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District promoted principals from schools under suspicion for cheating

By the Notebook on Sep 18, 2012 02:35 PM
Photo: Nathaniel Hamilton for NewsWorks

Strawberry Mansion High is one of many schools where test sheets showed statistically unlikely patterns of  "wrong to right" erasures.

By Benjamin Herold and Dale Mezzacappa
for the Notebook/NewsWorks

Updated: see note below

In 2009, Strawberry Mansion High School appeared to be something of a miracle.

A neighborhood high school in a rough part of North Philadelphia, Mansion saw more than two-thirds of its students score "proficient" or above on that year's state standardized tests.

Today, though, compelling evidence indicates that Mansion's unusually high test results were driven by adult cheating.

Documents obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook show Mansion students raised alarms about cheating as far back as 2005. Suspicious patterns of "wrong-to-right" erasures on test sheets, a tipoff for adult cheating, have also been spotted in both reading and math for the 2009 and 2010 testing cycles.


Listen to Ben Herold's NewsWorks Tonight interview

Now, Lois Powell-Mondesire, the principal who presided over the school's testing gains, is no longer there, and Mansion's test scores are back in the tank. Barely 10 percent of students scored proficient or above on last spring's exams.

But Powell-Mondesire wasn't disciplined.

She was promoted.

In 2010, Powell-Mondesire was tapped for a new central office position advising other principals on how to turn around struggling schools. While Mansion struggles to get back on its feet, Powell-Mondesire will make more than $145,000, just shy of the top possible salary for a Philadelphia principal.

A statewide probe involving 53 regular city schools, four area charters, and a number of other districts across Pennsylvania is still ongoing. It is possible for cheating at a school to occur without a principal's knowledge or involvement. No proof of cheating by specific administrators has been made public, and no Philadelphia school administrator has been charged with wrongdoing.

But in a number of cases, telltale signs of adult cheating at specific schools correlate to the tenures of individual principals. Some of those principals were rewarded by the District after overseeing eyebrow-raising test-score gains.

That practice has continued, even after District officials became aware of evidence of suspicious erasures. For example, Barbara McCreery, who oversaw dubious test score increases at her former school, Communications Technology High, was installed just this summer as the new principal at Bok Technical High.

"I think this is willful blindness," said Michael Josephson, a leading national expert on ethics and education and the president of the nonprofit Josephson Institute of Ethics.

"There's a deliberate looking the other way," he said.

Fairness or slow reaction?

Powell-Mondesire did not respond to requests for comment.

But principals' union president Robert McGrogan was adamant that it is unfair to associate individual administrators with cheating until an investigation being led by the Pennsylvania Department of Education is complete.

"I believe that the media is trying people, and I think that is inappropriate," said McGrogan, the president of Teamsters Local 502, Commonwealth Association of School Administrators.

"An investigation is under way. The truth will be made known. People need to be patient until we reach that time," McGrogan said.

Cheating on state tests can be conclusively proven only by confessions or credible firsthand accounts. Seeking that kind of hard evidence, state and District investigators have been interviewing staff at about a third of the 53 District schools where there are signs of cheating.

Pennsylvania Department of Education spokesperson Timothy Eller would not comment on the investigation.

The District is taking the lead on the cheating probes at 20 so-called Tier 2 schools. District spokesperson Fernando Gallard said the District would make no comment on the cases of individual educators until those investigations are complete, likely by the end of December.

David Adamany, the former president of Temple University who is serving as an unpaid "testing integrity adviser" to the District, called that caution appropriate.

"The idea in the District is to have this so well nailed down, you're sure to get the right people," Adamany said. "If they bring charges and charges don't stick, you do terrible damage to someone's reputation and open up the impression that the School District is unable to trace wrongdoers and get them out.

"There's a lot of caution being exercised, and it's heartbreaking we cannot move faster."

Josephson, however, calls the lack of action problematic.

"Of course, we want to be fair," he said.

Update: Michael Josephson has asked that this quote be clarified:

"But if fairness prevents you from making decisions that are obvious or important, it perpetuates [cheating] behavior." to say

"But a fair result can be achieved expeditiously and dragging out the process is often an excuse for not dealing with a problem," he said. "In this case it seems they have or can easily get the information they need to make a fair decision and process is being used in a way that is excusing the failure to make an obvious and important decision and this will perpetuate cheating behavior." End update

A trail of suspicious erasures

Edward Penn opened the new school year as one of the highest-paid principals in the city. Yet forensic and statistical evidence points to possible cheating at two schools while he was principal.

In 2008-09, Penn was the principal of Thurgood Marshall Elementary. He earned $96,634, according to information obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook under Pennsylvania's Right to Know law.

That year, Marshall, a K-8 school in the city's Olney section, saw big gains in the percentages of its students scoring proficient or advanced on Pennsylvania System of School Assessment (PSSA) exams. (The other possible ratings are basic and below basic.)

Schoolwide, the rates of students scoring proficient or above in math and reading shot up 17 percentage points. In 4th grade, reading scores rose 37 points. In 6th grade, math scores rose 40 points.

The scores dropped slightly the following year, while he was still principal.

In summer 2010, Penn was promoted to the same new post given to Lois Powell-Mondesire: "turnaround principal."

His duties?

To support the leaders of the District's six initial Promise Academies – struggling schools targeted for massive intervention in the hopes of generating quick improvement.

With the promotion, along with a shift from being a 10-month to a 12-month employee, Penn got a 42 percent raise, to $137,311 per year.

Shortly afterwards, he was installed as the principal at Clemente Middle School, a new Promise Academy off to a rough start.

In Penn's first year, Clemente saw modest school-wide gains, with proficiency rates rising 4 percentage points in reading and 10 points in math. Gains in some grade-subject combinations were more dramatic. In 6th-grade math, proficiency rates rose 30 points; in 7th-grade reading, they rose 20 points.

Then, last August, the state Department of Education commissioned a statewide analysis of PSSA answer forms from 2009, 2010, and 2011. The goal was to find schools where a high number of student response sheets had unusual numbers of incorrect answers that had been erased and changed to the correct answer – a strong signal of the worst type of adult cheating.

That analysis revealed big trouble at Thurgood Marshall Elementary during Ed Penn's time there.

According to confidential documents and information obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook, Marshall's 2009 PSSA results were flagged for suspicious "wrong-to-right" erasures in seven out of a possible 12 grade-subject combinations: in both math and reading in grades 3, 4 and 6 and in math in grade 7.

In 2010, the school was flagged four of a possible 12 times. Proficiency rates dropped.

In 2011, after Penn left Marshall, the suspicious erasure patterns went away, and test scores kept trending downward.

That same year, similar signs of cheating appeared at Clemente, now under Penn's leadership for the first time.

After not being flagged even a single time for suspicious erasures previously, Clemente was flagged six of a possible eight times for its 2011 results.

In grades 5, 6, and 7, where the signs of cheating appeared, Clemente's test scores went up in both reading and math.

In 8th grade, which was not flagged, scores went down 14 points in both subjects.

As a so-called Tier One school, Clemente has been a target of investigators from the the state Office of the Inspector General. No findings have yet been made public.

Penn did not respond to requests for comment.

Other examples

A NewsWorks/Notebook analysis showed other examples where evidence of improper erasures correlated with the tenures of individual principals.

In 2008-09 and 2009-10, Michelle Burns was the principal of Tilden Middle School in Southwest Philadelphia.

In both years, Tilden was flagged for suspicious erasures in every possible grade and subject.

In summer 2010, Burns was reassigned to be principal at Kensington Urban Education High School. She also went from being a 10-month to a 12-month employee. Her annual salary rose 25 percent, to $134,775.

In 2011, the first year after her departure, the suspicious erasure patterns at Tilden stopped. The school's PSSA scores plunged 28 percentage points in both reading and math.

Burns did not respond to requests for comment on the evidence of possible cheating at Tilden.

By 2010, Barbara McCreery's last year as principal at Communications Technology High, 11th-grade proficiency rates had soared to 75 percent in reading and 70 percent in math.

The school's results were flagged for suspicious erasures in reading and math in both 2009 and 2010.

In 2011, the first year after McCreery's departure, the signs of cheating at Comm Tech went away. That year, the school's proficiency rates plummeted, dropping 38 percentage points in reading and 45 percentage points in math.

McCreery spent the last two years filling in at other schools, mostly on special assignment. Last spring, the state decided to have the Inspector General do an on-the-ground inspection at Comm Tech.

