Former Spfld. charter school principal could face 20 yrs in prison

She pleaded guilty in connection to MCAS cheating

WWLP file image of the former Robert Hughes Academy Charter School on School St. in Springfield.

SPRINGFIELD, Mass. (WWLP) – A former Springfield charter school principal pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court to a federal felony in connection with assisting students to cheat on the MCAS.

According to U.S. Attorney Carmen Ortiz, 42-year-old Janet Henry pleaded guilty to information charging her with committing mail fraud. U.S. District Judge Mark G. Mastroianni scheduled sentencing for Jan. 8, 2015.

In 2009, Henry became principal of the Robert M. Hughes Academy Charter School in Springfield. Ortiz said that in March and April 2009, the Massachusetts Comprehensive Assessment System tests were given to the student body, and Henry told teachers to give clues and other tips to students.

Ortiz said Henry would tell teachers to look out for students entering nonsense answers, and tell them to review their answers again. Then during preparation meetings, Henry would tell teachers, “This is where we earn our money,” and that everyone would lose their jobs if the test scores were low.

According to the statement of fact filed in the case, Henry was acting under the pressure from a member of the charter school’s board of directors.

On April 16, 2009, Henry falsely certified that the MCAS tests were administered honestly. She now faces up to 20 years in prison, three years of supervised release, and a fine of $250,000.

NOTE: United States Attorney Carmen M. Ortiz, Brian M. Hickey, Special Agent in Charge of the U.S. Department of Education, Office of Inspector General, Northeast Region, and Vincent B. Lisi, Special Agent in Charge of the Federal Bureau of Investigation, Boston Field Division, made the announcement Wednesday.  The case is being prosecuted by Assistant United States Attorney Kevin O’Regan of Ortiz’s Springfield Office.

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