2 principals surrender administrative credentials

Exterior photo of Communications Technology High School, in Philadelphia. A former principal has surrendered academic credentials.

UPDATE, 2:30 p.m.

That two Philadelphia principals whose schools are under investigation for cheating have surrendered their administrative licenses sends a clear message, a state official said Wednesday afternoon.

"This is evidence that the department is serious about cracking down on this type of activity," said Tim Eller, spokesman for the state Department of Education. "We're intent on weeding this type of behavior out; it ultimately hurts children."

The two - Barbara McCreery, formerly principal of Communications Tech High, and Lola Marie O'Rourke, formerly of Locke Elementary - both voluntarily gave up their administrative credentials in lieu of discipline.

But, Eller said, "they will retain their teaching certificates, but be unable to teach in the Philadelphia School District."

Still, Eller said, if either attempted to get a job as a teacher in Pennsylvania, any potential employer would be notified that they voluntarily surrendered their administrative certificates.

I'm still awaiting reaction from the district.


Two Philadelphia School District principals whose schools were under investigation for possible state-exam cheating have surrendered their administrative credentials, according to the state Department of Education.

Barbara McCreery, the former principal of Communications Tech High School, surrendered her administrative license "in lieu of discipline."

Lola Marie O'Rourke, the former principal of Locke Elementary, surrendered her superintendent's letter of eligibility, supervisory and administrative credentials, also in lieu of discipline.

Announcements of both were just made public. McCreery's action was taken March 20, and O'Rourke's March 7. 

Among the 53 district schools under investigation for possible cheating beginning in 2009, both Comm Tech and Locke were considered "Tier One" schools - schools were violations were found to be widespread and not limited to one classroom or grade.

It's been well over a year since the investigations into PSSA exam improprieties were announced.  The state has moved to take disciplinary action against over 100 alleged cheaters in many districts where problems were found, but Philadelphia - whose investigation was much larger and more complex than other districts' - has been slow to move.

The state Inspector General's office conducted cheating investigations at the Tier One schools, including McCreery's and O'Rourke's, but the district has led investigations at schools where cheating is alleged to have been less widespread.

District spokesman Fernando Gallard said Wednesday that the district's "process is still ongoing" but he expected an announcement about actions against educators who were found to have cheated this month. 

Teachers and others at two other district schools - Roosevelt Middle and Cayuga Elementary - provided detailed accounts to The Inquirer about widespread cheating at their schools.

After unprecedented security measures were put into effect for last year's PSSAs, scores at many of the investigated schools tumbled. Drops at both Locke and Comm Tech particularly precipitious.

Last year, a source with direct knowledge of the Philadelphia cheating investigations told The Inquirer that across the district in affected schools, the evidence "is pointing in the direction of manipulation across grades, subject areas, across years - it's glaring." In some cases, administrators confessed to investigators.

The head of the district principal's union said that he has sat in on multiple hearings for investigators his union represents.

This is a developing story; please check back for more details.