This summer, the District named McCreery the new principal at Bok Technical High.

District officials would not comment on her new assignment.

McCreery did not respond to requests for comment.

This year, she'll make $142,724.

Signs of trouble not heeded

Long before Strawberry Mansion High's test scores reached their peak in 2009, Powell-Mondesire started tussling over testing issues with one of the city's student organizing groups, Youth United for Change.

In public, YUC members testified about excessive and inappropriate test preparation at Mansion. They were particularly displeased with the school's practice of pulling select students out of their core classes for intensive test-prep drills.

In private, according to documents, YUC students and staff alleged cheating by staff at the school. They shared with high-ranking District officials the results of an extensive but unscientific survey in which almost one-third of the 153 Mansion students who responded said they had received help on standardized tests.

The complaints led to some districtwide changes to how schools handled test preparation and administration. But the district does not appear to have taken any action regarding Powell-Mondesire or other adults working at Mansion at the time.

Three years later, a staggering number of Mansion's student PSSA test answer sheets showed extremely high numbers of suspicious "wrong-to-right" erasures, according to confidential documents and information obtained by NewsWorks and the Notebook.

State officials say the average PSSA response sheet might have one wrong answer that is changed to the correct answer.

At Mansion in 2009, 78 percent of student response sheets on the math exam had five or more such erasures. In reading, 47 percent of student response sheets had five or more suspicious erasures.

Statistically, it is all but impossible that those patterns occurred by chance.

In 2010, Powell-Mondesire's last year at the school, Mansion was again flagged for suspicious erasures in both math and reading.

The next year, the flags disappeared in reading, though not in math.

By 2012, Mansion's fall from grace was complete; math proficiency rates were down about 60 percentage points and reading proficiency rates were down more than 50 percentage points from their 2009 pinnacle.

No hard evidence of cheating at Mansion has been made public. Even if such evidence were found, it might not implicate Powell-Mondesire or other senior administrators at the school.

Scores have rippling effects

But Mansion's dubious PSSA scores from 2009 and 2010 likely shielded it from some of the harsh consequences recently experienced by other struggling neighborhood high schools.

In both 2010 and 2011, Mansion was spared while seven of Philadelphia's other neighborhood high schools with chronically poor test scores were either reconstituted or converted into charter schools as part of the District's Renaissance Schools turnaround initiative. At the time of intervention, those schools - Audenried, Germantown, Simon Gratz, Martin Luther King, Olney East and Olney West, and West Philadelphia – all had test scores similar to, or even better than, Mansion's 2012 results.

And just last spring, the School Reform Commission voted to close two of Mansion's neighboring high schools, FitzSimons and Rhodes. Poor academic performance was one consideration for the decision. Those schools' students are now being sent to Mansion.

Josephson, the ethics expert, called school systems' lack of action in the face of dubious results like Mansion's "cowardly." He said such inaction can breed cynicism and mistrust among staff, parents, and the larger community.

And experts agree that the greatest harm from cheating is done to children– a point acknowledged recently by incoming Philadelphia Superintendent William Hite.

Adult cheating "impacts our students in such a way that we have no idea whether or not they have learned anything," said Hite.

"I don't think that's fair to them, and that's certainly not how I want this School District represented across the state or across the nation."


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Comments (186)

Submitted by Concerned Philadelphian (not verified) on September 18, 2012 4:56 pm

Thank you! Now, what about Penny Nixon? She ran Wagner and then the Northwest Region - a region with many schools on the "cheat" list. Comm Tech under McCreary also played a game with who was tested. Students were shifted from 10th to 11th and taken off the 11th grade list if it looked like they would not test proficient. This, combined with erasures, let their scores skyrocket.

The implications for students and staff are grave. Students - and their families - were "fooled" into thinking scores were improving. School that did not "improve," were destined, as you wrote, for take over.

Strawberry Mansion has been suspect under Powell-Mondesire since she was at the school. It was well known that various forms of cheating was rampant. Teaching during testing was the norm.

Now that the SDP will select schools to close, will they use PSSA data? How is there any validity?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 9:24 am

They will NEVER touch Penny. Penny's office is full of staff members who were slated to be laid off, but they are friends of linda wyatt, lissa johnson's daughter is still an intern. Every other intern was let go because apparently the grant money ran out. Funny she is still around though. Then there are the Executive assistants, all slated to be laid off, all saved by Penny's office. Then there is Knudsen who has 2 chauffers and 3 personal assitants and a parent ombudsman. How many parents go itno the CFO's office seeking advice on delegations or residency affidavits?!?!

ALl of this barking about how unfair and nothing is ever done. Get used to it folks, it will never change. Everybody knows somebody who is going to save them. Unless you are an honest employee of course, you we don't need.

Submitted by Marcia Ellis (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:53 am

We all have our own input and that is OK too. Still! I am confident in the power of a God, who knows everything, goes everywhere and He is present at every meeting, to expose this! I am personally alarmed, that this is even a part of our school-system for so long. I know we must exercise objectivity, patience and justice to ensure the truth is realized. How long should this be allowed, as this moves from one school to the next? The students are my deepest concern and parents who are left in the dark. Why are we choosing to increase the salary of those who are been questioned? That could be handled differently, if what is said is truly a concern. Let us choose to wake up from our slumber and trust God who will not let this injustice go unnoticed! The truth will be known and it is now time to start working diligently "together" for our children, who deserve much better than this. OH! Those who think they are untouchable and there will be no changes! Start thinking more objectively and in a more positive way."Leaders! Let us stand together and remove this from among our schools once and for all. Shall we?

Submitted by Ms. Math (not verified) on September 20, 2012 4:00 am


As a testing coordinator, I've been asked this question many times. Allow me to answer.

In the past seven years at my school, we've had seven different testing coordinators. It's a rotten, time-consuming, thankless job that absolutely NOBODY wants. It pays NOTHING. I get one period a day to devote to the job - but I'm so caught up with my Math teaching/advising duties and responsibilities that I NEVER have any "free time" - so it's all after school/weekend/lunch period duty. I get calls and complaints from my principal, my colleagues and the parents of our 800+ students all the time. There is testing and retesting for the PSSA's (now Keystones) SAT's, PSAT's, ACT's, and AP exams. Are all the Title 1 kids identified for reduced fees? Are all accomodations made for all the Special Ed kids? Call the Testing Bureau in Princeton (Ooops! The number is changed!) Then call 440! Then call Harrisburg.The headaches are endless. Especially this year, with the new Keystones - 59 bits of information have to be uploaded on each student and a new database established! (I guess I'm supposed to do this in my spare time, right?)

So why did I accept the job? Frankly, I wouldn't have been hired if I hadn't. It's a job given by custom to unsuspecting new hires who haven't a clue (like me) of what they're letting themselves in for. When I taught (4 years) in Delaware, we had a full-time testing coordinator. That was all she did. She didn't teach Math and advise students and oversee the supply room, too. Now, with all the PSD staff cutbacks, we are each wearing seven hats - and we're cracking under the strain!

Three weeks into the school year, I'm already quietly looking for another job. This "churn 'em and burn 'em" policy will be the death of this school district, but I'll be damned if it'll be the death of me.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:43 am

IS your school a charter or standard public school?
Linda K.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 5:46 am

Good luck in your future endeavors Ms. Nixon. Now can you tell us what happened at Wagner during the 2012 PSSA testing? Ms. Johnstone was allowed to make a mockery of PSSA testing and you and your cronies supported her. Shame on you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 5:28 pm

Thanks to the Notebook for its tenacious reporting on this subject.

Stephanie Renzler (sp?) was sent to W. Wilson in the Northeast after Roosevelt teachers went public with their cheating info. What intelligent person believes that scores can go up 50 points in two years? Other than the Superintendent ad the Governor, I mean. Those kids of improvements are statistically impossible, as everyone at 440 knows.

Not promoting an administrator is not the same as "trying them". Forensic evidence this compelling should AT LEAST result in individual hearings with each of these principals.

