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Two District administrators surrender licenses in cheating scandal

By Dale Mezzacappa on Apr 3, 2013 10:50 AM

In the first clear fallout from investigations into the cheating scandal in Philadelphia, two administrators have surrendered credentials in lieu of disciplinary action by the state.

They are Barbara McCreery, the former principal of Communications Tech High School and this year principal of Bok Technical High School, and Lola Marie O'Rourke, former principal of Locke Elementary. Both Comm Tech and Locke were among the 53 Philadelphia schools investigated for irregular patterns on PSSA scores.

Both surrendered administrative licenses in March, but not instructional certifications. McCreery is still listed as the principal of Bok, although the head of the principals' bargaining unit, Robert McGrogan, said that she had retired. O'Rourke has been replaced as principal of Locke by Katherine Carter. 

Comm Tech's scores dropped precipitously -- 45 points in math and 38 points in reading -- when it got a new principal in 2010-11. Between 2011 and 2012, when more stringent test security measures were put in place, Locke's PSSA scores dropped 42 percentage points in math and 32 points in reading. Locke was one of 33 Philadelphia schools, District and charter, where the average of the reading and math proficiency rates plunged by 20 points or more in 2012.

McGrogan said he could not say how many more administrators may have action taken against them by the state.

He said that he sat in on hearings for administrators in just about all the schools that had been under investigation, sometimes "six, seven, eight hearings" for the same school. However, he added that a hearing doesn't mean that a given administrator was the target of the investigation or ultimately was implicated in any wrongdoing.

Still, he added, "This will be far from done. It sounds to me that two people had been identified by the state. I don’t know how many more will be coming. I really don’t know." 

This is a developing story. Please check back for updates.


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Comments (47)

