Thursday, March 31, 2005

Did you expect him to be smart enough to get away with it?

Mentally handicapped homeless people are smarter than some New York teachers:
A Bronx teacher who repeatedly flunked his state certification exam paid a formerly homeless man with a developmental disorder $2 to take the test for him, authorities said yesterday.

The illegal stand-in - who looks nothing like teacher Wayne Brightly - not only passed the high-stakes test, he scored so much better than the teacher had previously that the state knew something was wrong, officials said.

'I was pressured into it. He threatened me,' the bogus test-taker Rubin Leitner told the Daily News yesterday after Special Schools Investigator Richard Condon revealed the scam. 'I gave him my all,' said Leitner, 58, who suffers from Asperger's syndrome, a disorder similar to autism. 'He gave me what he thought I was worth.'

Brightly, 38, a teacher at one of the city's worst schools, Middle School 142, allegedly concocted the plot to swap identities with Leitner last summer. If he failed the state exam again, Brightly risked losing his $59,000-a-year job.
'I'm tired of taking this test and failing,' Brightly told Leitner, according to Condon's probe. 'I want you to help me.'

Along with being much smarter than Brightly, Leitner is 20 years older. He also is white and overweight while Brightly is black and thin. Yet none of those glaring differences apparently worried Brightly.

'He said no one would ever know,' Leitner said outside the Brownsville, Brooklyn, building he has called home since briefly living on the streets.

The two men met years ago at Brooklyn College where Leitner earned bachelor's and master's degrees in history in the late 1970s, and Brightly got a bachelor's degree in 1992. After meeting in the alumni office, Leitner began tutoring the teacher as he struggled to pass the state exam, officials said.
Note to all homeless people: New York City schools are hiring.

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