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Diplomas Revoked for Easy Courses

June 26, 1998

NEW YORK (AP) _ More than a year after graduating from high school, 61 former students have had their diplomas voided because they got credits for courses like Whiffleball theory, flower arranging and bicycle repair.

The Board of Education said Thursday that it was also reviewing the diplomas of 113 other graduates of the Eastern District Senior Academy in the New York City borough of Brooklyn.

Schools special investigator Ed Stancik, who released a report on the school called ``How to Succeed Without Really Trying,″ said the diplomas were voided because they ``weren’t worth the paper they were written on.″

Investigators placed much of the blame on Principal Marcia Brevot, saying she allegedly reversed failing grades, waived exams and offered ``Mickey Mouse″ courses for credit.

``This is so unfair,″ said her lawyer, Richard Bellman.

He said Ms. Brevot had an ``impeccable″ 27-year record in the city’s school system when she arrived at Senior Academy in July 1996.

The school, in a low-income area, was in ``absolute chaos when she walked in, with a 15-year history of failure, violence, no education, dropouts,″ Bellman said. ``She ended that.″

The 58-year-old educator had just retired from the public school system when she accepted the principal’s job on a $200-a-day contract for the 1996-1997 school year.

``I know of no diplomas that weren’t earned,″ she said, speaking through her attorney.

Bellman said the students who took the bicycle repair course wrote papers about it and got one credit for English, science or the arts. As for Whiffleball, he said, ``I don’t have an problem with that. It was a physical education requirement.″

And the teacher who gave the flower-arranging course ``taught them botany,″ he said, in return for credits in either English, math or health.

The so-called ``interdisciplinary″ courses also included a ``leadership class″ in which students ran errands for teachers, and internships in which they answered phones for three months at a travel agency in return for credits in English, social studies, health and music, Stancik’s report said.

In addition, he said students could gain math and social studies credits by learning about a ``sports rotisserie league,″ meaning buying and selling professional players in a simulated free-agent market.

School officials were trying to reach the 61 students to complete courses or retake tests.

Ms. Brevot acknowledged that some students had not passed all required tests as a result of a clerical error. She said they had been sent letters asking them to return to the school, but school investigators say none did so and still graduated.

Stancik said Ms. Brevot ``made a mockery of the most important honor a public school system can bestow _ the high school diploma.″

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