A New York City principal who died earlier this year when she jumped in front of a subway train said she had falsified some third graders’ state English exams, the New York City Education Department said in an internal memo.
After the state’s three-day Common Core exams in April at the Teachers College Community School in Harlem, 49-year-old Jeanene Worrell-Breeden confided in someone. She said she had fudged answers on numerous students’ tests because the kids had not finished in time. Someone then turned her in, filing a complaint with the education department.
“Principal Worrell-Breeden was the subject of allegations of testing improprieties,” DOE spokeswoman Devora Kaye said, according to the New York Post. “An investigation substantiated these allegations, and we closed the investigation following her tragic passing.” It has also been reported by the New York Times, Wall Street Journal and Associated Press.
The memo, which was made public on Monday, said the school district’s special commissioner for investigation received an e-mail complaint April 17 — the same day Breeden dove into the path of an oncoming subway car in Harlem. Authorities pulled her out from under the train and transported her to a nearby hospital, where she died eight days later, according to the New York Post. The city medical examiner later ruled her death a suicide.
It’s unclear from the memo, however, who made the complaint and whether the person whom Worrell-Breeden told about the exams was the same one who reported her. It’s also unclear whether Worrell-Breeden knew about the complaint when she killed herself, according to the New York Times.
But by June, superintendent Gale Reeves had sent letters to parents telling them that the third-grade English exams had been tossed out.
“The integrity of the assessment was compromised due to actions outside your child’s control,” it said, according to the New York Post.
It wasn’t until this week that parents found out why.
Worrell-Breeden had worked on Wall Street before she moved into education, according to an obituary. She served as principal at the Bronx’s P.S. 18, where she got caught in two investigations in 2009 and 2010 for erroneously collecting overtime and urging school staffers to help her cover it up, according to the New York Times.
She moved to another school in the Bronx before she took the job at the Teachers College Community School following its opening in 2011.
“This is a chance to build the school of my dreams,” she wrote in her Teachers College profile at the time, according the Associated Press.
When it came time this year for the school’s first round of Common Core exams — a source of anxiety across the city that has caused some educators to walk out — Worrell-Breeden seemed “relaxed,” one mother Diane Tinsley told the New York Post.
“She was reassuring us parents,” she said. “Her whole attitude was that they’re going to breeze through this test, and that she had prepared them to ace any test.”
After learning about the accusations, some said it just doesn’t fit.
“Why would she do that?” Sanayi Canton, a parent and president of a local education panel, told the Associated Press. “It doesn’t fit her personality. It’s a lot of unanswered questions.”
Worrell-Breeden’s family has not commented to the Associated Press, New York Post, New York Times or Wall Street Journal about the memo. But soon after her death, her husband said she enjoyed being an educator. “She got such joy and pleasure from her students,” Corwin Breeden said.