Submitted by Anonymous#1 (not verified) on April 3, 2013 11:14 am
The problem remains with the high stakes testing and the unrealistic goals of NCLB.
Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 12:31 pm
I totally agree. It's easy to say you wouldn't cheat but under those extraordinary conditions, replete with extreme consequences, things might change.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 3:07 pm
That sounds an awful lot like the excuses the bankers used when they committed their fraud. We all make judgment calls every day. There is no excuse for cheating and fraud.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 9:54 pm
I agree. It isn't ethical. But I do feel compassion for these people. Must have felt such pressure and fear! Accountability is necessary, but Dubya's NCLB legacy keeps the pervasive culture of fear active in education and the rest of society.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 3:13 pm
Character is doing the right thing when nobody's looking. There are too many people who think that the only thing that's right is to get by, and the only thing that's wrong is to get caught. J. C. Watts
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 10:09 pm
Great quotation! EGS
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 1:34 pm
The administrators need to be held accountable - Wagner, Cayuga, Roosevelt, Strawberry Mansion, ETC. They played Ackerman's game and were caught.
Submitted by Anonymous#1 (not verified) on April 3, 2013 1:44 pm
When are the parents going to be held responsible? You now have parents in Atlanta who wish to be compensated because thier children can't read and were "victimized" by those educators. What a different world if would be if all of those concerned parents actually sat down to do homework with thier children or even took thier children to the library let alone attend a parent conference. Children don't forget how to read in middle school or high school so how far back should educators be held accountable for the failure of parents and a school system lacking materials and resources. The educators I know in Philadelphia sacrifice and have less for themselves and thier families to provide basic supplies for their students. The biggest question remains why are so few of our students able to pass state mandated tests with proficiency. Last years test scores tanked at most schools because teachers were not allowed to proctor thier own students. The scores didnt tank because of widespread cheating but because the children were displaced out of their routine and responded as if there was a "sub" in the classroom because there was. I question why we set up so many of our children to failure by allowing that to happen. A better decision was to have the classroom teacher and an outside proctor to maintain the classroom environ. Unfortunately that was not the case and many students simply didnt care or perform because their teacher wasnt there so PSSA's became free time with the sub. Accountability is important but for all.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:25 pm
Sorry, but the reality is that scores went down significantly because cheaters could not cheat due to strict security measures. Which by the way should have been the standard all along.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:51 pm
Strict security measures will not be in place this year. You should see a rise in PSSA scores.
Submitted by linda (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:12 pm
Yes they are...we had to watch a video on test procedures, take a test on line to show we watched the video, take down everything in the halls and classrooms or cover up everything and then review again on a half PD day as to what to do and what not to do.....we will be observed and visited at my school.....maybe your school is doing better than we are and no one will stop to check on your students, faculty and staff......
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 8:21 pm
The state forces you to watch that idiotic video and you have to watch until you get an 80% or better. A wasted hour each time as most of it does not apply to the average teacher in Philly. Merely procedure which won't stop anyone cheating if they so desired.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 6, 2013 3:29 pm
It is difficult to understand why some folks, with backing from PFT, are annoyed by the SDP's (directed by the state) request to watch a webinar as part of a training. Every industry routinely provides training via webinars where a few questions are answered at the end and a certificate is produce as evidence of participation. If you don't want to comply with your employers request to participate in a simple task then go work in some other industry. Start asking what you can do to help your organization. Pick your battles...stop whining about every little thing. You're giving a bad rap to those of us care about putting forth our best effort and doing a excellent job everyday in return for a decent income, good healthcare, and a more than sufficient pension when retirement comes.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 8:55 pm
Teachers are very rarely alone in a room whether they are the classroom teacher or not. I don't know where you get your misguided info from, but not from being in any schools. When are the parents going to be held responsible? Look at Tennessee where they want to tie welfare beneffts to a child's perfomance. How do you feel about that, all gooey inside?
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:51 pm
Do you know the names of the 53 other schools up for investigation? /
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 1:49 pm
Justice for Ms. Cruz! Ms. Cruz was the principal after McCreery. Ms. Cruz left (was pushed out?) after only 1 year. She was such an admirable principal who got crushed by a corrupted system in which if you do your job well, you are forced out.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:14 pm
Same thing happened to her at West Philly High. She turned that school around after choppers were over the school everyday b/c they knew they would have the necessary footage for the 6 and 11 o'clock news.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 3, 2013 2:23 pm
If one goes clicks on "surrendered credentials," this goes to a PDE page called Notification of Certificate Actions Report. A large number of individuals surrendered their certificates on 4/2/2013. What I am wondering is why it took so long for some of these individuals to surrender their certificates. The "Date Action Taken" for Lola Marie O'Rourke was 3/7/2013. Why did it take her until 4/2/2013 to surrender her certificate. It wouldn't take almost a month for her certificate to reach Harrisburg via mail, would it? Education Grad Student
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 2:49 pm
It did not take her that long to surrender. It states that is when she was notified of the action.
Submitted by Joan Taylor on April 5, 2013 10:57 am
Could you post that link? Thanks!
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 4:30 pm
Tier 1 schools include Imhotep and Philadelphia Electrical and Technical Charter schools. Will there be any consequences for the charters? Imhotep is up for renewal.
Submitted by Poogie (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:58 pm
No remember the state investigated the Chester charter and decided to do nothing because the operator gave such a large amount to Corbett. Errr, I mean promised to be a good boy in the future.
Submitted by Joe K. (not verified) on April 3, 2013 9:15 pm
It's amazing isn't it ?? The corruption is stunningly overt yet it goes on and on and........................ Why would anybody with even a modicum of sense still have faith in "the system?"
