The sudden, unpublicized, "resignation" of a QCHS technology teacher has opened the doors of a cheating scandal that goes all the way to the top administration. It could even help explain the sudden, mysterious, demotion of former QCHS Principal Anita Serge to elementary school principal.
Nick Foley, one of three teachers of Project Lead the Way, "resigned" after parents of students in his Principles of Engineering class informed the administration that he had provided students with test answers. And while that certainly is bad enough, the administration has made the situation even worse. They have tried to cover it up.
According to multiple sources, on Friday, June 1, Foley was called down to the administration office to meet with Serge, Professional Development Liaison Chris Roth, and Director of Human Resources Nancianne Edwards. After the meeting, he was gone. A substitute covered his classes for the rest of the day.
There has been no explanation given to the students, PLTW, nor the community. The issue was not raised at the June 14 school board meeting. A request for information under the PA Right to Know law was stonewalled with a 30-day extension for a "legal review". The district's acknowledgment that there is a legal issue here is pretty self-explanatory. Foley himself refused comment to colleagues who asked, and has not answered repeated emails offering to tell his side of the story.
As in many high-profile shenanigans, the original misdeeds, although reprehensible, are overshadowed by the subsequent attempted cover-ups. Think Watergate, Iran-Contra, My Lai massacre, and the Pentagon Papers. Here, Foley was permitted, perhaps even encouraged, to quietly resign, to avoid the bad publicity that would surely cost the district the national recognition its PLTW program received last year. Our administration would allow Foley, and his students, to go unpunished, and colleges to be deceived by tainted grades, simply to protect its image. Many colleges require high schools to provide information on disciplinary actions, and Foley's next potential employer would certainly be very interested.
And there is the small matter of how the thirty-something thousand residents of QCSD view our administration.
Of course, when you say "administration" in these parts, there is only one person who makes all important decisions - control freak Superintendent Lisa Andrejko. She pretty much is the administration. Assistant Super Kathy Metrick just resigned to become Superintendent in Kutztown. And, since 2006 (in addition to Serge), QCSD has lost a superintendent, Head of Guidance, Director of Curriculum, Special Ed Administrator, Business Manager, and two principals.
Andrejko is obsessed with churning out good publicity for her schools, while failing to publicly acknowledge the reality of our poor high school test scores, and numerous independent evaluations which show the glaring failures of the educational programs she has championed. She attacks critics, and uses the district's website as a means of distracting the community from the multitude of problems.
Project Lead the Way, which replaced wood shop in the curriculum in 2008-09, is described on that website as "Quakertown Community High School's new college recognized pre-engineering program designed to introduce students to the career of engineering. This program prepares students for the types of engineering classes they will be taking in college. PLTW is also a great opportunity for students to explore the field of engineering and decide if they would enjoy a career as an engineer. Students planning to major in engineering can benefit by completing the entire program, or just by taking one of the classes."
Under the Kudos section of the site, this item appeared last September...
"Project Lead the Way (PTLW) students at QCHS knocked end-of-year tests out of the park in 2011. In Introduction to Engineering Design (IED) and Principles of Engineering (POE), ninth and 10 th graders passed college level exams. They scored above the national average and state averages.
Among Pennsylvania schools that offer PLTW classes, QCHS finished third with the number of students and second in percentage of students who earned college credits in IED. The other two schools have offered PLTW for more than 10 year, while QCHS was in its third year with the program. The QCHS PLTW classes are taught by Chris Polk, Nick Foley, and Brad Mushrush. Twenty-six students (9 th and 10 th graders) earned college credits by passing the test.
In Foley's POE classes, 92 percent of students passed Part A of the test, which was among the highest in the nation. There are 1,792 schools across the nation that are PLTW certified.
'Without a doubt this is a huge point of pride for us' said Anita Serge, Principal. 'It's exciting to know that after just three years, our teachers and students are achieving at such high level. This is a direct result of our staff members bringing passion to their classes and helping students find their passions to bring into the workforce or college. That's what it's all about'."
For that 2008-09 school year, QCSD hired 55 new faculty members. Forty had previous teaching experience. Foley was one of the 15 who did not. Three were hired specifically for PLTW, and Foley was, by far, the least qualified. He had no teaching experience at all, having come to QCSD straight from Millersville University. The others were Polk, who previously taught PLTW for five years in the Wilson School District, and Mushrush, who taught high school business in Northampton and Saucon Valley school districts, and worked eight years as a financial advisor and bank manager. But while Foley was the least experienced, his classes had, by far, the best test scores - in fact, one of the best in the entire country. We now know why.
According to QCHS students, they called him "Foley", and he was okay with that. He was a favorite teacher of many of his students, but mostly because, they say, he rarely actually taught, and allowed them do whatever they wanted during his class. He was the subject of a special performance audit by the administration (QCHS Assistant Principal Michael Zackon, Program Director Dr Suzanne Laverick-Stone, and Roth) late in this past school year. They came to one class to observe his teaching. But they gave him advance notice of the audit, so, students say, he staged the class to make himself look like "an actual teacher". Further, he promised his students that if the audit went well, they could have a party in class the next day!
This scandal raises several questions, which will have to be addressed by the school board immediately. What discipline should be imposed on those of Foley's students who knew they were cheating, but kept quiet? What should be done with the tainted grades? What explanation should appear in Foley's personnel file, and what should be reported to the PA Department of Education for review of his teaching certificate?
And what penalty will there be for Andrejko, who has repeatedly thumbed her nose at the community during her controversial tenure here? It will be interesting to hear her excuse for compromising student education (and academic honesty) simply for the sake of her public image.
Conspiring to cover up a cheating scandal is surely a violation of her contract, and a terminable offense. It violates numerous school district Policy Guidelines, found in Section 400, ETHICAL BEHAVIOR OF PROFESSIONAL STAFF:
>The professional educator shall uphold the honor and dignity of his/her profession in all his/her actions and interactions with pupils, school staff, administrators, School Board members, and the public.
>The professional educator shall honor the public trust of his/her position above any economic or social rewards.
>The professional educator shall seek to preserve and enhance the prestige and status of his/her profession.
>The professional educator recognizes that public schools are the public's business, and works with students, parents/guardians, school staff, and the community to provide opportunities for academic excellence and enhanced student achievement.
If Andrejko is allowed to walk away - as she would have had Foley do - what confidence can this community have in either her, or the board that enables her?
This issue with Nick Foley is apparently only the tip of the academic dishonesty iceberg, which has been rumored in QCSD for years, but now is starting to leak out. More on that next week....