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.