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Two lose teaching certificates in Woodbridge scandal

By KATHY CHANG
Staff Writer

WOODBRIDGE — Teaching certificates have been stripped from former longtime Assistant Superintendent for Curriculum and Instruction Lois Rotella, who allegedly inflicted fear on her subordinates regarding standardized testing that led to the Township School district’s cheating scandal in 2012, and from a former Avenel Middle School music teacher for making inappropriate comments to students and another staff member.

The state Board of Examiners of the New Jersey Department of Education officially ordered to revoke the licenses of Rotella and Randall Hunt on Sept. 23. The former educators were further ordered to return their certificates to the state Board of Examiners, Office of Certification and Induction, in Trenton.

The state board reviewed an Order to Show Cause that was issued to Rotella as to why her teaching certificates should not be revoked.

Rotella had held a teacher of social studies certificate since May 1972 and a principal certificate since September 1986.

After the teaching certification matter was transmitted to the Office of Administrative Law for a hearing, Rotella presented a proposal to the board in which she would agree to the relinquishment of her certificates with the force and effect of a revocation.

Rotella has never admitted or conceded to any of the allegations that have been swirling since the state Office of Fiscal Accountability (OFAC) released findings in 2012 of testing irregularities of the 2010 and 2011 NJ ASK tests at two elementary schools.

The Board of Education accepted Rotella’s retirement in August 2012, weeks before the first OFAC report was released.

In 2015, OFAC released a report alleging Rotella was intimidating, vindictive, feared by her subordinates and fixated on standardized test scores.

Another report alleged that Rotella misguided the Woodbridge High School staff in establishing a procedure to determine which 11th grade students would take the March High School Proficiency Assessment (HSPA) for the first time.

Since 2012, the Board of Education has been working to move on with corrective action plans.

As a result of the reports, two principals and three elementary teachers were suspended with pay. Only two had returned to the district after an internal investigation by the school district.

John Crowe, who was schools superintendent at the time, announced he would not reapply for the top spot and resigned in December 2012.

Hunt had held a teacher of music certificate since May 1988. He resigned from his tenured position after the school district levied charges against him alleging unbecoming conduct in 2014.

The district alleged that Hunt made numerous inappropriate and sexually laced comments to his students including asking students whether they “were sexual” and allegedly told an eighth grade student, “Come back when you’re 18 so we can have fun.”

Administrative Law Judge Ellen S. Bass had decided to revoke Hunt’s teaching certificate in 2015 after determining that Hunt’s comments had no place in a middle school classroom and that “the record revealed a tone in Hunt’s classroom that was inappropriate and unacceptable; particularly so in a middle school.”

She also noted that Hunt relied on “off-color humor and double entendres to attempt to achieve rapport with his students.”

Hunt had filed a number of exceptions in his case arguing the administrative law judge’s assessment of his credibility was “arbitrary, capricious and unreasonable” because she relied on irrelevant and inappropriate factors such as the fact that he did not express more indignation or remembered ordinary conversations.

The Board of Examiners voted to adopt the administrative law judge’s initial decision with a modification that any allegations in the Order to Show Cause for which no testimony was presented meant that the allegations were unproven and could not be considered.

“In this case, Hunt’s actions, taken as a whole, clearly demonstrate conduct that warrants revocation,” the board stated in its decision.

Jonathan Busch, attorney for the Woodbridge Board of Education, said the board does not comment on matters before the state Board of Examiners.

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