.

FRANK: Cancelled.

MIKE: And there’s nothing you can do about it and even the passion and loved that you had you weren’t able to get back into it, and you did what was right and paid it back, you served prison time and recently then there’s an “HBO” show movie with major Hollywood actors like Hugh Jackman and that’s called “Bad Education”.

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: That essentially is your story.

FRANK: Well nobody asked anything about it.

MIKE: No, no, what I’m saying it’s their belief about your story.

FRANK: Right, he—I understand the youngster who wrote it. Um was in the middle school at the time that this whole thing went on, you know when I was in prison, I did get uh, a letter from two documentary film makers that lived in Manhattan and was students while I was there and they said, we really wanna do a documentary on you and you can have final say. Because we know the kind of superintendent that you were, but I thought it would be a very bad idea because people will still be concerned. They wanted me in prison for as long as possible

MIKE: So after you get out of prison and for the last however many years you’re like I did my time. I, I got the consequences, big consequence. You had to pay back more money than you even thought you owed on top of that you had to serve prison time. Your partner served prison time, and then you get out, you’re like, people have reached out to you even about maybe doing a story based upon you know what happened in your life. You’re like, ah that wouldn’t make much sense to get into, I don’t want to bring this thing back to the surface and then all of a sudden, there’s—you maybe catch wind of a movie coming out with Hugh Jackman and Allison Janney on “HBO” that’s based off of you.

FRANK: Yes, I found out it was a Saturday night in October of 2019 and one of my college friends called me. He lives on Long Island.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: And it was a small article in “Newsday” that talked about it. And he said, you know they’re making a movie about you and I just, I just crumbled, you know it was—I thought, my god I thought this finally was over. I mean it’ll never be over for me because everyday I feel, I feel pain but that’s how I found out.

MIKE: And, and when you heard that did you have similar feelings to when you got caught or when anything that like, at what other time in your life did you have those same feelings that you had when you found out that “Bad Education” was about you?

FRANK: When the anonymous letter went out. By the way those two years that the anonymous letter never sent out I still lived every day in fear. And I, at one point, I said to the Board president and vice president, I want to resign and they said no we’re not letting you resign, I came so close to telling them, “well don’t you understand I’m involved,” but I could not bring myself to do that. But those two year were very painful too because you know, I just think that what goes around comes around and I just felt that eventually they will learn what I had done.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: So that was very painful and I think in some ways I can compare that to the pain I felt when I found out this movie is coming out of which this young man who wrote the screenplay was in middle school and he was in fifth grade, fourth grade.

MIKE: And it’s a story about you and “HBO” never reached out to you to find out your own version of the story.

FRANK: That’s correct.

MIKE: And it’s positioned if this is the story, right?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: I mean, I can’t tell you how you feel, but I imagine you’re going through a windmill of emotions from like, from like frustrated, to anger, to disappointment, to numb?

FRANK: Correct.

MIKE: Because this movie comes out in a week.

FRANK: Yes it does.

MIKE: Have you been reading anything about this movie that is based upon you?

FRANK: Uh, I looked at a couple of the clips about it. Allison Janney says something “Oh, don’t worry Frank I’ll take care of it.” And um, but no I really—you know even like the so many articles that run the paper. I used to avoid them because they were so painful to read, because so many times they were not accurate and at the same time they were true, some of it was true, right now I’m going through a great deal of pain. So the movie will come out and they would—many people will become more angry who knew nothing about it and will know about it and I will be more ashamed for what I did.

MIKE: Well what are you feeling right now?

FRANK: Right now I’m feeling very upset, very emotional, very horrible and I’m kind of saying to myself again, punishing myself, why did I do such a stupid foolish thing? At what point I went to a healing mass, a couple of healing masses, while I was waiting to go into prison. At one healing mass these people spoke in different tongues, and they said your problem is that you don’t forgive yourself and I can’t forgive myself. I find it very hard to forgive myself in fact, at one point I was just going to be arrested that I tried to take my life.

MIKE: When they were arresting you for this, you tried to take your life?

FRANK: I knew I was gonna be arrested the day after the fourth of July, in that weekend. I took pills, I just—my whole life was my career. I loved education, I loved teaching, I loved being–making so many good changes for youngsters that I, that I just, I was just destroyed.

MIKE: And had you had that same feelings where you’ve thought about taking your life?

FRANK: No, no, because now I say, I asked God forgiveness, I’ve done everything I could. When in prison I did a great deal of teaching, in fact when I left prison the last—well when I got my first parole which is very unusual and then the superintendent came over to thank me for all I did for their educational program. But I don’t have the sense that I want to kill myself anymore, I’m still extremely ashamed.

MIKE: Well how do you want to feel about it?

FRANK: I don’t think I could ever you know.

MIKE: I’m saying, take away like I don’t think I could ever, but more like how do you want to feel?

FRANK: I want to feel as though I’m sorry to the people of Rosalyn, I know they will never forgive me, but I’ve paid my dues and there is nothing, I mean I went to—

MIKE: I’m taking by—listen, I—with this, this all happened years ago, right? So like to me—

FRANK: Twenty years.

