I wish today's column had a happier ending. Five years ago, when I first met Joe Carruth, I thought the rookie high school principal was courageous for going public with allegations that superiors in the Camden School District wanted him to change students' answers on the all-important state assessment tests.
Today, I still think Joe a hero for sticking his neck out and putting his career on the line. But rather than award him a medal, I'd really like to see the man get a job.
That Carruth, the honorable whistleblower. was fired for doing the right thing was unconscionable. That he remains unemployed, criminal. Why has no school district snapped up this engaging, inspiring educator? How is it that the one person who set a positive example for the students at Brimm Medical Arts High is the only person made to pay in this sordid scandal?
(Did I mention that the higher-ranking Camden district official who was fingered for altering the test scores when Carruth refused was kept on the payroll in spite of his offense? Priceless.)
Carruth, who graciously invited me into his home years ago and still takes my calls even after all those columns and stories we wrote failed to protect him, has paid dearly for believing the truth would prosper. The father of two -- one daughter has a serious medical condition requiring constant attention from his wife, a former special ed teacher - long ago exhausted unemployment benefits. He went from earning six figures to relying on family and friends.
A year after he was fired, Carruth landed a job as a vice principal at a Philadelphia charter school. But that, too, was short-lived. The former math teacher has a master's degree in administration, has nearly finished his doctorate, and is certified in two states, but hasn't worked in three years.
Carruth believes he's been blacklisted for wearing the white hat. He's applied for "400 or 500 jobs," but suspects that districts cutting corners see him as a snitch, a security risk not even worth an interview.
Unbelievable. What kind of world do we live in when educators are so consumed with test scores they'd stoop to cheating -- then ostracize one of their own because he alone points out the error of their ways?
Carruth doesn't regret refusing to cheat, but does occasionally fantasize about how different his life would have been if he had just followed orders.
"If I had cheated, I would have been a star in Camden," he says. "I could have had notoriety as being THE GUY who turned the school around, got the scores up. I would have moved up in the district. But it wouldn't be legit." And like any harmful addiction, once you start, it's nearly impossible to stop.
-- Monica Yant Kinney
(read more at philly.com/blinq)