Most parents would do anything to help their children succeed in school, but one Weisenberg Township mother took it too far, Lehigh County authorities say.
Catherine Venusto, a former Northwestern Lehigh School District employee, used her knowledge of the district's computer system — and the superintendent's password — to change her children's grades, state police said.
Her daughter went from a failing grade to a medical exception, according to court records, and her son went from a grade of 98 percent to an even more impressive 99 percent.
When state police detectives interviewed Venusto, 45, at her home last Thursday, she admitted changing the grades and also admitted using the superintendent's passwords to gain access to district emails and personnel files, according to court records.
Venusto said she logged on to the district's computer system, even after she had left her job as a secretary for the district, out of "curiosity and boredom," according to court records.
On Wednesday, Venusto's curiosity got her charged with three counts each of unlawful use of a computer and computer trespassing, all third-degree felonies. She was arraigned before District Judge Robert C. Halal and released on $30,000 unsecured bail.
Authorities say Venusto used the superintendent's information from Aug, 23, 2010, to February 2012 to gain access to the district's human resources system, which contained thousands of files associated with district policy, contract information, employee reports and personnel information.
Authorities also say she entered the district's email system by using the passwords of the superintendent and nine other district employees.
The investigation began on Feb. 24, 2012, when Assistant Superintendent Jennifer Holman reported that a former employee allegedly accessed the district's computer system using the superintendent's sign-in and password information, authorities said.
District officials had earlier suspected something was wrong when a high school principal called to report that some teachers were concerned that the superintendent was accessing the grading system to look at their grades.
Northwestern Lehigh Superintendent Mary Ann Wright said she was sick to her stomach when that call came in asking if she had been viewing student grades.
In fact, Wright never logged into students' grades.
The February 2012 call, Wright said, triggered an immediate shutdown of the computer system. That month, district officials tightened security and log-in procedures, but didn't detail the new measures that were put in place.