Report inconclusive on school cheating scandal

Thousands of tax dollars were spent to investigate a cheating scandal at a Somerset elementary school, but the district still doesn't know who changed the test answers.

The state investigated, and then the school board hired another investigator.

The second report cost more than $30,000 and basically says no more than a state report found nearly a year ago. The people of Somerset are out that much and more, and the test cheating remains unsolved.

It was spring 2010 when the fifth-grade math scores on the required MCAS tests at the Wilbur School jumped so high that a parent complained there must have been something wrong.

A closer look showed many answers were erased after the tests were handed into school staff.

The state Department of Elementary and Secondary Education tossed out all the results, but couldn't find an individual who altered the tests. After two years, another investigation was ordered, paid for by the school district.

The results were released last week, but the report, with some names blacked out, was not released until NBC 10 News filed an open records request.

Taxpayers are frustrated.

"Where's the answer? I don't understand how two different things came up with no answers," Somerset resident Doris Wiggins said. "Something's fishy."

School superintendent Richard Medeiros said the scandal at the Wilbur School is three years old. The only reason the additional report was commissioned, he said, was to appease the community. But basically, he'd like to put the entire affair behind him.

The investigator looking at exam books found "each of these children's parents identified their child's answer booklets as containing handwriting and changes made by a person other than their child."

But when it came to chasing down the person who wrote the answers, allegations were not backed up.

In interviews, one subject "told me she did not say any such thing," according to the report.

Another interview: "I was not able to verify a conversation with the former fifth-grade teacher."

Taxpayers are ready to drop the subject.

"It's time to move on. We've wasted enough time and money," Somerset resident Tim Turner said.

"We keep spending money after money after money, and what do we get for it?" said Somerset resident Jerry Richmond.

Many of the adults who were at Wilbur School in 2010 have moved on. The principal now works in West Warwick.