State: Student test scores not inflated by Petrilli

Fayette schools' claim rejected

jwarren@herald-leader.comMarch 16, 2010 

The Kentucky Department of Education says it hasn't found enough evidence to support allegations that Peggy Petrilli tried to inflate student test scores at Lexington's Booker T. Washington Academy.

Petrilli was the school's principal from 2005 to 2007, when she resigned.

Petrilli later sued the Fayette County Public Schools, alleging that she was forced out to appease some Booker T. Washington parents who wanted a black principal. Petrilli is white. A Fayette Circuit Court jury rejected her claim after a trial last summer.

State Education Secretary Terry Holliday recently sent a letter to Fayette school Superintendent Stu Silberman, saying that he concurs with a state Testing Board of Review finding that "not enough evidence was found to support a violation of the Administrative Code for Kentucky's Educational Assessment Program." The letter did not refer to Petrilli by name.

"The case is closed as far as we are concerned," education department spokeswoman Lisa Gross said Monday.

The state inquiry was prompted after a May 2008 in-house report by the Fayette school system accusing Petrilli of various testing irregularities, such as improperly holding students back for one year. The report, which the Fayette schools forwarded to the state, contended that Petrilli improperly tried to inflate CATS scores at Booker T., saying the school was "driven by test scores" during her administration.

Petrilli's attorney, J. Dale Golden, argued at the time that the school district report was intended to discredit Petrilli's lawsuit, which was pending then.

On Monday, Golden contended that Holliday's letter vindicates Petrilli.

"This finding is consistent with Peggy's proof that all her evaluations reflected the highest marks," Golden said. "It is not consistent with any proofs submitted on behalf of the Fayette County schools."

Golden referred to information and testimony presented during last year's trial of Petrilli's lawsuit showing that she got high marks on her job evaluations.

Attorney John McNeill, who represented the school district in the case, declined to comment.

Petrilli was a highly regarded principal at Northern Elementary School before moving to Booker T. Washington Academy. The Kentucky Association of Elementary School Principals named her state principal of the year in 2005.

Reach Jim Warren at (859) 231-3255 or 1-800-950-6397 Ext. 3255.

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