I am one member of a five person board. The opinions I express on this forum are mine only, and do not necessarily reflect the views or opinions of the Escambia County Staff, Administrators, Employees, or anyone else associated with Escambia County Florida. I am interested in establishing this blog as a means of additional transparency to the public, outreach to the community, and information dissemination to all who choose to look. Feedback is welcome, but because public participation is equally encouraged, appropriate language and decorum is mandatory.

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Allegations of Misconduct Part 1: Falsifying Student Records to Obtain School Recognition Award Money

The worst example a public charter school can set is cheating.

Cheating to boost graduation rates, which ultimately raises school letter grades, that ultimately assists a school in receiving funds from the state for bonuses--is about the worst example any school could set.

There are allegations against one of our charter schools that are brewing to a roiling boil today, and I reiterate that at this point they are just that---allegations---of widespread grade tampering.

However, the evidence that continues to come in to me on this matter is enough for me to start asking some tough questions---which I have done and which I will continue to do.

From just a small part of what I have received on this matter:

"Many teachers changed grades, deleted zeros, deleted overdue assignments, forged passing grades, combined assignments, gave answers to tests, allowed additional time for over due assignments to be turned in, and falsified attendance records because it was asked of them in order to pass XXXXXXXXXXXXXX  Seniors onto graduation so the school could maintain its “A” rating..XXXXXXX XXXXXXXXXXXX was seen by several people telling senior XXXXXXXXXXXXXXXXX the answers to online class work in the front office using the computer closest to the office door near the girl’s bathroom after school on May 28th.  One parent (XXXXXXXXXXXXXXX) of a graduating senior (XXXXXXXXXXXX) called XXXXXX XXXXXXXX to 

find out how XXXX   XXXXXXXXXXX who barely had a “C” average ended up with such very high grades on XXXXXXX final report card? XXXXXXXXXXXXX knew something was wrong withXXXX XXXXXXXXXX grades. XXXXXX commented that even if XXXXXXXXX had studied and passed everything during the last two weeks of school there was still no way XXXXXXXXXX would have earned such high grades. XXXXXXXXXXX knew there was no way XXXXXXXXXXXX honestly earned those grades. XXXXXXXXX never got a return phone call from XXXXXXXXXXXXX or XXXXXXXXXXXXX."

How could Escambia County School District Administrators allow school recognition money to go to a school if there were crimson red-flags going up all over the place alluding to and alleging that widespread student record falsification was occurring?

Worse, how could those in power and those that control decision-making in this district allow the school board to not be made aware of these allegations of fraud?

Worst of all---a full 9 1/2 months after the first revelations of grade falsification were reported---- more than a week prior to the class of 2014's graduation on May 31st 2014---how could we allow Governor Rick Scott to still come to Pensacola and smile while turning over a check for this, a significant portion of which will be going to this one school?  I've felt sick to my stomach all day over this.  Disgusted does not do justice to how I feel right now.  Blindsided, betrayed, and marginalized

I smiled and shook hands with the Governor last week at this function.

I greeted the director of this school that allegedly cheated last week, congratulating him on this great accomplishment.

I feel like a sucker, based upon what I am now learning today.  I feel like I got used like a useful idiot.  And the Governor, he's brought in for the photo-op--terrible!

At a minimum, staff should have not invited this school to this ceremony because of all of the allegations of misconduct; why would they have this school come to an event celebrating hard work by schools that actually did the work to earn these grades?

I want to know the answers to these questions and so I am on this issue until I get the truth.  Five simple questions:

Who in the Escambia County School District knew of the onerous allegations of misconduct and grade altering that are being leveled against this school?

How was this program able to receive school recognition funds from Governor Scott just last week in Pensacola if the grades are not true and accurate?

When was this knowledge about alleged grade falsification gained by district employees that could have initiated an investigation?

What was done to stop this conduct?

And why was the elected board of education NOT told?


Anonymous said...

This is not surprising, Jeff, although I am curious which school it was. Upon a little research, Ill be able to deduce, but I already have my guess. I am just personal interest.

