How Andrejko Planned To Hide The Foley Facts

July 9, 2012

"The professional educator shall uphold the honor and dignity of his/her profession in all his/her actions and interactions with pupils, school staff, administrators, School Board members, and the public." - QCSD Policy Guidelines, Section 400, Ethical Behavior of Professional Staff.

So just how far did QCSD Superintendent Lisa Andrejko go to keep the reason for the Nick Foley firing from the school board, the community, and the Project Lead The Way organization that was defrauded? About as far as she possibly could. Who cares about little details like district policy when a "huge point of pride" is at stake?

In the real world, it would be hard to imagine that an important legal issue like academic dishonesty affecting dozens of students' grades wasn't referred to an actual, experienced attorney for guidance on public disclosure, and advice to the administration and directors. But Lisa Andrejko isn't in charge of the real world. She continued her long-running improper conduct of acting as legal counsel to the school board, rather than consulting with the board's solicitor. Of course, doing so pretty much assured that the directors only heard what she wanted them to hear. And that the community heard nothing.

For almost an entire month after Foley, a Project Lead The Way technology teacher, was relieved of his duties on June 1, Andrejko refused to give any information to anyone, bypassing the board meeting on June 14. But once the story appeared in this column, and directors (and the community) started asking questions, she had to make a choice...either reveal Foley's dishonesty to everyone, including PTLW (which had praised QCSD based in large part on Foley's cheating), or find another excuse to try to avoid the embarrassment.

But by then the stakes had been raised. Not only did she have to deal with the academic dishonesty scandal itself, she also had to explain away why she didn't immediately share the truth with the board, and the residents, who are the real "owners" of the school district - her bosses.

She chose her oldie-but-goodie role of substituting her own advice for that of the board's attorney, and giving the directors the information that benefited her, regardless of the accuracy. And that information - not surprisingly - was that the board should be given no information.

Foley had been notified by the administration of the district's intention to terminate him, and Andrejko hoped he would simply resign. However, when he decided not to go quietly, the only alternative was a firing by the board, and Andrejko started to lose containment. She was forced to give the directors enough information to allow them to determine his fate, but she also didn't want to reveal anything that might reflect badly on her. So, acting as her own counsel, she intimated that this was simply a routine matter, and withheld the facts: Foley had engaged in unethical behavior, Foley had given his students test answers, QCSD was keeping that fraudulent "huge point of pride".

The board was told basically that the administration felt he should no longer be employed here. Period. And based solely on Andrejko's say-so, the directors voted unanimously (and correctly) to fire him on June 28, as part of the monthly routine laundry list of personnel moves. But they weren't told why.

Had Foley accepted that decision, the matter would have ended there. No one would have been told of the true extent of the dishonesty. QCSD would still have it's "huge point of pride". Andrejko's whitewash would have been whitewashed.

But Foley exercised his right to a hearing, by either the board, or an arbitrator. And Andrejko jumped on that to continue the cover-up. She again acted as solicitor, and, this time, determined that the directors - the nine people elected by the community to make sure the schools run properly (and her bosses) - should not know anything about the matter because Foley might have chosen a board hearing, in which case the board would have to act as jury. And, she ruled, they might be prejudiced by anything they learned prior to the hearing - which could be six months away.

How utterly ridiculous.

Andrejko acted without citing any rule, regulation, or school law to back up her decision...because none exists. Fair and impartial juries are chosen tens of thousands of times every day across this country, and many others. Potential jurors regularly read coverage of alleged crimes and civil wrongs, and know the accused's name, and actions, long before they are called to duty. Jerry Sandusky received a fair hearing from a public that had adored him for decades. OJ Simpson, Michael Jackson, and Casey Anthony were acquitted despite 24/7 press coverage. There is absolutely no reason that the administration couldn't have disclosed that Nick Foley was being investigated for unethical behavior.

But, at this point, Andrejko's entire plan had shifted to the hope that Foley would choose to be heard by an arbitrator, because the testimony in the private hearing (which would exclude even the board) would never be disclosed. That scheme fell apart once the truth reached the community. The directors realized that this was not the routine matter Andrejko had portrayed it to be. So when Foley chose arbitration (meaning no board hearing), the administration was out of excuses. Andrejko had to disclose the details.

And she had to report the incident to Project Lead The Way, admitting that QCSD wasn't entitled to that "huge point of pride" after all. She had to report the incident to the PA Department of Education for their investigation. But she did not have to report the incident to the community - and she did not. There will be no statement from the district until the arbitrator rules. But the board did order the administration to make public a summary of the findings once the determination is made.

And only then, maybe six or seven months after the community learned from the media what had happened, will Andrejko be forced to 'fess up in public. But you can bet that there will be precious little actual 'fessing. Andrejko has never yet admitted a mistake or problem, and she is unlikely to start now. As of July 7, the fraudulent story about the PLTW recognition was still on the QCSD website.

And if you were curious what Andrejko would reveal about the matter under the state Right To Know law....

On June 8, I sent such a request, asking how Project Lead The Way was begun in QCHS, how teachers were identified, the number of students in each class, the number of students receiving a passing grade in each class, the costs of the program, any correspondence with PLTW regarding the success of the program in QCHS, and any questions raised by any party regarding the effectiveness of the program, the accuracy of grade reporting, or the possibility of improper conduct on the part of any party in involved in the QCHS PLTW program. State law requires a response within five days.

The reply from the Quite Commonly Secret District: The usual stonewalling. This requires a "legal review" - for each and every question asked!!! We will respond within 30 days.

One has to wonder: with Andrejko's hijacking of the solicitor's role, who will actually be performing that "legal review"? And can we expect any more honesty from her in this review than we got in her actions that brought about the cover-up to begin with?