BANGOR, Maine — Robert Lucy, assistant superintendent of the Bangor school system, has been placed on paid administrative leave while the school district investigates allegations that he told staff members to allow some students to alter their answers on a 2011 standardized test while he was Orono Middle School’s principal, Superintendent Betsy Webb said Wednesday afternoon.
A story published Tuesday by the Bangor Daily News detailed a 2011 report from the Maine Department of Education which found there was “incontrovertible evidence that some students revisited the [New England Common Assessment Program] test after the time permitted” and that those actions violated “clearly stated” testing rules and guidelines.
The report included statements from unnamed school employees who said Lucy told them to bring in special education students to fill in answers they had left blank or improve written responses.
“The decision to place the assistant superintendent on administrative leave does not reflect any finding or determination by the School Department regarding the assistant superintendent’s conduct while he was employed in Orono,” Webb said.
Webb said the Bangor School District would conduct an investigation of its own.
“Administrative leave is consistent with the School Department’s usual protocol for handling these types of matters,” Webb said, adding that the details in the report warrant “careful review.”
Asked if Lucy, in his new role, was in charge of testing for the Bangor school system, Webb said that while administrators at individual schools are responsible for testing protocols and procedures, “certainly the assistant superintendent has responsibility over curriculum, instruction, assessment and professional development.”
Webb said she wasn’t sure how long the investigation would take.
“The Bangor School Department is going to handle it appropriately,” she said.
“Obviously, in these situations you want to be as efficient as possible,” she added, “but you cannot rush a review because it has to be thorough.”
Lucy did not respond to messages requesting comment Tuesday or Wednesday.
Webb reiterated Wednesday that she had no knowledge of the Department of Education investigation or report before deciding to hire Lucy in May.
The superintendent said “a thorough reference check was conducted” leading up to Lucy’s selection, and the Department of Education’s report and its allegations of testing violations never came up. Webb would not discuss details of who provided the references or what they said.
Webb said the school district’s hiring practices were followed and she remains confident that the job-vetting procedures of the Bangor School Department are solid.
RSU 26 Superintendent Douglas Smith said Wednesday afternoon that he contacted Webb in May after learning that Lucy had been offered the assistant superintendent position in Bangor in order to confirm that Lucy had been nominated.
During that discussion, “there was not anything [said] relative to the [Department of Education] investigation,” Smith said.
Webb did not contact Smith before selecting Lucy for the position, according to Smith.
Webb didn’t know about the investigation or the report about testing irregularities, Smith said, adding that he decided not to bring it up during their conversation.
Smith said he felt the report’s findings were “fairly nonjudgmental” and “relatively bland.” He argued that the report placed blame for the testing irregularities not just on Lucy, but on other staff members and school practices and record keeping as well.
Smith said he didn’t believe that bringing up the report in that context, after Webb had made a decision, would have been ethical and might only have served to eliminate Lucy’s chances of advancing his career by taking the assistant superintendent post.
The fact that the Department of Education didn’t sanction Lucy or take any certification actions after its investigation and only ordered that he and several other staff members at the school undergo training also contributed to Smith’s decision not to mention the report.
Had Webb contacted Smith before offering Lucy the position, Smith said he might have mentioned the department’s investigation.
The department investigated the tests of six students, five of whom had disabilities.
According to the report, Lucy approached the middle school’s test coordinator on Oct. 24, 2011, and asked her to come into his office. The test coordinator, identified only as a female in the report, said she saw “tests spread out on a conference table.”
During the weekend of Oct. 22-23, Lucy reviewed test booklets, some of which had been packed into boxes at the conclusion of test sessions, and marked questions students had missed or answered too briefly, according to the report.
Students with disabilities may be granted several accommodations for timing, setting and response methods on NECAP tests, “but none of them allows for testing beyond the testing period,” said the Department of Education report.
The test coordinator reported that, despite the fact that she initially refused to allow students to revisit the test as Lucy requested, she eventually agreed to do so “under intense pressure and high emotions,” said the Department of Education report.
The Principal and Test Coordinator Manual for NECAP states: “Under no circumstances are students to be prompted to revise, edit or complete any test questions during or after testing. Once a student has completed a session and has handed in his or her student answer booklet, test administrators may not look through the booklets to view student responses.”
That message is repeated in a “reminder” printed on multiple pages throughout the manual.
After its investigation, the department negated certain responses in the students’ test booklets.
Department of Education spokesman David Connerty-Marin said Wednesday that the department does not have any records of any assessment investigations involving Lucy before 2011.
Smith said Wednesday that he never asked Lucy if, before the 2011 NECAP tests, he had reviewed or asked staff members and students to modify tests after they were submitted.