While not all charter schools misrepresent numbrs, many do and can get away with it since their isnt public accountability. Some of the sketchiest cases have occured in South Fl.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--The allegations contained in the documents I have received from a well-placed, confidential inside source, which I have over the last four days independently verified to be accurate, will make anything you have read about So. FL charter school scandals look petty. I am not exaggerating; The previous scandals I have read about and been involved with are nothing compared to this. Those issues, speaking metaphorically, are more like a mishap with the girl-scout cookie order someone made, recieving tag-alongs instead of do-si-dos. This story, about this local charter school, once it is fully investigated and all of the gut-wrenching details are scrutinized and are produced, will be nothing short of shocking. And the fact that the school board was apparently kept in the dark on purpose will lead to action against many persons. I've been sick over this all for five days now....

Anonymous said...

Wow. Thoe stories are oretty shady. I mean, they took government money for their own personal profits. Yikes, hate to hear. But dont they also have their own board to where the school board doesnt have as much control over their operations? Given the fact there is a lack of legal accountability, it doesnt seem surprising ECSB would be left in the dark. But I am not sure of the details of what's required by law or not.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous: Yes this is bad. Yes this school has their own governing board, however the Escambia County School Board has a contract with this school, in force since 2011, that allows us the leverage to ensure this school is following the law and also granting us the power to shut them down if they violate the law. The contract provisions were not exercised in a timely manner, for reasons I fail to apprehend. But that is okay because The appropriate state officials have been notified yesterday as of 2:00 PM-- and they have been given all of the documents that I received last Wednesday from my confidential, inside source, albeit in redacted form. There are additional documents available that corroborate the allegations in the documents given, however the SAO will receive these once they issue an investigative subpoena-which I believe will happen soon. I believe this agency will look into all of the allegations, particularly as it pertains to taxpayer money going to this high school for performance bonuses paid by the state and presented by the Governor personally in Pensacola on March 16th. I believe that these folks will sort through the information and find out why this was allowed to occur, why the allegations of grade tampering were not addressed for 10 months running, beginning with numerous notifications of these irregularities sent as early as May of 2014, culminating with the Governor smiling for a photo op while presenting this HS with a bonus of more than $26,000 in taxpayer money just two weeks ago--nearly a year after the allegations of grade tampering were first reported. I'm confident that the truth will be uncovered.

Anonymous said...

Hi Jeff,

I taught at Brownsville Arts and Science Academy and Jim C. Bailey Middle School. Both schools required teachers to do everything I've read about in your post.

The District has all the evidence they need for this as they host the grades from FOCUS. Teachers routinely change the final grade from the average to meet the expectations of the Principal. The Principal always cites "downtown", retention issues, discipline, or really anything you can think of, as the reason for any impropriety such as this. I taught for fifteen years and it was always so. Those who taught longer were always on hand to assure me that things had always been this way but had "just gotten worse."
It made me sick and I identify with your comments. I really hope you can make a difference. The citizens of Escambia County deserve the truth and they deserve better for themselves and their children. They need and deserve leadership in education and the best education their tax money can buy. As bad as the pay is in education, there are too many people in it for the money. Sounds crazy I know, but it is true. We need better screening.

Thank you,

Paul DeWise

Anonymous said...

I have previously taught for Dr. Judy Pippen and every time grades were due she would send out an email too remind us to raise grades to 50% for failing ESE students and then add up to 9% for good behavior, etc to "give them a fighting chance". She sent this email out every 9 weeks. Apparently this is way more common than we knew.

Jeff Bergosh said...

Anonymous--I'm looking into these claims that district programs/schools are telling teachers "not to give zeros" and to "add-points" to some students. This is neither in alignment with district policy nor state law as it pertains to prohibiting social promotion. I'm now hearing this from others and not getting straight answers about whether or not this is common in our district. These claims are on my list of discussion items with the superintendent's curriculum staff, you can be assured of this.