MIKE: Frank, to me you already did your time. I don’t even think you have to say sorry anymore. It is what it is. That ships past. It is. You fucked up; you admitted it; you dealt the consequences; it is what it is, it’s a part of you---the legacy of a story we all have moments in our life that are dark. To me in today we’re not twenty years later, right? You probably said I’m sorry so many times…

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: …right? But to me it’s like, how do you want to feel about you in this? How do you want to feel not how are you feeling, but how do you want to feel?

FRANK: I would want to feel like I, I what—I did have a successful career in education and I did accomplish the things I wanted to accomplish and I did do a great deal for youngsters, that’s it. That’s how I want to feel but that perfectionist pieces of me.

MIKE: Mm hm.

FRANK: Keeps eating at me.

MIKE: So you wanna feel like you have a successful career. You know you’d had a successful career, but it gets blended in the blender with this situation and it becomes black and white where it’s either a success or a fail?

FRANK: That’s correct.

MIKE: Okay so there’s not been a lot of room for grey in terms of like looking—there’s a lot of pain when you look back?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: Okay, how else do you want to feel? Happier, more at peace?

FRANK: More at peace.

MIKE: More at peace.

FRANK: I almost feel like I can—I don’t know if I could ever be happy again.

MIKE: Why?

FRANK: Because of what I did.

MIKE: You can be happy again. I’ve seen people do a lot worse things than you and, and be happy.

FRANK: Oh.

MIKE: The thing is, the thing is that I’ve notice is, you feel a duty not to let go what you did in the past because you should feel this, you should feel that, you should do this and then you’re shoulding all over yourself. And you’re just like, you are not being the best partner for your man, that creative energy inside of you, like it’s almost like you feel like I should be—the punishment has already happened and this movie coming out about you, it’s like did you have any intention of watching it?

FRANK: I did not have any attention, but I am going to now.

MIKE: Yeah because I’ll watch it too and what we could do is we can take a look next week you know in connect right after it comes out and process it and talk about it. Because I think avoiding it, it’s almost like you might as well to rip off the band aid, right?

FRANK: Mm hm.

MIKE: So we can keep moving forward and moving on ‘cause otherwise our brains will be like, what did it say about here? I’ve seen this clip and that’s b.s. But I wanna help you get through the next week, feeling better and even when you’re watching it not beating yourself up, so we’re going to try something and see if this could work in that direction. Because you did have a successful career, you fuck up, you made a mistake, you paid for your mistakes, right? You did it. if anything, the legacy of that maybe that more school districts from this movie may be viewed and looked at and parents will see what other superintendents are doing, who knows right? And there’s always those people that are gonna complain and blame and you know, oh this is awful, but like those people are miserable. People who sit there and go out of their way to hate on strangers are so miserable. What a waste of energies, so the whole idea is to get out of that energy and get into what is actually going to bring you more peace? So in terms of like leading up to this coming out, what is a big even for you it’s recreating something where you’re not even able to tell the honest story, how can we get through this next week feeling better?

FRANK: I don’t know, I really don’t know.

MIKE: I mean we’re going to try some of this stuff out real quick so I’m a I’m a try with you all right?

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: One is what brings you joy?

FRANK: Reading.

MIKE: Okay does your boyfriend enjoy it?

FRANK: And my partner, my partner….

MIKE: Okay, your partner and who else makes you happy?

FRANK: (UNINTELLIGIBLE)

MIKE: Who else in your life brings you joy?

FRANK: Some of my other friends. My family, my cousins, you know my sister is diseased now, but you know family always played a very bigger part. I get a great deal of peace in church, you know? What’s interesting when Joanne died, when my mother died, not even going to mass just going to Saint Thomas More church here on 86tth street and just sitting there, that brought me peace.

MIKE: Let me ask you, do you always think you should feel bad about this for the rest of your life?

FRANK: I do.

MIKE: Because?

FRANK: Because I see the truth. I did a terrible thing.

MIKE: So anyone that does a terrible thing should feel bad about it for their rest of their life? Even when they, they dealt with consequences, that’s not enough?

FRANK: No of course not. You know, maybe it’s because again, it’s who I was, I worked so hard, you know when I was getting my Ph.D. in Colombia, I was traveling fifty miles each day and I’d come back and I had to work while I was getting my doctoring and I worked so hard for my career and I was so successful and it was like I was thrown off a roof.

MIKE: But the thing is, you said it, you said it, who I was but now it’s about who you are. That was you, it’s not who you are today.

FRANK: No it’s not and the ironic thing is they went back and checked a number of school districts and they found that I’ve never done anything elicit or illegal.

MIKE: But when I say who you are today, you’re somebody that was extremely successful being a superintendent. Stole money, which is a terrible thing to do and you own that it’s terrible.

FRANK: Yes, I do.

MIKE: Then pay back money that was said owed. You went to prison, you got through it without killing yourself.

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: You now have a reality, for whatever reason the universe has created another opportunity that maybe actually is about how do you forgive yourself of your past? And maybe this movie is an opportunity vehicle instead of going back to how you used to be which is this movie means, I’m a bad person, I’m shameful, I’m wrong. To me, it’s interesting that this thing is being created again in your life and you now have this opportunity to walk through it in an honest way. In a way that’s not afraid of what strangers think of you. An opportunity to connect with the people who really love you for who you are and who knows, maybe you’ll write your own script about this.

