New York City Education Department’s Office of Special Investigations has released a lengthy report accusing the principal of a Bronx School of falsifying student transcripts and giving unearned credit.
The practice led to an artificially high graduation rate and students’ receiving diplomas they had not earned.
For 6 years Lynn Passarella, now ex-principal, of Theatre Arts Production Company School, reigned over a school administration where only 3% of students received failing grades. This outstanding achievement would have meant that she might deserve every penny of her $145,000 salary. Unfortunately, the remarkable statistic was achieved by teachers being instructed to only fail students who didn’t attend. Assuming, that is, Ms. Passarella hadn’t already erased any record of the absence.
“After reviewing our thorough investigation of Ms. Passarella, I have decided to remove her as principal and seek an immediate end to her employment,” Chancellor Dennis M. Walcott said in a statement. “The behavior uncovered in this report is dishonest and disgraceful, and shows a blatant disregard for principal responsibilities.”
The investigation began in 2010 after an anonymous complaint.
In 2010, the school had the best score of the 455 high schools receiving progress reports, as well as A’s in all categories. City officials deemed the school “proficient” in a 2009 review and school administrators received bonuses of several thousand dollars each for their performance in the 2008-9 school year.
City officials have since changed a large percentage of scores from passing to failing; 84% were changed to failing status in one subject, however no diplomas have been revoked. While the problems at Tapco have been identified and tackled, of particular concern for the city is the fact that far from Tapco being a lone rogue school, there is a possibility of there being a Ms. Passarella in other local schools.
Last month, the city’s Education Department released the results of an audit of 60 high schools, in which they found problems at 55 schools similar to those found at Tapco. Students had graduated despite not meeting testing and credit requirements, and there was evidence of the improper grading of Regents exams.