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 5:51 pm
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:52 pm
Amid signs of cover-up, Hite orders new probe into alleged cheating at Wagner: Story says that the District would be done with that investigation within a month....That was Dec. 19. Did not see Nixon, Kolsky, or Newberg Turing in their credentials.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:12 pm
Yes, we are still waiting on Wagner.... Roosevelt.... Cayuga.... Northeast .... and the list goes on....
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 10:46 pm
No, this isn't part of the 53 schools from 2009 to 2011...this is the cheating and alleged cover-up that happened in 2012 that Nixon, Kolsky and Newberg were involved with that resulted in the firing of a whistleblower.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 4:09 am
True but Wagner's scores under Nixon are also suspicious. Then, there are the scores under Johnstone - current principal. The case you mention should bring down Nixon, Kolsky and Newberg - instead, Kolsky and Newberg were promoted and Nixon went on sabbatical.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 8:57 pm
You really are clueless. Yet, you clearly feel extremely entitled to your ignorance.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 9:59 pm
Penny, Stop It!
Submitted by Reality Check (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:48 pm
For anyone who reads The Notebook, let he/she who has never erred remember that your day is coming in terms of Karma. I have read comments printed about educators that are just plain mean and in some cases libelous. Of course, this is an organization called The Notebook that is comprised of educators. Educators take no joy in denigrating their peers or their superiors. As far as erasures are concerned, that covers only a fraction of the cheating. Having worked on the high school level for many years in various capacities, I found it reprehensible that students left many answers blank on their answer sheets. As teachers asked students to be certain that they try to answer all questions on the test, the students would reply, "But at my last school, I was told to leave the answers blank." Really, Commonwealth of PA, just how do you intend to deal with that form of cheating? One final comment, the two aforementioned individuals probably admitted their guilt while their allegedly guilty peers fight it out with their highly paid lawyers and while the remainder of their "uncaught" peers sit in their school offices with pencils ready to fill-in the blanks!" For me, I tend to admire someone who simply tells the truth. Get my point The Notebook!
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:12 pm
They didn't admit to anything. They both opted not to go through the hassel.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:49 pm
"They opted not to go through the hassle". Check your spelling and take your head out of the sand while you are at it.
Submitted by sarta (not verified) on May 2, 2013 6:41 pm
Its like you learn my mind! You appear to know a lot about this, such as you wrote the guide in it or something. I believe that you simply could do with some % to drive the message house a little bit, but instead of that, that is fantastic blog. A fantastic read. I'll definitely be back.
Submitted by Just Another Teacher Ruining Society (not verified) on April 4, 2013 8:12 pm
The Notebook has an agenda, too. They enjoy it when educators suffer, as it gives them something to write about. Some even win awards for their one sided reporting.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 9:14 pm
What is your problem with The Notebook? ther are a bunch of words up there that make very little sense.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 6:12 pm
Lola Marie O'Rourke currently works for the Trenton School District as a Supervisor of Languages in the Office of Curriculum, Instruction and Assessment. Trenton School District Superintendent is no other than former SDP Assistant Superintendent, Francisco Duran. The Philly network rewards cheaters and the incompetent.
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 7:27 pm
So she picked up NJ certifications? O'Rourke and McCreary - who leaves with a 37 year pension on a hefty principal's salary - will feel no pain.
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 9:36 pm
What type of sanctions do you propose? Should they give blood? They have turned in their certifications. Are they not suppose to make a living?
Submitted by Annonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 4:53 am
She is making a fine living. Other than embarrassment - although I don't know if any of them are embarrassed - the only consequences are for the students and families. Under Ackerman, the principals received accolades and some promotions. They should at least have to pay hefty finds into a fund to provide academic support for students. What about $100 for every test that was administered in their schools during the cheating? That would not provide much academic support but it is a token. Otherwise, this is more "taking care of our own." (Yes, McCreery is retiring but with a very hefty pension as a well paid principal for 37 years and O'Rourke was "taken" to Trenton for a six figure job. They can afford something.)
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 4, 2013 11:02 am
Annonymous, I believe that the state should consider taking some percentage of pension money from administrators and teachers, admins in particular, who oversaw cheating. Just taking the certificate isn't enough, especially for someone who is retiring. Ms. McCreery's retiring salary is somewhere in the $140,000 range, from what I understand. She may be receiving a pension close to $100,000. The state or District need to take rewards received from high test scores. I believe in restorative practices, but when it comes to cheating, this is very serious and the punishment needs to hit where it hurts and send a message that there are real consequences for cheating. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 4, 2013 9:19 pm
EGS- the superintendent in Atlanta; 'Barbara Hall has reaped almost $600,000 in performance benefits for the rise in scores. If she is convicted of all charges, Hall faces up to 45 years in prison." These people ride high and live high AND are ultimately respsonsible for what goes on in their school sytem. There are teachers who retire or resign for reasons not that don't come close to this level of "misconduct," so I believe this woman should be made accountable to the fullest. Arlene Ackerman left Philadelphia with over $900,000 lest we forget.
Submitted by Education Grad ... on April 5, 2013 2:35 pm
Anonymous, You mean Beverly Hall. The carrot of money for high test scores and the incentive this creates for cheating is one major problems with test score bonuses and test-score-based performance pay. And of course, I remember Ackerman's ridiculous buyout and application for unemployment. She had not shame. EGS
Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 3, 2013 8:35 pm
Where is the list of the 53 philly schools being investigated?
Submitted by linda (not verified) on April 4, 2013 7:25 pm
I think any school on tiers one and two get the once over due to scores [ my former school was NOT making AYP for years and was observed]. I think that there will also be spot checks [perhaps from 440 as well as the state] with all of the current "concern".
Submitted by Linda K. (not verified) on April 5, 2013 12:05 am
Go to the graphic link for this article and you can see all of the schools listed
Submitted by concerned citizen (not verified) on April 5, 2013 6:47 am
Here is the list of 53 schools:

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