FRANK: Well I began to write a memoir and I actually got as far as the Rosalyn piece, you know all the, all the earlier years.

MIKE: Because this all ccame back to the surface because of the movie coming up would that be right?

FRANK: That is correct Mike.

MIKE: Okay, sounds like you were like, oh I’m steadily on this stream of life then this thing happens and it brings in the emotion for you?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: So what are you afraid of?

FRANK: I guess I’m afraid of seeing myself portrayed as being a liar, and a cheat, and a thief, and yes I, I was a thief, there’s no question and I should have stopped.

MIKE: Let me just—I just, because you brought up a thing, that I’m curious about what you said, I’m afraid to be perceived as a liar and a cheat.

FRANK: But I was a cheat. I was a thief.

MIKE: And you did lie.

FRANK: And I did lie.

MIKE: So why does it matter?

FRANK: Because it makes me feel so, so terrible, so bad, so evil.

MIKE: But you’re, but you’re not.

FRANK: What I did was evil, what I did was very bad. It’s almost like quicksand, you know I got into a little bit and it was more and more, and more, and more. And I didn’t know how to get out of it.

MIKE: This is what I want you to do, I want you—you’re gonna watch it with Steven?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: If you guys are gonna watch it together, I want you because I think this is an opportunity to actually get into forgiveness and see what comes up for yourself and I’m gonna help you work through it. And the way I want to do this is I want you to have a notepad and paper, with a pen or pencil, crayon…

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: …whatever it is, and as you’re going through it, I want you—because our brains are like photographs, they take pictures of different times and we get different emotions, right?

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: And so what I like to do is look at the different moments in the movie that brought out that reaction in you. Were you’re saying oh this is—I’m horrible, I’m a bad person, this is shameful. And if, if your piece of paper has ten thousand things on it then that’s ten thousand things. If it has ten things on it, it has then things. That’s your assignment.

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: Because what we’re gonna do then is we’re going to take a look at that and then I’m gonna be able to help you help you figure out what’s really going on underneath all of this, because I find you really inspiring. It could be because I’m like, look we all make mistakes, some mistakes are really bad, but I think this is just a really good opportunity for you to scratch or what’s been going on deeper inside you and this just happens to be what’s bringing up all to the surface for very good reason and so we can start to change that narrative because part of forgiving is all about what we say to ourselves. And I’m really curious when you watch the movie what you’re going to be saying to yourself.

FRANK: I understand.

MIKE: So what we can do is as soon as the movie comes out, I’ll watch it as soon as it comes out. Whether it’s that day or night or hop on and we’ll get on—we’ll continue this conversation in the meantime, I would highly suggest not reading news about you. Uh having conversations with those in your family you sure there’s not an elephant in the room. Being able to say, look I know the movie is coming out on Tuesday. I’m sure you guys don’t even know how to approach me about it. You know this obviously is bringing up a lot of feelings inside of me. I just want to tell you that, I appreciate so much my love for you and your love for me and that makes me get through this in a much stronger way.

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: Because the people in your life won’t know how to approach you and you can open up that door and you can start to get that the people that really love you, they love you because those are the people that matter.

FRANK: Yes.

MIKE: So—

FRANK: I’ll do my best with that, I really will.

MIKE: Yeah.

FRANK: From last October, I didn’t know when the movie was coming out. I was in tremendous pain. I’m worried every time. Is this going to be in the book, is this going to be in the local theaters, they used my real name, how shameful.

MIKE: And that is when you’re going to write down when you’re watching it and go, they used my name and I feel shameful and just be observant of it and that’s what I’m saying, it’s okay. Your legacy is not this movie. Your legacy is even what you did; it just happened to be a big moment in time that’s a lesson that’s learned. Your family loves you; you have love in your life, and through this process that I am taking you through, we’re gonna get to the other side of this. We’re going to use the movie as an opportunity for you to finally feel forgiveness for yourself and we’re going to take that and turn it into inspiration for you, sound good?

FRANK: Sounds very good Mike.

MIKE: All right

FRANK: I wish everybody was like you.

MIKE: Well…

FRANK: We’ll make the world a very different place.

MIKE: Yeah and I wish everyone was like you and they can own their mistakes and move on, but we learn together and uh, I got your back. And uh, I’ll talk to you as soon as the movie drops.

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: All right Frank…

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: In the meantime, I would not go talking to people, just your close circle would be my suggestion to you.

FRANK: Yes, yes, no I actually haven’t told anybody even about doing the podcast because I—you know I, despise talking about it or thinking about it or realizing what a fool I was. So I will try my best, I really will.

MIKE: You got it Frank well have some peace and quite and do you and we’ll be talking really soon.

FRANK: Okay well thank you so much.

MIKE: You got it.

FRANK: Okay.

MIKE: All right, bye.

FRANK: Bye now.

MIKE: Subscribe, download, and we’ll be having more podcasts out every week with incredible people. I’ll talk to you guys soon.

(END OF PODCAST)