Lisa Haver

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 29, 2012 10:54 pm

In reference to the principal S. Rossier she was moved from Roosevelt Middle School to W. Wilsom in the Northeast. The principal actually experienced a much better move than were she was orginally assigned.
Also, she was lauded by the then superintendent Ackerman at the principal's convocation.
Fifty points increase is really unrealistic for a school but it appeared that there was so much pressure and stress put the on principals by the administration to make AYP so that the superintendent could make bonuses or receive awards for the overall achievement of the School District.
It really was an difficult time in the district and principals were getting walk throughs from teams of people from out of town and central administration offices. These people were mostly young folks hired from where ever, to advise seasoned trained administrators how to supervise their curriculum and instruction in their schools. No mention there were alot of novice regional superintendents that were not confident or knowledgable in their newly assigned positions.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 6:09 am

The principal's name is Stefanie Ressler. While at Roosevelt, in the Northwest Region, the cheating orchestrated by Ressler was "over the top" and very blatant. Teachers reported on Ressler and it was covered by the Notebook and the Inquirer. Ressler was friends with Nixon. (Penny Nixon was a colleague/principal at Wagner at the same time and then was Ressler's boss as Regional Superintendent of the NW Region). Nixon gave Ressler the position at Wilson Middle School in the Northeast - a more "desirable" position (location, much larger school, fewer low SES students, strong predecessor, etc.) Wilson has a large English as a Second Language population - Ressler has no experience with ELLs.

Yes, Ackerman put pressure on regional superintendents who put pressure on principals who put pressure on teachers. This doesn't justify what principals like Ressler did to boost test scores to the point of ridiculous. When Ressler's 8th graders at Roosevelt were sent to high school with proficient/advanced scores, what do you think happened in high school?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:54 am

There is not justification for cheating! I just wanted to explain how the central chief administration pressured those administrators at the various schools.
Principals have been verbally threatened and also received write ups in reference to their schools achievement.This happened to those administrators who were not cheating and were working diligently to make school achievement. Those principals indured walk throughs( by friends from out of town) California and DC. to give their educational counsel on how you should run your school concerning curriculum and instruction.
Some principals even held Saturday School to assist their students in better understanding and learning test taking skills. Those principals that did not make AYP were on the firing line and looked at as problematic or poor leaders.

At one point it was understood that each regional must write up or discipline at least three principals in every region. Because after all, every principal can't be a good principal. This was purposely done so that the superintendent could place her students in principal positions. I believe the total was 30 principals. So, I lot of the things that happened were alienating
principals and unions were fighting back as a result of the injustices.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:01 am

You are so right there is not justification for cheating! However, when you have an administration threatening your job, you reputation, etc. So that she can be lauded with the Urban Superintendent Recognition Award and not to mention bonuses there is an untold pressure to make AYP.
There was a hit list of principals becuase they didn't make AYP. Novice regional superintendent wanted to show their worth by making certain that their region had the most AYP schools. Principals who did not make AYP were harrassed with walk throughs, write ups, and memos. Then the regional superintendents were told to write up at least 3 principals in each region so that the superintendent could have placements for 30 new young princpals from out of town. Mind you these principals did not take written exams, or oral exams they were placed because they were graduated students in the superintends urban leadership programs. They were young and inesperienced to the ways,policies and procedures of the district.
It truly was a period of lack of professionalism, ethics and repsect.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 6:49 pm

The Notebook needs to follow through with an investigation of the newly appointed principals that popped up last year. Too many incompetent people are being put into principal positions. Is this a "thank you" for helping "raise" scores at schools now under investigation?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 9:36 pm

Are you reading my mind? You are so right-- many, many principals are incompetent, lazy, rude, obnoxious and downright arrogant. I remember the days when you had to be in a classroom for at least 10 years before becoming a principal but those that can't handle the students quickly run out for the cushy jobs while the teachers carry the brunt of everything. McCreary is not knowledgable at all but downright rude---- a door knob has more sense than she does.... TTSmith first at Sheridan West and now at Conwell--AKA GIRL and not afraid to show it. I recall many a days when I worked at Sheridan West how she would come and go as she pleases "cause after all principals don't have a set time to be at work." Facebook, twitter and being on the "celly" are just some of the important jobs that she did on school district time and money yet she is "untouchable." Sgt Green with her militancy is also a part of Smith's entourage. I wonder if the same work ethic is being used at Conwell?! Dr. Hite, it is time to clean house and the people of Philadelphia are not afraid to give you walking papers if you allow people to use taxpayer money and do nothing! START CLEANING HOUSE MY BRATHA!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:29 am

You are from Conwell. Call a spade a spade. You are probably one of the people that was making over $10,000 in EC money with Edward Hoffman. Did your pocket change get cut off? Don't shame Sheridan West by saying that someone of your ignorance used to work there.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 9:52 pm

This is what you do during school?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 10:07 am

It's called my lunch break. My contract allows for that. You should stop by and check with Lisa. She can verify my lunch schedule. It's the same every day.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 6:04 pm

Under Ackerman/Nixon/Nunnery/Driver/Brady/etc., principals who played their game and miraculous lifted test scores were promoted and praised. In my situation, the principal did whatever he was told - he jumped through their hoops. When it came to testing, even if teachers told him about "irregularities," he didn't want to hear it. So, principals are guilty by commission and omission.

That said, the testing mania obviously let people to do things they may not have otherwise. Chicago teachers are fighting the focus on testing/evaluation. In PA, we face the same battle. What new ways of gaming the test / manipulating results, etc. will be created?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 5:49 am

Not one of the people that you mentioned sanctioned cheating!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 9, 2012 9:42 am

Where is Darienne Driver! She is probably with Thorton in Milwaukee and his crew.
Most of Ackerman's staff all scattered and went to different districts outside of Philadelphia and connected with former superintendents. They're able to get high powered positions due to the titles that they held in the PSD under her administration.
I don't feel that they were competent in their positions. They had aligence to the then superintendent Ackerman for placing them in positions inthe central administration office. If anything the professional development was the weakest I have ever seen in the past 30 years.
There were on walk through teams and I don't really feel that they knew any more than the principals and teachers in the school building.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:14 pm

Testing mania didn't cause this, dishonorable low life cheats caused this. Assuming test pressure turns a good teacher to a cheat demeans our profession. It's called character.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 8:34 am

I agree it's called character, but the pressure being put on teachers comes from the top. Honest teachers came forward with the cheating that was occurring and the higher ups turned a blind eye to it. Not only that we were threatened to be fired, we were written up for things that made no sense. Administrators went after anyone who had real character and made their lives a living hell. I am an awesome teacher, but because I have character and care about what's right, I'm looking to leave the profession...maybe that's what Corbett and his political friends want us to do. Maybe it's all a part of his agenda...this crap is wearing down those of us who have a tremendous amount of character. If they would only ask the teachers...finally listen to how this really affects our ability to be the best we can be as educators, then perhaps change will occur. High stakes testing is ruining education...plain and simple!! No one above, least of all Corbett is willing to take an honest look at's all about the for profit agenda!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:53 pm

The writer of this article must honestly have acts to grind about these two principals.....Is it because they are African American...or African Americans who are paid quite substantially by the SDP.....As I analyzed the data previously I noticed that there were other schools where cheating accusations where even greater.....OLNEY ELEMENTARY for example....and that principal and vice principal retired right before the cheating probe was made public.....

Secondly, Penn received his Clemente position by default....the staff was already put in place by the initial principal which was from Cramp and her school is also under investigation for cheating so maybe it was her team that was in place that encouraged Cramps cheating and carried it over to Clemente.....

I just think that there are too many cheating schools to focus on only two-three cheating administrators......

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:09 pm

I agree with the above to a certain extent. I think that some of the implicated principals' biggest downfall is that they were actually organized enough that the various strategies they used to "boost" test scores actually worked. I've taught in schools with some pretty shady test protocols, but the scores didn't budge much because they were too disorganized in the "support" of students to actually work.

That's not an excuse for their techniques. Just noting that they are far from alone in shady testing protocols. Other than the PSAT at one of the schools I taught, I don't think I've seen a test administered in a Philly school that actually maintained a high level of integrity. Most of the issues are pretty benign (and thus don't help the scores move), but the Philly interpretation of the role of a test proctor is certainly different from anything I've seen in other places.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:56 pm

It is also common practice in some schools - including at least one magnet - to look at the tests before they are administered. The teachers are told to make sure everything was "covered," and then teach it again. During the testing window, very similar problems/questions are reviewed. This won't catch the attention for wrong-right erasures but it is the type of "support" too often given in some Philadelphia schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 11:46 am

Very true. At certain schools the test coordinator has the teachers code the books instead of doing it themselves. I also know that students did not answer all questions on the test and administration called those students out of class to finish the test. This is against testing protocol, once the student turns in the book and says they are done they cannot go back into that section, but principals ignore this. When students don't answer an open- ended they get the kids out of class and make them do it! This also would not show up with erasers.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:31 pm

Powell-Mondesire, Penn and McCreery are very ambitious people. Get off your high horse and recognize that there are many African Americans in leadership in Philadelphia who were at the forefront of cheating - starting with Penny Nixon and Ackerman. There is nothing to be admired about any of them - they played the game and got caught. Meanwhile, other administrators, including African American, did not lead the cheating train and were trashed by the likes of Powell-Mondesire, Ackerman and Nixon.

