Five Suspended in Wake of School Cheating Scandal

Two principals and three teachers from Ross Street and Avenel Street Schools were suspended following Monday's Board of Education meeting.

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.

Follow Woodbridge Patch on FacebookTwitter and sign up for the daily newsletter.

Kay Smith August 29, 2012 at 10:41 PM
Trust me when I say THERE IS PROOF!
John Ulman August 29, 2012 at 10:55 PM
This is very important for our children and our country. We need to do this in Washington DC also.
Tom Maras August 30, 2012 at 12:56 PM
To be fair and to get an accurate assessment of that school's test scores during his time there, a review of the test scores before (say, prior two years), during and after he ran the school should be made. Also, what changes in teaching and supervisory staff occurred during that time frame. Personally, I like John Crowe. I believe he is an educator and a very decent person, he just is not showing he has the right stuff for the tremendously demanding position he now holds. As to the BOE Board, they have a lot of explaining to do!
wetfrog18 August 30, 2012 at 02:14 PM
Kay. send that PROOF to TRENTON!
John Ulman August 31, 2012 at 02:29 AM
These teacher and principle need a far trial. They need to prove if these statements are correct or wrong. Can the student take independent tests to see what they do compared to what was reported. I have 2 children who are teachers. They would report anyone who cheats or dose something wrong. This is base on there up bring and who there friend were as the grew up.
Tom Maras August 31, 2012 at 12:43 PM
Gary, have read and re-read your commentary and can truly feel your pain and anger. Both are justifiable. Many have heard me say: BOE has come to mean the Business of Education, not the Board of Education. Clearly, the huge enterprise of education is money and power driven. The days of the little red school house are long gone. Gone too are the days when a teacher was able to send a student home with a "D" or "F" on their report card. Parents, the ones most in denial, blame the teacher and/or the school; never their child or, perhaps, their own lack of direct involvement in their child's education. And when the parent does blame the teacher or the school, the school administrators, the child's ratings magically go up on the next test or marking period. "No Child left Behind" was noble in concept, but has failed horribly in application. One only needs to read about test cheating in the schools (not just in Woodbridge but country wide) and to read editorials, such as, http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2010/12/07/us-falls-in-world-education-rankings_n_793185.html to know this great nation's education system, despite the extraordinary spending, is failing. As to your question as to how long it will be tolerated; let us ensure all the crows quote the Raven: Never More!
John Ulman August 31, 2012 at 05:56 PM
I thing you are right. I think we need a independent group to over view the results. If a chill fail a test that student should be evaluated to determine why they failed and look at there history of there classes. The most important area is at home to help the student at lower grades. I have personal experience I have problems spelling and reading. It took me a long time to catch up. I still have problems. I am retiered but I helped my kids. All of them are very smart and finish college with honors.
Retired WHS teacher August 31, 2012 at 11:57 PM
I agree that the parents of elementary age children need to be active participants in the education of their offspring. They have to do more than say "Do your homework." I agree with John about the home being an important area for education. Parents have to let their kids know that education is important to be a successful adult. At the HS level, the children must begin to take responsibility for their own success or failure. The best teacher in the world cannot "force" a child/ young adult to learn if that child/ young adult refuses to learn.
Retired WHS teacher September 01, 2012 at 12:10 AM
I agree 100% with what Tom Maras says in the paragraph about days gone by and with his comment about NCLB.
John Ulman September 01, 2012 at 12:53 AM
I agree with the parents need to young children but I think you need to be interested a all grade in school in clued high school. You may not have to be so connected but you still need to keep in touch, did you do your home work. Please let me see it. Try to keep in interest with there work.
K10 September 03, 2012 at 02:05 PM
Is anyone else aggravated at the fact we still have yet to receive an apology from The BOE or The Mayor? This has been going on all summer rumors flying all over the place and yet not an apology! A letter something letting us know they will do everything they can to insure the school year will start off smooth and with the best interest of the child. Such a scandal involving our kids and yet these high paid individuals have very little to say! Such a shame!
