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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wetfrog18 September 21, 2012 at 10:55 AM
Good News! There's more out there (higher than Crowe) that need to be investigated and fired. He should be fired. He, (in my opinion) admitted guilt. Also, hopefully, his salary should be reduced to that level of where he's going. I doubt that. Hopefully someone will inform the taxpayers of what's going on.
David September 21, 2012 at 11:05 AM
More nonsense. I do not know John Crowe personally, but removing him as superintendent will not prevent future cheating. As long as the state and federal government mandate standarized tests, and issues sanctions if scores don't continually increase, there will be cheating. Under No Child Left Behind (NCLB), school scores must go up every year, until 2014 when every child in the United States must be proficient in every subject. It's profoundly unrealistic. Some states (e.g., Mississippi) have coped with this by making the tests so easy that just about every student passes. Some districts have not been able to meet the NCLB requirements, and have been subject to severe sanctions (e.g., loss of funding, firings). There were one school in Rhode Island where every single teacher was fired because test scores did not increase. Finally, there are a lot of schools that just cheat. Cheating goes on in many school districts, but these schools in Woodbridge got caught because it was so blatant. For example, instead of just more getting students to pass, the Avenel Street School adjusted so many answers that they had among the highest scores in the state.
veronica camp September 21, 2012 at 01:03 PM
It is not the superintendent's fault (Dr. Crowe)...........before judging and acusing him, you should know that you cannot always control everything..............Dr. Crowe is a decent person and has always cared for education. While he was principal, he knew every child's name..........................so (westfrog 18)....unless your life is so perfect that you have everything under control, do not judge!!!
Brian September 21, 2012 at 01:19 PM
I applaud this decision. A leader must be held accountable for the performance of his organization.
NotInKansasAnymore September 21, 2012 at 01:24 PM
Then why did they think it was Rotella's fault Veronica? If he still gets to work for the township then why don't all the other guilty ones? Let's just keep playing musical positions! If he will be a principal maybe she can come back as a teacher and we can move the teachers down to teachers aides or proctors even! I'm sure they learned what people consider cheating at this point. So who do you think is at fault?
K10 September 21, 2012 at 03:35 PM
Veronica! Did you miss in the report where it said complaints were made to Dr Crowe years ago and also parents had a private meeting with him to tell him what was going on? In my opinion he brushed it all under the carpet and let it continue! Its time to put the kids first and not careers of the administration! Remember it is obvious these kids needed help and instead they cheated for them and passed them along!
NotInKansasAnymore September 21, 2012 at 06:03 PM
And yes Veronica there is a Santa Claus! LOL
jun ann hurley September 21, 2012 at 07:38 PM
Kay Smith September 21, 2012 at 09:40 PM
Veronica: You have got to be kidding! This cheating scandal is HUGE. I will agree with you that not everyone can know everything and be everywhere but give me a break. This is not some tiny little item that slipped through his slimy (and crooked)little fingers. He most certainly knew about this, all of it! Yes it is his fault! He should have put a stop to it the minute the first person came forward and told him about the cheating. Instead he took the typical "Woodbridge Way Out" and lied, covered it up and worst of all CONDONED IT!!! If all the other teachers, principals and Rotella are going to lose everything he is no different. He should not be allowed to return to any school, in any position, under any circumstances. I see a few smart people also liked your comments, lets hear from you again Veronica. I really enjoy hearing all the ways you people spin the truth and act "oh so surprised and amazed". Come one, give it your best shot!!! Seems like the good people of Woodbridge have had enough, and aren't gonna stay quiet anymore.
Kay Smith September 21, 2012 at 09:44 PM
My child was one of them! He did so well in School 14, (yeah rite), that when he went to middle school he scored below proficient and had to take special classes to help him. I even approached those people about his struggles and they had the nerve to throw his "good scores" at me as a way for me to go away!!! It is apparent and stated that there IS cheating at School 14 and I am awaiting the day for them to be held accountable like the rest
Jo September 21, 2012 at 10:15 PM
This message is for Dr. Crowe. Not sure if he has the stomach to read the patch and see exactly what people are saying about him and how they feel but its worth a shot. This is what you said to me in an email a few years ago when you did not want to get out of your chair and help. "I realize that this is not the resolution you seek, but after reviewing the situation many times, I believe it is an appropriate one. I remain ever hopeful that goodwill and a shared sense of purpose will prevail." Well Dr. Crowe back at ya!! In your case, goodwill and a shared sense of purpose DID prevail". Oh yeah, sure glad "the board "graciously" informed you that you could reapply for the job." Sound familiar!!!! Karma is alive and well in Woodbridge Township!!!
