Pay-for-credit, grades investigation at West Boca; former principal reprimanded

West Boca High Principal Mark Stenner giving is 2015 graduation speech.
West Boca High Principal Mark Stenner giving is 2015 graduation speech.

A former principal run out of his job at West Boca High for plagiarizing his graduation speeches has another blemish on his file this week for failing to act on concerns that a biology teacher boosted grades and gave false credit for community service to students in exchange for cash contributions to buy a pricey gift.

Investigators found that in the spring of 2015, the teacher encouraged students to contribute to the gift fund – and more than 13 did to the tune of an estimated $200 -$300 –  in return for a so-called “Free Pass” in his class.

The teacher also instructed them to lie when the collection was discovered by other teachers, according to witnesses and texts quoted in the 28-page police report.

Mark Stenner, the principal at the time, has objected in writing to the reprimand that is coming. He argues he didn’t have time to get to the bottom of the matter– in part because he was removed from campus for the plagiarism investigation. That infraction, led him to be reassigned to the district’s administrative offices.

Stenner declined to comment Friday.

While the report released to The Palm Beach Post Thursday reveals what investigators dubbed the “Free Pass scheme,” it doesn’t name the teacher. His name has been removed from the file because the final report in his case and any possible punishment is not yet a public record.

The Palm Beach Post, however has been pursuing the matter for a year and can report the teacher in question is John Critelli, 29. He was hired by the district in 2009 and was removed from the classroom for the 2015-2016 school year while the investigation was underway. Critelli could not be reached for comment Friday.

Students told investigators that the Free Pass scheme began when Critelli rewarded the students who pitched in money to buy an electric pencil sharpener. When spring rolled around, the students said they were interested in earning another Free Pass and witnesses said he wanted a vacuum cleaner.

A handful of other teachers and administrators became aware of the students’ collections and potential inappropriate activity in late May of 2015. By June 9, 2015, the district’s Inspector General’s office got its first indication of a problem when a member of the media requested to see any investigation in the matter. That week in June, Stenner was removed from the school on temporary reassignment for the plagiarism investigation.

Check back for more details as we cull through the report and related material. 

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s