EDITORIALS

Former Orono principal has no excuse for cheating

Posted Sept. 20, 2012, at 2:25 p.m.

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Robert Lucy
Courtesy of Bangor School Department
Robert Lucy

It is difficult to teach children lessons in honesty when the leader of their school cheats. Robert Lucy must have known better than to tell staff at Orono Middle School, as a state investigation asserts, to let some students change or add to their standardized test answers in 2011. As principal, it was his job to know.

We understand there is pressure on students and administrators to do well on the New England Common Assessment Program test; the public image of the school is at stake. But there is no excuse for lying about students’ true scores. Doing so is an insult to those students and to schools across the state that both administer tests correctly and improve their scores through hard work.

According to a Maine Department of Education assessment investigation, documentation “offers incontrovertible evidence that some students revisited the NECAP test after the time permitted.” The report includes statements from Orono school employees who said Lucy asked them to let special education students fill in blank answers or expand on written test segments in October 2011. The department investigated the test scores of six students, of whom five had disabilities.

Lucy was hired in May as assistant superintendent of the Bangor School Department. Superintendent Betsy Webb said she did not know of the department’s report before hiring him, and he has since been placed on administrative leave while the district completes an investigation of its own.

Meanwhile, there is no way to confirm whether the state education department’s certification office is conducting an investigation to determine whether Lucy’s certification should be revoked or suspended. The first investigation — which aimed to determine whether “testing irregularity” occurred in order to correct testing data — concluded that the certification office should look into the matter. But whether another probe is being conducted is not public information.

The department can comment only when someone’s certification is revoked, suspended or surrendered, and so far Lucy’s certification remains valid.

It’s up to district and state officials to hold Lucy accountable, just as a teacher or principal would hold a cheating student accountable. According to rule chapters for the Department of Education, teachers or administrators can lose their certification due to “negligent or fraudulent completion or filing of any school reports required pursuant to the provisions of state or federal law or regulation.”

Other grounds for revocation or suspension include “conduct evidencing a clear and substantial lack of knowledge, ability, or fitness to perform the services rendered within the scope of the certificate.” General eligibility for certification requires “a strong professional ethic.”

The public puts its trust in principals to care for students and be their role models. Schools must be able to trust one another to play by the rules if they are to be judged against one another. Changing students’ test scores is only a reflection of Lucy’s lack of belief in his school and his ability to help improve it. Lying about scores cannot be tolerated. State and local leaders need to show they agree.

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