The SDP needs to clean house.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:08 pm

Black people, white people or not, wrong is wrong.....what we need to worry about are the majority of students who are people of color......those scores are a tool. Tools are meant to be used as indicators and for reforming.

Stop worrying about whose name got called. The worry is about the school where someone's child is or was attending.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:15 pm

First of all, shame on you.

The fact that you are crying racism is ludicrous! It has nothing to do with race but the fact that people are being promoted with large salary increases when they are under a cloud of suspicion. People grow up! That happens all the time in the business world and teaching is being sucked into that world.

As for the principal and vice-principal at Olney ... there were mitigating circumstances for his retirement that were health related. As for the VP, she was old enough, put in her time and did not want to train another principal. Once you work with the best, it is hard to work with the rest.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:56 pm

well said anonymous

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:38 pm

The principals I've worked under have been almost exclusively African-American. So, an article about any group of admins in Philly is pretty likely to include Black principals.

And, the article is not about all cheating principals. It's specifically about principals at schools suspected of cheating who have been promoted since the years they ran those schools to high positions at 440.

You must work at 440. You're an expert blame shifter.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:24 pm

Thank you for the clarification - this is about those who have climbed the ladder on the top of test scores. There are others but, as you wrote, most of the SDP leadership is African American. This was especially true under Ackerman and is true under Nixon. Look at the newly appointed principals. Most appear to be African American - especially the women.

Submitted by ANON 452 (not verified) on September 18, 2012 10:06 pm

If you are going to criticize the reporting, you should at least proofread your comment so you seem intelligent. It is an "axe to grind", NOT "acts" to grind. This has nothing to do with race and everything to do with people cheating to make themselves look good. This sort of cheating harms the children who were placed in the middle of it.

Submitted by (not verified) on August 13, 2013 2:38 pm
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Submitted by Rob (not verified) on September 18, 2012 11:31 pm

Mccreery is white. Stop it

Submitted by MacMaven (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:58 am

Barbara McCreery is white. Jeesh.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 12:21 pm

I have observed at numerous professional developments for District administrators that the number of minority administrators, African Americans, Latino and Asian in total, is about equal to the number of White administrators. According to newspaper accounts of the schools flagged for alleged cheating, their principals were African American, Latino and White. Therefore, I conclude that the race of the principal is not what motivated one to encourage cheating. What motivated them was the idea that they could beat the system and not be made accountable. As long as one runs an orderly school, no big complaints from parents and teachers and no ugly incidents on Fox News, the District will never look into anything at that school. Hear no evil. See no evil. Investigate no evil.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:22 pm

folks are screaming over the racial issue and it is not what is IMPORTANT.....teachers, we need to be like the president...not in charge of some of the education of some kids but of all the kids

Submitted by xxxxxx (not verified) on September 19, 2012 7:44 pm

McCreery is White

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 9:13 am

This issue has nothing to do with race.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:30 pm

All I know for me to believe what is written, the notebook needs to give up the informant name. In addition, I hope you are correct because the administrators you are talking about are good people. And if the notebook is incorrecct what are you planning to do about slandering good people's reputation in the mud.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:23 pm

The Notebook is the only media willing to tackle this scandal. Meanwhile, Nixon and her crew continue to mislead the School District. What makes someone a good person? They ran scams at schools to promote themselves. Penn has had a bully reputation since he has been a principal. Maybe you socialize with Powell-Mondesire, Penn and McCreery but that doesn't make them "good people." There reputation is already mud.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:44 pm

No I speak and seek for actual and factual truth. Before throwing stones,I want to be clear that the people who are being investigated and found guilty are truly being investigated and found guilty. No hear say on this end.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:09 pm

How much more evidence do you need? When teachers try to raise questions, we are told to shut up. Some administrators practice "by any means necessary" so they reap the benefits. All 53 schools are being investigated. Would you rather have silence? Are you an administrator that threatens teachers and tells us to shut up?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:44 pm

Wait a minute, teachers are not cleared from this issue. See, just like I heard approximately 150 teachers are being fired due to cheating. And I believe from hear say, a teacher from a school in the Northeast was fired for cheating. See not sure but only through the rumors that are being told. I could mentioned names of teachers but I do not have the evidence in front of me. Guess what, until proving and found guilt everyone is innocent.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 4:40 am

The principal is ultimately in charge of a school and the Regional Office was in charge of the principals. Nixon and Ackerman were in charge of the Regional Offices. Teachers have little power. They are rated by principals. So, whatever happens in a school is the responsibility of a principal. If s/he did not monitor testing, then s/he is still responsible. Principals (Regional Office heads and 440 heads) can't have it both ways. They want all the power - and certainly remind teachers of their power - then they have to take responsibility. The principals not only knew what was going on but created the environment for cheating.

There are other principals to add to the list but not all were promoted. Ressler (Roosevelt) should have been included - she is now at Wilson ( a perk from Nixon). Cortez at Cayuga also needs to be investigated. Anyone who now, like Ressler, is "leading principals" in the new configuration needs to be investigated. Any school where test scores plummeted more than 20 points in math and reading are suspect. (This leaves room for a different group of students in 11th grade and not testing with the classroom teacher for 3 - 8). The only way to change is to investigated and make significant changes in leadership. Again, it comes to Nixon and Hite. He starts today. I'll give him a few months. Testing for the Keystone tests starts in January.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:01 pm

Penn is a bully to an extent.....he wants the best for his students.....have you ever visited his school....EVERYONE works....his staff tries to get over but when PENN hits the floor it is a business...the expectations for success are evident....when he speaks and delegates he leads....I believe he is perceived as a bully because he doesn't try to be friends with his staff......I challenge you to visit Clemente today and walk through the school (check out the $100,000 new fitness center too).....if you don't feel pride among the students the speak to them.....ask them who is EDWARD PENN....and let the students tell you....

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:52 pm

Thank you, Edward Penn, for this PR announcement.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:45 pm

Ed Penn is a clown. As soon as he was appointed principal, he bought a new Cadillac Escalade with spinning rims. He drove around the school lot pumping loud rap music.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 10:43 am

How is this relevant to anything regarding schools and children? The Notebook needs to monitor these slanderous comments.

Submitted by ili (not verified) on September 22, 2012 2:08 pm

WOW - really JOHN T "folks" at Clemente know it's you slandering Mr.Penn. He doesn't need to speak highly of himself or Clemente because the wonderful things taking place at Clemente speak for Clemente and its leadership. A bit disappointed that you hate on his Escalade but when he is done suing for Slander he will get another ride and the Clemente Family will ensure YOU get to spin it around with the music of your choice. smh

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:52 pm

I'm sure the teachers who work for you would recognize your ridiculous and error-prone writing style. Be careful what you ask us to do. I have spoken to many of your students, and they have told me about you. It might not be as awesome a description as you imagine.

Submitted by Clemente teacher (not verified) on September 19, 2012 9:00 am

Let's all ask ourselves that question, too: "who is EDWARD PENN...." I can tell you that he is a bully, an egomaniac. We all knew that his ego would eventually get the best of him. He couldn't be seen as the leader of a failing school. In reality, the school he led was a chaotic, disorderly mess.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 10:52 am

I couldn't agree more...
While he was busy making friends with the students, he provided NO support for the faculty - yes, he did give us all the double sided tape, border, and bulletin board paper we needed, but if you needed assistance with student behaviors in a class so that you could actually attempt to teach, all you received was memos and harassment, and reminders of all the ways you FAILED, without any suggestions other than to buy pizza and chicken wings to address behavior issues in the classroom. He befriended the students, and bullied the staff and administration.

After a year of therapy I still cringe at just the thought of having to work under him.

Submitted by another clemente teacher (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:19 pm

Ask the students that he kept out of class consistently to hang out and run errands for him? The students that he bought respect from with ipods and electronics? The students that were abusive to teachers and able to stay in ourclassrooms? Sure, I'll ask them. And you know what they'll say? "he's cool." As educators we know, cool in the eyes of a child often means you're not doing your job. Why don't you take a look inside that school? Unannounced. You won't like what you see or hear from him.