Retired WHS teacher September 21, 2012 at 10:30 PM
David's first paragraph says it all. NCLB is asking for the impossible. The number of correct answers on the multiple choice section of the HSPA needed to get a passing score is lower than it was originally.
NotInKansasAnymore September 22, 2012 at 02:24 AM
Jo, sorry to hear Crowe was as useless in helping you as he was when I went to him with issues. I just pray that the new Superintendent (family member) will not be allowed to use a video camera, do their own nesting show on TV 35 or be allowed to use the Honeywell alert system! And I agree.....KARMA IS WONDERFUL!
K10 September 22, 2012 at 01:16 PM
WOW That is great LOL He sure did change for the worse when he got to the top!
Tom Maras September 23, 2012 at 02:54 PM
@ David and Retired WHS teacher. Clad to see cooler heads are focusing on the root of the problem, the TESTING. As stated in other writings, NCLB is a noble but impracticable concept. It does not raise the bridge, it lowers the water, so to speak. How can "standardizing tests" in school districts that have a diverse and shifting population ever work? As we are seeing, it cannot. Perhaps, allowing teachers to teach and to grade students in a fair, realistic and untethered manner would be best for teachers and students alike. To all the outraged parents, who are understandably furious about the cheating and are looking for heads to roll, might focusing at least some of your ire at the state and federal officials who are compelling school districts to use a "one size fits all" form of testing, be more beneficial in the long-term to the children!
enoughisenough September 23, 2012 at 03:23 PM
Mr Maras...although I too do not agree with standardized testing, you are way off here, the bottom line is these admin/teachers have cheated and are teaching our children that if you do not like something it is ok to cheat and lie.....just what I want my children to learn....although I would not have guessed it at any BOE meeting that I attended and listen to you ramble on , now you are a fan of Dr Crowe....I really do believe you just like to hear your self speak. What I think is that every position on that BOE should be open at this election, let the public of Woodbridge decide who stays and who goes ....The current BOE duty now should be to relook at what they have done or what they have "gone" along with since this cheating scandal has been going on ...their first step should be to apoligize to Mr. Pinkowitz, the man has always been spot on and has always had the right proof yet this BOE has always put him off....they have dimissed him everytime he proved them wrong. It is a shame that because of adults egos our children have suffered......
NotInKansasAnymore September 24, 2012 at 12:57 AM
I agree with you enoughisenough....I am not a fan of these tests either but some people are way off the mark here when they want to just blame the state for the tests. Why don't all the teachers just teach to the best of their ability and when all the districts are failing cuz the state test standards are impossible to attain the state would then realize they are asking the impossible. But instead these teachers CHOOSE TO CHEAT AND DRAG OUR CHILDREN ALONG DOING THE WRONG THING!!!!! I don't care how they try to spin it THEY WERE WRONG NOT THE STATE!!!!!
Kay Smith September 24, 2012 at 01:02 AM
Nicely put Kansas. This district has a real problem with everyone pointing the fingers. It's always "someone else's fault". The fault lies with the cheaters plain and simple. So let's face it, deal with it, fix it and move in the right direction.
obiwanisback September 24, 2012 at 02:10 AM
No where in the State report did they mention that Crowe had any involvement in the cheating scandal. The evidence presented in the report is overwhelmingly against those who have been suspended and there is no need to investigate them any further, those on suspension should have the guts to admit what they did was wrong and resign.
NotInKansasAnymore September 24, 2012 at 03:05 AM
Well did the report mention Rotella?
K10 September 24, 2012 at 12:21 PM
Yes it did say a complaint was filed with Dr Crowe by a teacher at school 26. He did nothing with it!
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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