John Ulman September 03, 2012 at 08:18 PM
The school scandle is just like our government. We need to put people in charge with a more legal minded person. If the kids are not meeting there goals, than try to define at what grade level do these kids need help. Than may be we need smaller number of kids in these classes.
wetfrog18 September 03, 2012 at 10:06 PM
I sent one of my many complaints to Trenton and I want to hope that was the start of all of this. The BOE screwed my daughter where my daughter is permanently damaged with no chance of getting good employment. She had proof of her innocence and the lawyer (from what we were told) that Violet lady told the Board NOT to ask any questions at the Board meeting. I won't stop until the day I die until I prove her innocence.
John Ulman September 03, 2012 at 11:22 PM
I don't know what your daughter problem. This scandle is at here levels than new teachers. It should be directed towards the upper level management. They should examine each grade level to determine what the test results were. Than they should determine what should be done. We need to have teacher who transport the information so the students can understand and learn. Just like in business you need to double chek the work created. To determine it's what consumer wants. The same thing is needed for our school teacher. The teacher who have been teaching for a longer time need to study the results of these younger teachers. The teachers need to get together after these test results and reword the good results and help the teacher who are not doing so good. If the students are failing than they need to be helped or held back to repeat the grade. Some times the student my be doing well in one area and not in another. In this case we need to help instruct these students so they can more on.
Retired WHS teacher September 04, 2012 at 08:40 PM
If a child is not meeting his or her grade level goals, he/ she needs to be retained---not pushed ahead to the next grade--- or tested for learning disabilities. Smaller classes might increase learning by allowing for more individualized attention. What is the class size at the elementary level? Not the district or school AVERAGE as this includes the special ed classes with 2 or 3 students, but the actual number in each regular classroom.
John Ulman September 04, 2012 at 08:56 PM
I agree with most of the teacher opinion. However when I was in Woodbridge I had reading and spelling problems. I was held back but it didn't help much, at that they didn't have extra help classes. I took it on my self to improve and more but I did improve.
Jo September 05, 2012 at 12:56 AM
Pending Approval Jo 8:54 pm on Tuesday, September 4, 2012 I admire your convictions. Sent my proof to Trenton also but lets see whose lawyer is better (or should I say let's see who has more money to pay the lawyers). Good old Viola, can say a whole lot about her but I'm afraid she will sue me! Can't blame the woman for doing a good job even though she is defending the devil. The BoE will get theirs one day Wetfrog and I too will be there to watch them all fall. Good luck to you and your daughter, I truly hope she gets through this because this piece of &@$@ district needs to be exposed once and for all. I am a big believer in karma and what goes around comes around. Look at Rotella, she sat on her high horse over there at the BoE compromising her morales and doing whatever those bullies needed her to do and as soon as the "crap" hit the fan in which THEY WERE ALL INVOLVED they threw her right under the bus without a thought of her misguided loyalty. 1 gone and believe me there are more to follow. We just need to keep trying and keep the faith.
John Ulman September 05, 2012 at 01:07 AM
I hope that they have the right person. But I know it came from higher level. They are the person who need to go and replaced.
wetfrog18 September 05, 2012 at 01:45 AM
I agree with you Jo. And it's good to know Trenton, hopefully, hears our complaints about this (in my opinion) corrupt town. It's hard to sue any BOE. Let's face it, they are using our tax dollars to pay for lawyer fees. I always say (in my opinion) when I want to make a statement. Good Luck to you too and hope the people of Woodbridge fight for our Town BACK!
wetfrog18 September 05, 2012 at 01:48 AM
John, (in my opinion), they all need to be replaced. They're all too comfortable with their Titles.
DMP September 06, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Wouldn't it be nice if Woodbridge conducted administrator searches as this district did: http://scotchplains.patch.com/articles/former-scotch-plains-teacher-named-new-vice-principal-at-auten-road-school Could you imagine WD Bd of Ed reading through 150 resumes and interviewing 14 candidates?? Perhaps their searches are exhaustive and they just have shared the info. :) Wouldn't it be nice for our district to report how they arrived at their hiring choice for district administrators...
