The fallout of the cheating scandal at a number of Woodbridge schools began to hit Monday night, as three teachers and two principals were suspended in the wake of the Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance’s (OFAC) initial report on cheating at and .
Third grade teachers John Radzik and Lisa Savillo, both of Avenel Street School, and Stephanie Klecan, who taught at the same school in 2010-’11, as well as Avenel Street School Principal Dara Kurlander and former Ross Street School Principal Sharon Strack were each suspended with pay following a closed session at Monday’s Board of Education meeting at in Colonia. Klecan most recently taught at and Strack most recently served as principal of , according to each school’s staff listing.
“I am shocked and disheartened by OFAC’s findings,” said Superintendent Dr. John Crowe in announcing the suspensions. “Cheating will not be tolerated in this school district.”
The report – which is due to be released via the township schools website at 9 am Tuesday – was the result of high numbers of wrong-to-right erasures on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge, or NJASK, standardized tests. The board admitted Monday that the resignation of former Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction Lois Rotella was the “first step” in “making sure these actions never happen again.”
“We have clarified with the representatives of the state department of education that no child will be adversely affected by these reports,” said Board President Brian Small. “No test scores will be changed or revised. For the students, we are looking forward, not backwards.
“I do not believe this was a district-wide problem,” Small continued. “It was localized within two of our 24 schools, but even a few is a few too many.”
Stephen Edelstein, a partner at Schwartz Simon Edelstein and Celso – the same law firm that employs Board Attorney Jonathan Busch – noted that the report would be made available well before the required date.
“The report…is available to the board for the first time today,” said Edelstein. “The board must make that report public within thirty days; however, the board will make that public first thing in the morning.”
“OFAC requires that the district develop a corrective action plan to correct what appears in those reports,” Edelstein added. “And of course, the district will do so.
“In two schools, there was much, much more than the simple statistical deviation,” said Edelstein, noting that some of the information “…statistically could not have happened one in a billion times, and some that could not have occurred more than one in a trillion times.”
Addressing the crowd that voiced their displeasure at the suspension announcement earlier in the meeting, Edelstein said, “I assure you, you will not feel quite the same way when you read the reports tomorrow.”
“You can’t tell us how we’ll feel,” replied someone from the crowd.
Supporters of the suspended teachers made their voices heard as the meeting closed, shouting across the room at the school board members.
“Look at her, she’s crying!” yelled one parents from the crowd, referencing her daughter, in tears following the meeting.
“This board needs to be gotten rid of!” screamed another.
“The scores were too high, so they weren’t smart enough to get the score?” asked a third parent.
“I think it was important for an investigation to be done, and if it found that cheating occurred, they need to get to the bottom of this,” said David Pinkowicz, who ran for the Board of Education in 2011 and has children in the district.
“There aren’t many distracts that can say they have one in four schools under investigation at one time. If that’s not a district problem I’m not sure what is,” added Pinkowitz, who also contributes to Woodbridge Patch.
In addition to Avenel Street and Ross Street Schools, Woodbridge High School is also , while Ford Avenue School was cleared after an investigation earlier in the summer.
In addition to the suspension announcements, the board approved the contract of Dr. Robert Zega as Assistant Superintendent of Curriculum and Instruction. Zega replaces Lois Rotella, who held the position for over 30 years before suddenly resigning earlier in August.
The board also announced that there would not be a hearing on Superintendent John Crowe’s contract at the September 20th meeting, as originally scheduled.
Kenneth Pace was approved as principal of Colonia High School at an annual salary of $152,484.