Prompted by a poison-pen letter that has roiled the Upper Darby School District, the Delaware County district attorney's office is reviewing allegations that the district's top brass provided school administrators with the answers to a federal emergency-preparedness test.
A photocopy of a July 2006 internal memo that has been circulating in the district in recent weeks appears to show that school principals and other administrators were given the answers to the National Incident Management System (NIMS) test, at the request of an assistant superintendent.
Superintendent Joseph Galli angrily denied any wrongdoing yesterday. He said that most of the district's administrators should have taken the test before the e-mail was sent and that the answers had been released only so they could "double check" their own.
"This person has done everything they possibly can to make a falsehood look like a truth," Galli said of the anonymous author of the letter.
"The whole thing is nothing but egregious, fallacious slandering of people's reputations," he said.
Upper Darby and other districts that receive certain emergency-preparedness grants through the federal government are expected to be "NIMS-compliant" - meaning that their administrators have passed a certification test that's given online or at a facility in Emittsburg, Md., run by the Federal Emergency Management Agency.
"This is just a reminder to send a copy of your NIMS certification to me," Annette Brandolini, Upper Darby's director of pupil services, allegedly wrote to school administrators last summer. "Although I am sure that you will all pass, Carolyn thought it would be a good idea for me to send each of you the test answers."
The message, which appears to refer to Assistant Superintendent Carolyn Felker, includes the answers to a list of questions. It is dated July 14, at 4:38 p.m.
Galli confirmed that it had been sent through the district's internal e-mail system but subsequently "doctored" with Wite-Out, though he declined to specify how.
Assistant D.A. Joseph Brielmann said yesterday his office had received a copy of the memo but hadn't determined if it is authentic.
"I don't believe there is an issue of criminal activity here, but nonetheless, the district attorney would suggest that Upper Darby readminister the test" if the answers were distributed beforehand, Brielmann said.
Galli said administrators discussed the test in detail during a workshop, then were told to go back to their offices and take the test online.
He said the answers were provided "after they were supposed to take" the test but that he couldn't rule out that they might have been distributed "prior to when somebody may have taken" the test. And Galli said the administration doesn't know "who took the test and who didn't."
The e-mail was attached to a rambling, three-page letter critical of several district officials that was sent to the D.A.'s office. The letter is dated March 10.
Although Galli described the NIMS test as "open book," the incident raises questions about what, if anything, school officials learn through the certification process.
The NIMS was created by a February 2003 homeland security directive by President Bush. The introductory course for school administrators is designed to ensure that local governments and other agencies are able to work together in the event of a natural disaster or other emergency.
Joan Young, whose son, 14, is a freshman at Upper Darby High, said she now wonders how prepared the district is for an emergency. "I'm concerned for his safety, as well as all the other kids in that building," Young said.