gam September 06, 2012 at 03:21 AM
DMP-unfortunately we have an uneducated, arrogant, rude BOE which is very similar to the members of our town council. I'm not sure they even have the skills to review resumes and conduct interviews.... Until voters [other then school employees and their families] go vote at school board elections we will not see a change.
gam September 06, 2012 at 03:25 AM
there are actually parents from Avenel 4&5 that are having tee shirts made which they want to sell to wear to the next BOE meeting in support of the teachers suspended for cheating! You can't make this stuff up!!!
John Ulman September 06, 2012 at 07:16 PM
I think if these teacher are new it might not have been there falt. Maybe they went along with the cheating plan to keep there jobs. It is the upper level teacher principles and directors who need to be pushed out. They are getting like the political leaders out for them selfs.
obiwanisback September 08, 2012 at 04:08 AM
you can not be fired for having drugs in your system that were prescribed or administered by a licensed physician. Pisitive drug tests are reviewed (by law) by a medical review officer of the drug testing lab. The first thing they do is look at the consent and chain of custody form to see if the person stated they were taking any drugs which may affect the test. If there is no information there, they call the test subject and will call a physician to get confirmation. Your daughter may have received the drugs legitimately, but the MRO could not confirm the prescription or administration of them. This test result could have been appealed. Your daughter's firing has nothing to do with the cheating issue.
obiwanisback September 08, 2012 at 04:14 AM
Hopefully the 5 will resign and save the Board the time and expense of paying their salaries and going through the motions of terminating them. All schools had 2 proctors in each room for the 2012 testing. Substitute teachers were brought in and required to be briefed and sign that they were trained. They were not permitted to touch the test books or answer sheets under any circumstance. All they could do is hand out pencils, scrap paper and take the role of time keeper. The only other duty was to circulate to make sure the student was on the correct test and answer pages and does not go back to or ahead to other sections. They put a unique shape on the top corner of the page which makes that easy to do.
wetfrog18 September 08, 2012 at 01:42 PM
I agree my daughter's firing has nothing to do with these cheating individuals. The point I'm trying to make is this Twp. (in my opinion) is corrupt in many departments of the government. Yes, when taking a drug test, it must go through different stages. When she went to Quest, she said to the tech "do you want to know what medications I take"? The tech said "it's none of my concern". She did appeal it and when the board went behind "closed doors" she found out that the lawyer (Viola) said "do not ask any questions". My daughter asked if they wanted to see the records from the hospital and the lawyer replied "if we need them, we'll ask for them". Did you also know that the students that aren't up to average are asked to sign papers "NOT to take the test"? I know first hand about that. So I'm just merely stating, there's Corruption in this town all around and hopefully the State sees this as well.
Jo September 08, 2012 at 11:46 PM
Obiwanisback: ur rite, her firing has absolutely nothing to do with the cheating but it once again proves how nasty this district is. I am more then sure there are laws and regulations about what happened but this district doesn't give a crap! This poor young woman probably wasn't a kiss-@&? or doesn't compromise her morales or isn't tied into some BoE family so they just screwed her. And as for Viola saying that, I know first hand that is exactly has she operates. What they did to this woman was not done legally but it all goes back to who can afford the better lawyers! Obviously the township cause it's on our dime.
Kay Smith September 11, 2012 at 11:37 PM
WHS Teacher. My child had 26 kids in his in 5th grade. Cant even walk around in that class. Such a shame.
Retired WHS teacher September 12, 2012 at 03:12 AM
Kay 26 students in a 5th grade class is too many.


More »
Got a question? Something on your mind? Talk to your community, directly.
Note Article
Just a short thought to get the word out quickly about anything in your neighborhood.
Share something with your neighbors.What's on your mind?What's on your mind?Make an announcement, speak your mind, or sell somethingPost something