Green to be nominated as SRC chair; 3 fired in cheating probe

Posted: January 17, 2014

As it heard news Thursday night that a stunning 138 educators had been implicated in a widespread cheating scandal, the Philadelphia School Reform Commission prepared for two new members.

On Friday, Gov. Corbett will nominate City Councilman Bill Green and People's Emergency Center chief Farah Jimenez to the SRC, sources said. Green, who would have to resign from Council, is to be chairman.

The governor is scheduled to visit Central High School on Friday morning.

If confirmed by the state Senate, Green and Jimenez will have to deal with the fallout of the cheating probe.

The SRC fired three principals Thursday night, but more investigations and discipline are to come.

The implicated educators' conduct "is believed to have violated basic testing integrity, ethical and moral standards," officials told the SRC.

Deidre Bennett, Michelle Burns, and Marla Travis-Curtis were all terminated with cause, effective Friday.

Bennett was principal of Cassidy Elementary, but had been a teacher leader at Huey Elementary; Burns, principal of Kensington Urban Education Academy, had been principal at Tilden Middle; and Travis-Curtis was principal of Lamberton Elementary.

Superintendent William R. Hite Jr. condemned those involved, saying they "acted neither in the best interests of our schools nor our students."

The actions were years in the making. An investigation of 53 district schools and three city charters began in 2011, after The Inquirer reported allegations that dramatic test-score gains beginning in 2009 were achieved in part through cheating at Roosevelt Middle School in East Germantown.

Also that year, a state-commissioned analysis of the 2009 exams identified suspicious patterns of erasures at schools across Pennsylvania. Later, staffers and parents at Cayuga Elementary told The Inquirer of cheating at their school.

The state Inspector General's Office conducted investigations at 11 district schools - the "Tier I" schools. The district investigated 19 Tier II schools and has yet to probe 22 Tier III schools.

A total of 69 current and former employees were implicated in the Tier I investigations, School District attorney Jessica Diaz said, but discipline against them cannot proceed until the state releases its investigations to the district.

Of the 19 Tier II schools probed, three were cleared, no conclusion could be drawn at three, and cheating was found at 13.

The Tier II investigations were exhaustive, district officials said. Investigators spent more than 5,000 hours on the work.

They interviewed 550 administrators, teachers, testing coordinators, and, in some cases, students. They assessed erasure data, reviewed student testing booklets in Harrisburg, and even traveled to Minnesota to visit the company that performed the initial state-exam analysis.

In all, 40 current district employees and 29 former employees were implicated. Twenty were administrators, 46 were teachers, and three worked in schools in other capacities, including as counselors and a police officer.

The district will pursue state disciplinary action against the 29 former employees; those still employed by the district must go through due process before the state can act.


kgraham@phillynews.com

215-854-5146 @newskag

www.inquirer.com/

phillyschoolfiles

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