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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.

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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.


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