Credentials suspended for two after school cheating probes

Posted: July 14, 2013

In the latest development in a statewide cheating investigation, the Pennsylvania Department of Education has taken disciplinary action against a former Philadelphia charter school administrator and a Philadelphia School District teacher.

The announcements, posted on the department's website, bring the number of city educators who have reached settlements with the department in connection with the probe to four.

Thomas R. Conway, a former assistant principal at the Philadelphia Electrical and Technology Charter High School, had his supervisory credentials suspended until April 2016.

According to the department, Conway agreed to the suspension in the spring to settle allegations he had violated the security protocols for handling and storage of the Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams and by reviewing the tests to creating an answer key.

The attorney who handled Conway's case declined comment.

Philadelphia Electrical, affiliated with electricians union Local 98, is one of two city charter schools whose renewals have been placed on hold by the School Reform Commission since last year pending the outcome of the cheating investigation.

The charter's chief executive could not be reached Friday.

State records show the department received the complaint against Conway in mid-February. Department records show the action was taken April 29.

As part of the settlement, Conway's teaching credentials were suspended through June 30.

State records indicate that Conway had not been employed by Philadelphia Electrical or held any position that required a certificate from the Education Department since Dec. 14.

Earlier this week, the department said Ronald B. Paulus, an English teacher at Bok Technical High School, agreed to have his teaching certificate suspended for the summer to settle allegations he had failed to follow PSSA test administration procedures.

Paulus, who won a Lindback award in 2011 for his teaching skills, denied the allegations.

Department records show Paulus said there was "no factual or legal basis for the allegations" but decided to settle the case to avoid the cost, time, and uncertainty of fighting a complaint the department received last September.

His suspension will end Aug. 25. The attorney who represented Paulus could not be reached Friday.

Bok was among 23 schools the district closed last month.

Tim Eller, a spokesman for the Education Department, declined to comment on how these actions were tied into the investigation of PSSA cheating or the status of the probe.

Two School District administrators surrendered administrative credentials in the spring after admitting they were involved in cheating at their schools.

The state began the probe in 2011 after The Inquirer reported allegations that cheating was responsible for gains at Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown in 2009, and a state-commissioned analysis of the 2009 PSSA surfaced that identified suspicious patterns of erasures at schools across the state.

The department brought in the state's Inspector General's Office to assist with the probe.

Statewide, many of the schools and districts that were investigated have either been cleared or their probes closed.

In the city, 53 district schools and three charters remain under scrutiny for possible cheating.

District officials are reviewing some of those schools where the allegations were less serious.

"Our investigation is in its final stages, and we should be making an announcement fairly soon," district spokesman Fernando Gallard said Friday.

Since 2012, educators across the state have had to sign affidavits acknowledging that if they tampered with tests, they could be subject to criminal charges.


Contact Martha Woodall at 215-854-2789 or martha.woodall@phillynews.com

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