His teachers on the other hand worked their assess off for those kids as they should have and were called to do...despite his polutics and favoritism as a management style.

Submitted by Clemente Teacher (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:54 pm

This is the truth. The best way to investigate Clemente is to go in unannounced and request to visit classrooms. Warning: you will probably be denied. Don't visit classrooms of Penn's choosing, rather look into classrooms you might randomly select as you walk down the hall. What might you see? Let me sum it up: overwhelmingly, you'll see kids that have the ability to disregard directions from adults. And this happens across the board- not just in one teacher's class. And what happens when a teacher asks for help or support with classroom management or CSAP/RTI or any out-of-classroom consequence? That teacher is targeted, written up, given memos and 204s, threatened with days without pay and bullied into sweeping things under the rug.

Edward Penn is an incompetent, cruel manager and views teachers as replaceable robots for his mandated instructional style. He is unethical and values no one but himself. He undermines other adults, in front of the kids, every single day. He claims to care deeply for these kids but then does nothing to institute a culture of high expectations. In fact, he does the opposite, and resorts to cheating on PSSA tests because he does not truly believe the kids are capable of achieving the scores he needs to get a bonus each year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:59 pm

I asked the students - they said they like his "Boom Boom Room" and that he lets them rule the school as long as they only blame the teachers they know he hates. It's working so well that their scores all went up last year and the kids made AYP. Looks like his focus is CLEARLY the children and not just self-promotion...oh...wait...that's actually the opposite of what's true. My mistake (I mean yours).

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 9:31 am

I challenge you to hear what teachers have to one wants to hear our truth!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 7:55 pm

The problem isn't with testing itself. It's with lack of realistic perspectives on what the testing means, and putting all the weight on one test. Especially in high school, where it's one test of only one cohort. It would be very difficult to cheat if there were a comprehensive and well-integrated assessment system (I don't mean "more" assessment; actually it should be fewer, because it should be integrated into the curriculum, not added on top like some outside force).

That being said, even a terrible assessment system doesn't justify cheating. I was always appalled at the informal attitude toward test integrity when I taught in Philly. The line between "support" and "improper help" was awfully blurry in both schools I taught, neither of which was implicated in cheating or had particularly good test scores. It's a systemic problem. And I think it may be part of why Philly students struggle when they get to SAT-type tests where the proctor actually enforces test security. Philly students aren't used to taking a test where the adult in the room doesn't provide "support." (I'm not suggesting widespread cheating, but rather that the testing conditions in Philly often give students a really skewed sense of what it's really like to take a secure standardized test.)

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:54 pm

Agree. The norm in testing has been to "teach" during testing - well beyond an encouraging pat on the back. This past year, I assume, most of the helping students take the tests had to stop. Nevertheless, there also must have been a lot of suspicious erasures. The teachers don't have access to the tests. Administrators had access.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 8:45 pm

Barbara McCreery is an old white woman. FYI

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 9:26 pm

Yeah, don't forget rude, and incompetent too! Don't point her mistakes or she will get nasty! My doorknobs are smarter than her!!!

Submitted by J. Mitchell (not verified) on September 22, 2012 11:47 pm

Maybe Bok brought out the worst in her. She was pretty cool at Comm Tech

Submitted by Anonym. (not verified) on September 23, 2012 6:08 am

She also orchestrated a significant cheating process at Comm Tech. The scores rose very sharply in 2010 and then plummeted in 2011. She rigged who was tested and it appears answers were changed. So now, she goes to Bok, another school under investigation for cheating. Bok also had a sharp rise and then drop in scores. Guess the SDP decided McCreery has expertise in "raising scores." (Note both Comm Tech and Bok have admission requirements - they aren't neighborhood schools which have to take all students.)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 7:32 am

She came to Bok last October. Before that, Ben Franklin High. She wasn't the principal during the time of the cheating at Bok. Comm Tech yes, but not Bok.

Submitted by tom-104 on September 18, 2012 9:45 pm

This cheating has been nationwide. It shows the bogus nature of rating a teacher and rating schools based on one test. The punitive use of these tests causes people to fear the ruination of schools and careers based on one test. If testing were used to diagnosis a schools problems and resources then devoted to fixing the problem would there be cheating? Instead, testing became a means to target schools in low income areas to be turned over to private charters.

The whole testing mania was brought to us by No Child Left Behind along with the development of private entrepreneurs in the last ten years who saw public schools as new territory to plunder the way they plundered the banks and housing market. This targeting of public schools for plundering has been spearheaded by the so-called “reformers”. In Philadelphia this agenda was brought to us by Vallas and Ackerman. Their main concern was PR to show that their privatization schemes were bringing results, not the actual education of students.

It is no accident that this cheating happened under Ackerman’s watch. Along with her reign of terror, there was a wink and a node if schools were showing high test scores. She was not interested in how it happened, just interested in claiming her reign of terror was the result.

In Washington DC the same thing happened under Michelle Rhee, the founder of Students First, when she was Chancellor. There is evidence of massive cheating on high-stakes testing during her tenure:

When standardized test scores soared in D.C., were the gains real?

from USA Today - March 28, 2011

Despite evidence of massive cheating, after a 16 month investigation only one school was held accountable:

The deafening silence on test cheating -September 11, 2012
from The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post

D.C. schools cheating report thin and biased

from The Answer Sheet at the Washington Post - September 11, 2012

There are those who believe that this massive coverup is deliberate to maintain Michelle Rhee’s reputation as a “reformer.” Is the same true for why Ackerman is not held accountable?

The Stonewall to Protect Michelle Rhee and Teach for America
from Scathing Purple Musings - September 9, 2012

This house of cards will fall!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 18, 2012 9:07 pm

It is good to see that the truth about the cheating is finally coming to light. Those of us who refused to engage in these practices (cheating) and inherited schools like the ones referenced in this article were made to feel ineffective and received poor performance ratings because we could not maintain the artificially inflated performance of our predecessors.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:04 am

Yes! The administration that follow behind these cheaters often get berated for the drop in test scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 8:12 am

I agree what happened to the Superintendent that followed Nixon in the Northwest. That person was snatched after 1 year. Is it because they did not follow the plan, did they retire? IS that person named in any of the cheating. Nixon should be fired. Every Administrator in the District should be checked. What is their tract record? Have their schools made progress? Is there more evidence of cheating that we don't know about. As parents these are the questions we need to be asking.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:30 pm

The person that followed Nixon and took over the Northwest Region when it became AD7 was Elois Dupree. She is now a principal on special assignment working down at 440. Karen Kolsky and her essentially swapped places during the 2011-2012 school year. Ackerman made this swap happen, not Nixon. Most of the people who were region heads who have not left the district are still there, just in another position. Do you really think they would ever be sent back to a school? NOT!

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:52 pm

While I disagree with Linda Wayman about pedagogy, curriculum and her approach to leadership, she did return to a school - Strawberry Mansion. She has the difficult task of bringing together students from Rhodes (her former school), Fitzsimmons and Mansion. I respect her for taking on the task while most so called leadership are still in power but with a different title.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 7:59 pm

You are incorrect. Linda Wayman did not "take" Strawberry Mansion. She was demoted due to ticking off Pedro Ramos and Strawberry Mansion was given to her by Penny. She is just one of many friends of Penny that have landed on their feet. Let's do a roll call of all the principals who were placed this year without interviewing who have an association with Penny. I for one hope that Dr. Hite gets rid of Penny Nixon, Lissa Johnson, Karen Kolskey, Christopher Johnson, Donna Runner, Fran Newberg and Karen Dunkley. Enough is enough.

Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 7:09 pm

True - very few schools had an opportunity to interview a principal. We basically had to fight for it. Nixon placed her friends and loyal followers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 12:24 pm

I am at Mansion this year. Wayman has said multiple times that nobody wanted Mansion and she wanted to be in a school rather then an office.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 26, 2012 12:34 am

Yes, it is definitely time for a fresh start. It is time to clean house, and not recycle like the district has been doing for years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 12:15 pm

You should not lump all those people in the same category. I for one have first hand knowledge that Karen Kolskey and Lissa Johnson care about this district and are very intelligent women.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 30, 2012 10:19 am

Wish teachers could swap positions...all we get are 204's.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 2:22 pm

That PERSON was never qualified for that job. She was moved because she is clueless.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:02 am

No other news media continues to expose or investigate the cheating scandal in Philadelphia. I suspect the district and PDE have not come to an agreement regarding how this fiasco should be handled (they have had enough time). It would be very difficult to prove that principals cheated unless they confessed. Some of the accused retired, rescinded their retirement, or found other employment outside of SDP. Many have held out because they know that the school district rarely fires and are reluctant to give up their lucrative salary. Rumors have circulated all summer, names have been listed in print, letters were to go out, meetings were to be held and positions were to be revoked. Dr. Hite must make it a priority to address this right after he fires Ms. Nixon. Penny should be fired for many reasons, but none more so for allowing principals suspected of cheating to lead Principal Learning Teams.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 8:55 am

Ben- Why do you continue to talk about the Public Schools but haven't done an expose on Imhotep or PET? If I recall, Imhotep had the largest statistically percentage of possible cheating out of all of the schools? Just be fair.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 1:34 pm

Imhotep isn't even a school really. It's more of a cult like group, living out a lie they've all agreed to. Yes, they were listed as the worst as the worst, something like the 1962 Mets.

Submitted by eileen difranco (not verified) on September 21, 2012 3:07 pm

I learned yesterday that Imhotep has the 3rd best football team in the State of Pennsylvania. Apparently, they recruit football players, which, I believe is prohibited. They just roll over the other high school football teams. This isn't sour grapes. Check out the scores.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 3:12 pm

They took a star football player from West Catholic. He entered in March 2012. I guess the "lottery" doesn't matter. Also, Imhotep test scores dropped 30 - 38% in all categories.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 10:35 am

The Notebook isn't interested in authentic stories. They prefer rumor and gossip.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 22, 2012 10:36 am

I have been reading the Notebook for a few years now. I find their work to be quite credible and very professional. I have the highest professional respect for their reporters and their service to our school community.

The Notebook provides the only forum in Philadelphia for open collegial discussion about the serious issues in education which we face today and are so important to a well functioning democracy.

Freedom of speech and freedom of the press is absolutely essential for the emergence of Truth.

I would hate to see what would become of the School District without their dedicated reporting and service to the schoolchildren of Philadelphia and our school community.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on September 22, 2012 12:40 pm

Yes, I agree. I don't know if that poster was trolling or serious.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 2:02 pm

Well said. I stand corrected. The actual reporting is informative and have called some to task. It's the allowance of anonymous posters that are attaching people's names to information that has not been verified. I can live with honest reporting. I can't agree with reckless name-dropping. In that regard, the notebook encourages rumor and gossip.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on September 22, 2012 2:04 pm

Freedom of Speech allows for some of that and weighed against the alternative, I'll pick Freedom. Heck, even you can post here. Jefferson once said, "Some people give Freedom of Speech a bad name."

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 22, 2012 6:49 pm

Freedom of speech has everything to do with voicing one's opinions about our leaders. A principal is a leader of a professional community. He or she has held themselves out as such and is rightfully subject to public scrutiny and public opinion. That includes the opinions of those he or she leads and that includes the positive and the negative.

I read the comments here.There are many that are critical. But I have not seen many at all which I would condemn as being out of order.

Everyone who has worked within the district within the last decade knows that there is a problem with the administrative culture of our school district. The present culture of our administration has been created by Vallas and Ackerman and our district is still plagued by the negative leadership of the past decade.

The issue of the quality of leadership within our district is an issue which needs to be addressed at every level.

I have made speeches before the SRC about the need to change the administrative culture of our school district and return to a school district where we care about each other and where everyone is treated with dignity and respect.

I also believe that the school community should be included in the process of choosing its principals.

I submit that until the administrative culture of our school district changes and democratic leadership and governance returns, our schools and school system will never become a system of Great schools with Great school communities in all schools.

Leadership Matters so much. So does how we choose our leaders. It isn't about the leader. It is about the community of those a leader leads.

A leader can create positive synergy or negative synergy.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on September 22, 2012 6:12 pm

The SRC, Corbett and yes, Nutter, have zero interest in what the community thinks. WE ALL need to band together and "encourage" them to pay attention to the needs of our children and the adults in Phila. I would much rather trust City Council than any of the above cretins. If we're not careful, all inner cities will look like Detroit and soon, not 20 years from now, more like 2/3 years. If my comments seem unrealistic, show me where I'm wrong. What have ANY of the above done to help us over the last 2 years? The people in the coal regions will have new employment very soon--in the prisons Corbett is building, 2 of 3 of which, are privately owned by corporations. Pontificating, moaning, and groaning ain't going to get it done with these folks. They completely ignore all that and keep on, keeping on. Time is not our friend so we need to use it more productively.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 6:55 pm

Today, many teachers, parents and community members missed an excellent opportunity to band together and do something. The Philly Coalition Advocating for Public Schools (PCAPS) held an all day conference at Kensington CAPA. Jerry Jordan sent out emails about it, and I believe that it was mentioned on The Notebook, as well.
Honestly, I expected a better turnout. Wake up before it's too late, PLEASE!!! We are going to lose 40 public schools next year, if we don't start to show up at these meetings and join forces with other like-minded groups. Once the schools close, the neighborhoods will start to crumble around them. Even if you don't have children, this is your problem! We can't afford to be complacent for another day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:20 pm

When were the emails sent out because I certainly did not receive one and I probably would have went to this function. Do the building reps have this type of information in advance, because if they do, no one said a word. I agree that if schools close that is going to be a major problem for neighborhoods and the teaching and other staff at schools because people are going to lose their jobs. Parents are going to have to find other schools for their children and it is going to be a mess.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:56 pm

So right--the inner cities will be collateral damage to make the already rich, richer. The inner cities will look like Beirut and yes, the people "living" there will have no hope. The Democratic Party will be crushed in the urban areas which is another goal of the Tea Party cretins behind all this "reform."

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 12:17 am

The email from Jordan was sent on Sept. 20th, but I heard about the conference before then, from a couple of sources. If the PFT doesn't have a personal email address on file for you, you won't receive an email, because the PFT won't send it to a school district address.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 7:35 am

Oh yes they do have a personal email address for me because I have received other things for them in the past. My building rep has my personal email address as well. There was no talk about this function in my building.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 23, 2012 7:42 am

The whole PFT staff, executive board, many building reps and rank and file members were at the Conference.   Certainly not as many as needed to be, given the gravity of the crisis, but a showing that demonstrates the union's committment to PCAPS and the development of a community-labor alliance.   Many PFT members who I spoke to said they were frustrated with the lack of involvement in the union at their schools so clearly there is a challenge here for both the PFT leadership and those members who want to see a stronger union and a more robust fightback movement.  

Also PCAPS has a googlegroup list so you can get information directly from the coalition.   Email and we will send you an ivitation to join the list .

Submitted by Joan Taylor on September 23, 2012 3:55 pm


With all due respect--I know you work hard on these issues--I think you're giving the PFT executive board too much credit. They should be taking the lead on many of the issues we talk about on the Notebook. Over and over again, people on this site have bemoaned the lack of leadership from the PFT brass, but those complaints haven't goaded Jerry et al into action. As leaders, they need to get their hands dirty and do some work around building a real union. I am concerned at the indifference many of my PFT brothers and sisters display and by their anemic turnout at events supporting public education, but it's an indifference that is not challenged by our leadership. Jerry and his staff need to wear out some shoe leather, hit each building over and over, and start building the personal relationships that would make our union an effective one. I work like a dog at my job; I put in many, many hours above and beyond the school day, as do many of my colleagues. I want to see my union leadership at least match my commitment. You want to be a union leader, here's what you've got to do: lead!

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on September 23, 2012 5:27 pm

As someone who has long advocated the need for a labor community alliance, I see the PFT support for PCAPS as a step  forward and wanted to point out there was a mobilization for the conference    I'm not an apologist for the leadership and don't want to  belittle  the criticisms you and others have.   I just felt the need to point out  what I saw as a participant in the planning and the  Conference itself.   I

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 23, 2012 9:42 pm

Hey, Anon...take a moment and register yourself directly with the PFT and that you will be sure to get a same email from Jerry, my bldg rep, my former regional rep and from a coworker all because I made a point to get my email to them and confirmed it.
Take matters in your own hands as often as your time and need allows.
Linda K.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 2:17 pm

Two days before the conference? Be serious! Jerry was there, and he was as animated as usual. Yes. Didn't say a word. We are watching you Jerry for any sign that you care. I am not talking pretend signs that you care. I am talking legitimate indications that you want to work very, very hard for your membership that pays your salary to help transform this district and ready us for the upcoming contract. How is this for an idea? Go to a different school each day at dismissal and invite the staff. Listen to them. Help them consider that you have had a change of heart and convince the membership that you care about the direction he district is taking.
Your apathy in the face of the struggle ahead is palpable.

