Disciplinary proceedings begin in cheating probe

Cayuga Elementary School in Hunting Park. Staff and parents at the Hunting Park school had alleged for years that principal Evelyn Cortez had ordered testing improprieties - from instructing students to confirm answers with their teachers before entering them in exam books to changing answers herself, according to a grand jury report.
Cayuga Elementary School in Hunting Park. Staff and parents at the Hunting Park school had alleged for years that principal Evelyn Cortez had ordered testing improprieties - from instructing students to confirm answers with their teachers before entering them in exam books to changing answers herself, according to a grand jury report. (ALEX REMNICK / Staff Photographer)
Posted: May 15, 2014

Disciplinary proceedings have begun against four educators charged in the probe of cheating on standardized tests at Cayuga Elementary.

Evelyn Cortez, Rita Wyszynski, Jennifer Hughes, and Ary Sloane were summoned Tuesday to Philadelphia School District headquarters. They face criminal charges of felony conspiracy, tampering with public records, forgery, and related crimes.

The district could move to fire the four, who are scheduled to appear in court this month. "Conferences were held this morning and decisions regarding disciplinary outcomes will be made as soon as possible," said spokeswoman Raven Hill.

Cortez was until recently Cayuga's principal. Wyszynski and Hughes are teachers at the school, and Sloane, a former Cayuga teacher, had gone on to be principal of Bethune Elementary, another district school.

A fifth educator, Lorraine Vicente, had been a teacher at Cayuga, but was laid off in 2011. She became a district per-diem teacher in 2013, but has not had an assignment since October.

The four are receiving full pay while on suspension. According to the latest records available, Cortez is paid $135,820 annually; Sloane is paid $134,911, Wyszynski $90,051, and Hughes $70,457 a year.

Along with Vicente, they are accused of improprieties ranging from changing answers to steering students to fix incorrect answers. The cheating stretches back at least five years, the state attorney general has contended. During that period, Cayuga's test scores jumped and its principal received public accolades.

After the state and district cracked down on test security, Cayuga's scores plummeted.

Multiple reports of cheating were made to the Philadelphia School District over several years before officials took it seriously, staff said.


kgraham@phillynews.com215-854-5146 @newskag www.inquirer.com/schoolfiles

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