Woodbridge Schools Superintendent John Crowe is Out; Board Seeks Replacement

In the wake of the cheating scandals, the Woodbridge BOE is searching for a new school superintendent while Crowe wants to stay on in the district as a school principal.

The rumors were roiling all day long, and it all turned out to be true: Woodbridge Schools Superintendent John Crowe announced that he will no longer heading the township's school district in the wake of the standardized test cheating scandal that has rocked the district.

Crowe made his announcement at last night's Board of Education meeting to a packed house. "The board has informed me that they will be doing a superintendent search," said Crowe, adding that the board had "graciously" informed him that he could reapply for his job.

"After considering this significantly, I have decided that I will not apply," Crowe said, and some parts of the audience broke out in scattered applause to the superintendent's discomfiture. 

"I do this without any second-guessing or regret. I love the uniquely American experiment which is public education," he said.

"More importantly, I love Woodbridge."

Crowe said that instead of seeking to get his job back, he would "invoked [his] right as a tenured principal to go back to that position.

"I do so without any regrets," Crowe reiterated.

The superintendent did not say which school he would be principal of, but said later in a brief interview that he had served as principal of both elementary and middle schools in Woodbridge.

Crowe ended his speech by saying that he "looked forward to going back and serving as a school educator." This time, the superintendent received a solid round of applause and a standing ovation.

One section of the Avenel Middle School auditorium, though, was filled with supporters of the three teachers and two principals who had been suspended last month after the State Department of Education’s Office of Fiscal Accountability and Compliance (OFAC), in a year-long investigation, found cheating on standardized tests at Avenel Street and Ross Street Schools. They are continuing to investigate Ford Avenue School, and more recently, allegations of cheating at Woodbridge High School. 

The supports of the suspended faculty members were wearing t-shirts that trumpeted their fervent belief in the teachers and principals they don't believe engaged in cheating.

It was hard to believe, though, after Board Attorney Jonathan Busch turned part of the board meeting into a public meeting devoted to detailing specifically how the teachers and principals went about helping students in their charge to cheat.

The NJ Department of Education required the public meeting, and the specifics, be outlined so that taxpayers and parents would know what was going on.

Busch delineated instances in which third grade teachers John Radzik and Lisa Savillo, both of Avenel Street School, and Stephanie Klecan, who taught at the same school in the 2010 school year, as well as Avenel Street School Principal Dara Kurlander and former Ross Street School Principal Sharon Strack were involved in the scandal.

One example Busch used was how Radzik had allegedly had access to the test in advance, a violation of the testing procedure, and he gave children specifics about what to expect on the test. That in turn led to essay question answers that were so similar between students as to be almost statistically impossible.

Radzik, Busch said, had in some instances given the students the answers outright to multiple choice test questions. Radzik made "Statements such as, 'Aw, come on guys, you can't tell everyone the answer to Number 5 is A,'" Busch read.

In the public portion of the meeting, Barbara Szabo, a retired Woodbridge teacher with 43 years in the district, couldn't adequately express her dismay at the cheating scandal.

"This is an embarrassment. I am hurt. I put in 43 years and never once thought of compromising any state test," Szabo said. 

"I'm glad you brought up the words 'ethics' and 'trust,' " she continued, addressing the board members. "Have we lost that? That's part of becoming educated. That's part of becoming an adult."

Szabo said, "I hope I can come back to a Board of Ed meeting in a couple of months and I can say I am happy and proud I worked in Woodbridge.

"Right now, it hurts me, and it's an embarassment," she said to applause.

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Tom Maras September 24, 2012 at 01:01 PM
@ALL. Hey folks, take a breath for a minute. If you listened to the BOE lawyer speaking last Thursday evening, you heard him say he could NOT discuss Ms. Rotella status, as it was a personnel matter. He made it clear, through lawyer speak, that there was more going on with the State's investigation. Can anyone imagine such an investigation NOT including Ms. Rotella's boss, John Crowe? As to defending Dr. Crowe, or anyone else in this scandal, I certainly have not done so. I have never condoned the CHEATING. It is wrong at and level, but it certainly has NOT done irreparable damage to the children. If their parents have taught them Right from Wrong, they know its wrong. Perhaps, in a general assembly at each school, Dr. Crowe, together with the new Assistant Superintendent of Schools, the Principal and teachers of each school in the district should explain to the students what has happened, why it is wrong and how it will never be allowed again. As for the Prosecution of any and all wrongdoers, they must be given their day in Court. It's the Law! And yes, the BOE must take its share of blame in this scandal. But listening to Mr. Tamburello, the Board's VP, who stands for re-election in November, last Thursday night was like listening to a politician trying to get voters to look "forward" and to forget about what the politician did, or as in this case, didn't do. While the voters cannot change the entire Board this year, that might be the best candidate to start with!
fedupwithboe September 24, 2012 at 09:53 PM
To, Many of the boe did nothing but "defend" and make excuses for what went on and why what they did was correct. I have taught my children right from wrong at home but at the young age of 8 - 9 , they do idolize their teachers , therefore to have the teacher give them the impression that cheating is ok because they dont like state testing is absurd......3rd grade is these kids first chance at state testing and how are they supposed know that their teacher is not suppose to help them their teacher has helped them(at least we hope) the entire year. I am am extremely active in my childrens school and I do stress at home the importance of good education but have I ever sat down with any of my children and specifically asked them if a teacher has "cheated" for them.....no, but now I guess I have too.... and in my opinion bottom line is that Crowe is the top man and he is responsible for what happens below him......in the private sector lets see something like ths happen and the "boss" not be held accountable.......just saying
DMP September 25, 2012 at 01:18 AM
The report shouldn't have to mention Crowe or Rotella by name. The fact of the matter is that when you are a leader, you are responsible for leading your staff. If you do not have systems of checks and balances in place to guarantee success, then it is the fault of those leaders. It is not a matter of liking or disliking either Crowe or Rotella. Instead, it is a matter of wrong and right. We have illustrated to our children that it's ok to cheat a little bit. It is my job as a parent to instill those moral values that are important to my family. At the same time, I teach my children to respect authority----including teachers and principals. How can we ask our children to honor and respect those who think it is acceptable to - literally - cheat our children out of their education.
Retired WHS teacher September 27, 2012 at 11:27 PM
Tom said "allowing teachers to teach and to grade students in a fair, realistic and untethered manner would be best for teachers and students alike" This is what it was like many, many years ago---before NCLB and the emphasis on standardized testing. I used to be able to give the students a broad "think about it" problem for which they had to use subject related skills along with good old fashioned THINKING and LOGICAL REASONING to solve the problem. (These problems usually had several "correct" responses/ solutions.) The students would work in small groups to solve the problem, usually taking about 15 to 25 minutes to figure it out. They would be graded on the solution along with the THOUGHT processes that went into the solution. Now that 15 to 25 minutes is spent doing practice problems for the HSPA, which do NOT require as much ORIGINAL thought since most of them fit certain patterns. Here is a poor analogy: Then: 3 people each design a unique fuel efficient engine. Now: 1 person can assemble each of theses engines on the assembly line. Some students today expect to get a good grade just for ATTEMPTING to do their homework, showing up for class on time and perhaps doing a little work during class.
Kay Smith September 29, 2012 at 02:16 AM
K10: funny you said that, I also filed a complaint with Crowe and he did nothing with it. LET'S FACE IT, HE IS USELESS AND NEEDS TO GO!


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