Submitted by Joe (not verified) on September 23, 2012 4:21 pm

I've been saying this for 2 full years now. Jordan MUST either be burned out or complicit.

Submitted by Kat (not verified) on September 23, 2012 1:52 pm

Wake up? I'm pretty sure teachers understand the mess this district is in. But please don't make them feel guilty for not attending an event on a Saturday.

If I am at school during the week until 9:30 pm, then I might need to use my Saturday to buy toilet paper or food for the week or a new shirt so my students don't think I only own 5. Or I might need to use my weekend to plan for the upcoming week and do my grading. Or maybe I'm writing letters of recommendation for my seniors or filling out the online forms for RTII. Maybe I'm crafting my objectives to make sure they are worded correctly, so I don't get blamed for a "lack of learning" if they aren't written on the board. Maybe I was writing emails to parents about students who are already falling behind. Or maybe I'm checking out a class set of books from multiple branches of the library to use them with one of my classes.

Teachers' expertise and passion needs to be valued AS PART OF THEIR JOB, not simply as some add-on activism that teachers must do on their own time. Schools and districts need to value the leadership and knowledge that teachers have and give them the space to enact change in their schools and classrooms.

Many teachers work more than their "contractual hours" and many teachers will continue to do so. We certainly need the support from all invested parties to help change the way the education system works and forums like this are needed. But let's not use this as another excuse to point out all the things teachers are not doing.

Submitted by Hardworking teacher (not verified) on October 5, 2012 11:54 pm

As a teacher who works as hard as you, as many of us do, I appreciate the time you took to post this comment. Well said. Thank you. Too many people these days, the public, as well as our administrators, do not acknowledge our hard work and the time we devote to our job.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 11:41 pm

I totally agree with Rich's post. The adversarial roots of the administrative culture of the District go back to the early 1970's. I recently retired after 41 years and I can tell you from personal experience as both a teacher and administrator that the culture has always had an "us against them" mentality. I worked in 15 different schools over the years, so I witnessed this first hand in numerous schools.

As an assistant principal, I worked hard to be supportive of all staff and to build mutual trust. I knew what it felt like to be called to the office to pick up your 204 because of something that you said that the principal didn't like. I am not talking about being disrespectful, but standing up for yourself as human being. A school where staff are working in constant fear of it's leaders is a hostile work environment.

Some principals are more cruel and openly more disrespectful to their assistant principals than they are to other staff. Why? Because they can. When you go to to the region with these concerns, you are branded disloyal and your professional reputation is ruined. The District must correct this toxic culture.

Submitted by Rich Migliore (not verified) on September 23, 2012 8:16 am

Thank you for your well stated and accurate comment here. The culture of adversarialism and reprisal which has infected our school district and festered over the recent years needs to be adddressed.

If you would, could you please e-mail me at I promise I will protect your anonymity.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 5:17 pm

Imhotep has not been mentiond along with PET! What happen to Imhotep and their Administration?????

PET went to Harrisburg and they were told the results of the investigation. When will you reveal those results and what is going to be done about them??? Also how can they continue to exist with no Charter Renewal.

When all is said and done it is the students that really are cheated!!

Submitted by Pseudonymous (not verified) on September 19, 2012 6:59 pm

There's no accountability for charters whatsoever. Soon, they probably won't even need to take standardized tests.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 4:51 pm

I hate to tell you but it has NOTHING to do with students but everything to do with dollars. Get used to it--it's all corruption, all the time and Corbett and yes, Duncan and Obama and of course, Pee Wee Mutter all know it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 8:50 am

Oh my God! I worked for Ed Penn and personally witnessed his bullying behavior in throwing students up against the wall and scream threatenly in their ears to his deeply condescending manner dealing with his staff members. I was in attendance in a colleague's classroom when a student was summoned to the office to "fill in" some missed bubbles on the SATs during his absence from school. When the student returned and reported why he had been called to the office, the teacher checked her roll book and noted the student had not been absent. Test booklets were not promptly picked up in all classrooms and many languished on a teachers desk until the teacher or classroom attendant carried them personally to a designated first floor office manned by non-teaching staff. I surmise it was there, under Penn's instruction, bubbles were erased and corrected. These erasure marks were not done by students: this is clearly a case of adult cheating to get ahead in a grossly mismanaged climate where impossible and impobable student test achievement scores equaled higher pay and accomodation for a bogus school principal who eliminated staff he couldn't micromanage. When his personally financed school 2010 baseball team didn't win the playoffs, he swore out loud in front of parents, bystanders and his staff, required be present, that he didn't pay $1,500. for uniforms for this outcome. it was classic Penn unraveling when control was beyond his reach.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 9:35 am

Oh yes - who could forget Penn's - I mean Clemente's beloved baseball team - where star players were allowed to miss classes (even math and lit) for practice - even if they were failing, and reading well below grade level - who cares, right? - surely not Penn- he wanted to feed his ego with a championship. And when he didn't get one, he acted like a spoiled child who didn't get their way. What a terrible role model for students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:48 pm

How about the player who brought a serious weapon to school and miraculously escaped any consequence because he was one of the stars of the team. Great atmosphere at that school. Sent ALL the right messages to the rest of the kids.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 10:16 am

A basketball player at Vaux did the same thing. That principal was promoted to King. Happens all the time. This is verifiable. Talk to the staff and students at Vaux about the day their star player brought the loaded gun to school.

Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:29 am

My former middle school [GW Pepper] was not and is not like that.

The coaches stressed the need for Scholastic student atheletes.
As a result those kids who won year after year at the PENN RLAYS, football and softball had good grades [C or better].

If they were failing ANYTHING--including the expressive arts, they had to come to detention, make up the work, work it out in class and then have either a letter from the teacher, phone call or email to the coach letting it be know that the grades were back up.

It can be done if people are willing to work together.

That means reaching out and teaching not only the kids but the adults as well.
Linda K

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 7:36 pm

Mr. Hite needs to clean house! Get rid of Building Committee also because that's a bullying tactic
also because most members are afraid to go against the Principal. I'm tired of the nepotism and
favoritism. There are good qualified teachers that have their "certifications" that are overlooked
because they are not favorites or don't kiss butts.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 9:50 pm

Wow, seems like everyone knows about the cheating scandal yet these incompetent individuals making 6 figure salaries are still in their high positions. The posting on McCreary was right on the money! Talk about incompetent, rude and obnoxious. My doorknobs are smarter than her! Oh, let's not forget many others who are just like her-- TTSmith who is the spokesperson for AKA or so she thinks--ONE OF THE GIRLS who got the position for her membership as an AKA and not her compentency--I used to work at Sheridan West and as a leader of the building she would go and come as she pleased and according to her" principals had no set time to come to work." Last time I checked we all had to be accountable for our time- aah, yet again tax payer dollars being abused and no one says a thing. Oh, she was also always on facebook, twitter and her "celly" while supposed so diligently working in her office. The scores went up 50 points too yet the school closed???!!! I heard she is now at Conwell with her militant side kick principal Green who was demoted but now has the ability to be re-instated?? Still can't wrap my thoughts around that one. The once prosperous district is now down in the dumps---paying bill salaries to incompetents! All idiots are welcome to apply to this district and if you know someone you can get six figures too! So sad for the poor families of the district! Wonder what chaos is taking place at Conwell now?

Dr. Hite, be forwarned that you better clean house or you'll end up like the last superintendent! Out of a job! Do something now my BROTHA before it all falls on you-_CLEAN HOUSE!!!!!

