Columbus City Schools Superintendent Dan Good said that state law and board policy required the district to pay bonuses this week to administrators who have been implicated in the district’s data-rigging scandal. Although it was legally the correct thing to do, “I knew in the court of public opinion that this would be problematic,” Good said today.
In January, Superintendent Dan Good suspended Principal Christopher Qualls with the intent to fire him, saying he tampered with attendance data during the 2010-11 school year. Yesterday, Good and the school board for Columbus City Schools gave Qualls a $3,000 bonus for achievement gains at Independence High School during the 2011-12 school year — a period that was never examined for data-scrubbing by the state auditor or the district’s internal auditor.
Saying he was concerned with discrepancies in a pre-sentencing report, a judge postponed sentencing this morning for the man who formerly led Columbus schools data operation. Stephen B. Tankovich, 67, pleaded no contest to attempted tampering with government records in July and a judge convicted him.
Concerned that a fire could destroy thousands of personnel records that are on paper, Columbus City Schools will spend up to $161,200 over the next four years to make digital copies. Records for 11,000 former district employees who left their jobs before 2011 have been taken to an off-site location for copying, Victoria Frye, the interim director of employment and staffing, told the district’s audit committee during a meeting yesterday afternoon.
When Columbus school board members travel for conferences — as two members did this month to Miami — they haven’t always needed the board’s approval before hopping a plane. That will change in the coming weeks, after the school board approves a new set of policies that will govern a wide range of issues, including official travel.
Lawyers for Columbus City Schools will argue in a hearing that starts today that Pamela B. Diggs, former principal at Marion-Franklin High School, falsified student data so that her school would look better and deserves to lose her job. Diggs’ attorneys will argue she was doing what her bosses told her to do and shouldn’t be held responsible. But what happened at Marion-Franklin during the 2010-11 school year doesn’t precisely mirror what happened at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy under the leadership of Tiffany L. Chavers.
The Columbus school district told nearly 600 school employees yesterday that they must repay about $400,000 in bonuses they were awarded several years ago for school gains that weren’t real. The bonuses for the 2010-11 school year weren’t earned because schools qualified only after administrators manipulated student data, the district said.
Yet again, the Columbus school district is in better financial shape than its leaders thought. Until a year ago, the district’s treasurer had been warning that money would run dry this year and leave a $19.2 million deficit. But in each of three budget updates since then – including one at a school-board meeting last night – the district’s financial forecast has grown increasingly brighter.
The Reynoldsburg teachers union, school board and a parent suing the district will resume court-ordered mediation today. A staff attorney for Franklin County Common Pleas Judge Richard A. Frye, who is serving as mediator for all parties, said yesterday that no resolution had been reached.
Was former Principal Tiffany Chavers a willing accomplice in a massive fraud at Linden-McKinley STEM Academy, or a victim caught up in a top-down culture of cheating in Columbus schools? That is the question a hearing examiner will have to answer after the district and Chavers finished presenting testimony today about whether she should be fired for changing student data at her school.
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