Costs mounting as Bangor School Department continues to investigate test violations

Posted Jan. 24, 2013, at 6:52 p.m.
Last modified Jan. 25, 2013, at 11:08 a.m.
Robert Lucy
Robert Lucy

BANGOR, Maine — The city’s school department has spent more than $42,000 on wages and attorney’s fees related to an ongoing investigation into alleged past testing violations involving the assistant superintendent, according to figures provided by a school official Thursday.

More than four months have passed since the Bangor School Department placed Assistant Superintendent Robert Lucy on paid administrative leave pending an investigation into allegations that he told Orono Middle School staff members to allow some students to alter their answers on a 2011 standardized test while he was principal in Orono.

Since being placed on leave Sept. 29, Lucy has been paid $35,605, according to Bangor school Superintendent Betsy Webb. His annual salary is about $101,000.

Webb said attorney Daniel Stockford of the Lewiston law firm Brann & Isaacson, who was assigned to conduct the investigation, has logged 33.5 hours, at a cost of about $6,700, plus about $120 in travel expenses.

The superintendent said she has not tracked how much time she has spent on the investigation and that no other school department staff have been involved. She said she wasn’t aware of any other costs associated with the inquiry.

She said Stockford has filled her in on “bits and pieces” of information about the investigation, but that she could not share any details. She stressed the need to be thorough.

The Bangor school system hired Lucy as assistant superintendent in May. Webb has said she wasn’t aware of the reported testing violations or Department of Education report before September.

A story published in September by the Bangor Daily News detailed a 2011 report from the Maine Department of Education which found there was “incontrovertible evidence that some students revisited the [New England Common Assessment Program] test after the time permitted” and that those actions violated “clearly stated” testing rules and guidelines.

The department conducted a one-month investigation in 2011 after Orono Middle School staff reported Lucy reviewed test booklets, some of which had been packed into boxes at the conclusion of test sessions, and marked questions students had missed or answered too briefly, according to the report. The department investigated the tests of six students, five of whom had disabilities.

Students with disabilities may be granted several accommodations for timing, setting and response methods on NECAP tests, “but none of them allows for testing beyond the testing period,” said the Department of Education report.

As a result of its investigation, the Department of Education directed Lucy, test administrators, the test coordinator and special education director to undergo training. The department also invalidated scores for some answers on four students’ tests and the entire test of one student.

Lucy maintained in letters submitted to the Department of Education that he didn’t believe he overstepped his bounds and duties as principal and co-test coordinator, and that he was trying to act in the best interests of his students and school.

There is no estimate of when the school department might wrap up its investigation, according to Webb. She said the fact that the testing irregularities happened more than a year ago and in a different school district “makes the process difficult.”

“We all would like to see it come to some conclusion,” Webb said.

Lucy has not returned phone messages requesting comment, including one left Thursday.

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