Submitted by U. Hate (not verified) on September 28, 2012 3:24 pm

Sounds like you are a disgruntled principal "wannabee" and/or a rejected AKA!! LOL!! FOCUS ON STUDENTS!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 10:41 pm

These rants do nothing to solve Philadelphia's problems and quite frankly in some cases lean towards racism. "brotha" really? This is not the educator I want in front of my kids. I am a fan of the Notebook, but the unsubstantiated personal attacks need to be weeded out. We are clearly not living in a perfect world with perfect people. I am hoping the dialogue will shift towards positive solutions that are aimed at creating bright futures for the students of Philadelphia. Not this no holds barred slander.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 10:20 pm

Sounds like you're trying to divert the issue. Alot of principals were hired because of their color, not their ability to problem-solve. I guess if you never had to work under one of these "gems" you can be naive about them. I don't exprect perfect, but I'm tired of clueless principals that want to bully their staff and carry out the racist agenda of Ackerman. The positive solution begins with cleaning house of Ackerman's leftovers and hiring administrators who can actually work without bullying those who work under them.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 7:40 am

Sounds like you didn't get a job that you wanted.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 8:32 am

Sounds like you do not have any real solutions and maybe need to focus your energy on what you do in the classroom. I would put my money on it your are one of my colleagues that need a bit of luster added to their instruction.

The "color" thing is still racist. Please do a head check. if you do not like folks of color, get out of Philly. Never mind, you probably have tried that and can't get out.

Good luck promoting your impressive agenda of change. I am on the edge of my seat waiting for your next post of promise.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 5:01 pm

Grow up! I can't believe I am reading a teacher and a Principal go back and forth in these posts! Get a life, and enjoy YOUR children. When do your spouses ever get your attention if your always on here reading the next post. If I were a parent who saw this I would be appalled at the behavior of the principal of my child's school and the teachers posting this. Have some sense and act like professionals! You two are a perfect example of why educators are not respected.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 6:10 pm

Thank you for your mediation. I don't know what I would have done without this cogent advice. Life changing advice!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 11:35 pm

I can't verify if it's a teacher or principaI going back and forth. So I will reserve judgement. I just pray that the poster of this comment is not an educator period. You sound ridiculous.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 7:56 pm

All I know for sure is that ALL of Penny's girls are horrible leaders, a combination of anger, frustration and stupidity all foisted on the school community they "lead." The lack of professionalism and class is stunning. The new Principal at Wright School and, of course, Linda Wayman, at Strawberry Mansion, are exhibits A and B, just stooges bulling 24/7.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 12:36 am

Shauneille Taylor is at Wright. she is so nasty!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 7:17 am

Yes, fits the Penny mold--loud, ignorant, know nothing who bullies to hide all of it. Did I say ignorant??

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 4:14 pm

Ms. Taylor is a piece of work, alright. Seems to know nothing except yelling for little or no apparent reason--one of Penny's Girls.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 9:27 am

Years ago principals had to take essay exams and answer questions concerning leadership responsibilities and methodologies.
Follwed by an oral examination among a panel of superintendents.
However, under the administration ( after Paul Vallas) there were younger inexperienced candidates placed because they were the superintendents students from Columbia and Harvard. They were young and were more or less learning on the job.
Few followed policy and prcedures and most of them did not dress professionally neither did the superintendent for that matter. We saw 4 inch heels, six inch red belts, multi color shoes.
Once incident I will never forget is when the superintendent stated at a general assembly of her administrators from central, regional and school and I quote "I am looking for a man." Talk about the lack of professionalism!
It was an unbelievable three years.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on October 2, 2012 10:13 am

Be careful what you say here or you'll be called lots of nasty names. The truth is what it is, a lack of professional leadership, so obvious that Stevie Wonder can see it. If anything, the more repugnant your behavior, the better you fit in.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 10:35 pm

Clearly not a Sheridan West person when they name the 3 most recent Conwell administrators in the same post.

Submitted by ICameToTeach (not verified) on September 20, 2012 11:40 pm

Where ignorance is our master, there is no possibility of real peace.
Dalai Lama

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 12:34 am

There is more than enough ignorance to go around in this thread. I just hope that all of these people who are posting aren't teachers. That would be scary.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:04 pm

They are teachers, trust me. And its very scary!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 20, 2012 11:12 pm

I truly hope that Ed Penn has an attorney. This is horrible the way this information is able to be captured in cyberspace and it probably isn't true. The Notebook should not permit such garbage. He should not be vilified by a bunch of angry and scorned teachers. I've heard nothing but good things from Clemente since he arrived. Discipline and structure bring out the worst in people. Keep up the good work Mr. Penn. There are teachers out here that appreciate what you do and the things you stand for.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 9:23 am

No. This is exactly the proper forum for public discussion about the character and performance of our leaders. A principal is a public figure and therefore must undergo the scrutiny of the public. If he can not stand the heat, get out of the kitchen.

Just the fact that the commenters made such comments about him is clear evidence that he has created a toxic school climate at Clemente. He made his own bed.

What is alarming is that people in the school district hierarchy accept that kind of behavior from its principals and allow it to happen. What is more alarming is that it is promoted by those in power.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 12:40 pm

Obviously you have never worked with Penn. I mean... I like the guy and he never did anything personally degrading to me but I seen a lot of crazy things. No new teacher, or any teacher for that matter, should have to go through the things they went through. Discipline and and structure? How about utter chaos. Please do not comment on something unless you have personally experienced it. Clemente is far from even being a borderline good school. There are a lot of great kids in that school but unfortunately they get lost in all the craziness going on.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 10:18 am

Penn held people accountable. It's good for them that he is too much of a professional to use this as a forum to outline the shortcomings of some of my colleagues.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 12:50 pm

Far more than that. He abused people verbally and never supported his teachers. Please tell me that you did not work under him because if you did you were probably the only one that didn't receive this type of abuse and negativity. Everything that everyone is saying about Penn, except for the whole investigation thing (not sure what to believe), is very true. 100%!!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:20 pm

Yes, Penn holds people accountable FOR QUESTIONING HIS AUTHORITY. If a teacher has a question or disagrees with a method, he instantly sees them as a threat and makes certain to spend his time "punishing" them in any way he can. He is paranoid, too, so god help you if you work for him and for some reason, he starts to believe that you don't agree with his every whim - you are in the bullseye. Penn treats people like garbage for having their own ideas and opinions and especially for showing them. A principal who cannot even look half of his staff in the eyes is a disgrace. When I work there, I was told by one of his AP's that I should start looking elsewhere because Penn didn't like that I disagreed with him in front of someone and had told the AP's to write me up whenever possible. You are not allowed to have a team discussion on what's best for the students if you work for him, you may only follow orders: yes sir, yes sir, I'll do that right away, sir.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 22, 2012 4:17 am

Why does Penn still have an administrative job? Who does he know? (Nixon) There is suppose to be a "no bullying" policy in the School District. Is Hite listening? Penn is a disgrace.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 12:29 am

We got one of his AP's this year as our AP. Which one are you talking about? Wondering what the scoop is on her, if you have any.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 7:33 am

The scoop? Go pick up a National Enquirer or read your local gossip columnist. Do your job and the scoop, as you call it, on her won't matter.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 23, 2012 10:02 am

Unfortunately person is from the old walkthrough teams so that tells you that even if you are doing your job, they find something wrong. There doesn't seem to be an understanding of best practice based on research, only concern about what is up on your walls. Now THAT makes for good teaching. FYI, we teach children, not robots.

Have a great day.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:47 am

The Notebook should not allow these slanderous comments.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:18 am

I think most people, including myself, look at these comments as hearsay and one persons opinion. To get to the truth there must be investigation and research of the claims.

I am far more afraid of censorship than censoring hearsay and opinion.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 3:47 pm

Im afraid of terminators

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 7:36 pm

The article is about cheating and posters are taking away that focus when they make comments about personalities. Like him or not Edward Penn has integrity. If cheating occurred because books "languished" in a classroom, let's figure out who had more opportunity to make changes to student answers.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 7:53 pm

The only person who benefited form the cheating was Edward Penn.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 26, 2012 9:50 am


A trail of suspicious erasures is the exact opposite of integrity! The cheating stopped when he left a school and was never present until he was there. Yet you fail to acknowledge his culpability in the matter. You are wrong.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 9:08 pm


Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on September 21, 2012 11:55 pm

Long live Ed Penn. He is a courageous leader. The only negative comments on this strand are coming from horrible teachers. Not all teachers are horrible, but these folks on this strand are super horrible. And they are cowards, if they are so upset, then print your names. Rally against the tyrant Ed Penn. The truth is you can't do either. If you state your name everyone will know you have no cause to cast Ed Penn aside....because other teachers recognize sorry teachers faster than admin. Once you are exposed, everyone will know you are just bitter. No followers in the light. Just other miserable, bitter, non-teaching phony tax dollar stealing children destroying student loan paying mortgage paying horrible teachers that will NEVER GIVE YOUR NAMES. So , as I take a breath, keep hiding behind your keyboards in your dark miserable world.

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