Grade changes in Ozark, Dale County spur state investigation

Published 08/19 2014 06:29PM

Updated 08/19 2014 09:24PM

"We have some pretty astute supervisors at the alternative school, and they started noticing that students were spending very little time on a course and then get a passing grade, and that was kind of the tip that something wasn't right," said Michael Lenhart, superintendent of the Ozark City Board of Education.

He said they contacted their board attorney to begin a local investigation on the suspected grade changing at Opportunity Academy, an alternative school with high school students from both the Ozark and Dale County school systems.  They also worked with a software company to check grades from the last two years.  That's when they confirmed the teacher, who worked in the area for 26 years, had changed low grades to higher ones.

The case was then referred to the State Department of Education for further investigation.

"We've parted company on mutually agreeable terms.  The individual did not resign, but he is on our personnel report from the last board meeting," Lenhart said.

Although he didn't resign, and despite early reports from other media outlets, school officials  say the teacher was not fired.  They wouldn't release his name, as they say it could taint the investigation.

“I want to commend Mr. Lenhart and his staff for not only uncovering this, but bringing this to the forefront and taking measures to see where we are,” said Dale County Board of Education Superintendent Donny Bynum.

There were at least two known instances in Dale County Schools and five in Ozark City Schools, and they plan to reassess the students to make sure they learned the required skills associated with those courses.

Administrators say one student from each system has already graduated, but they don't intend to call them back.  They say the positives within the school systems outweigh these negative circumstances.

"This is a very unfortunate situation, but we've had far greater success, which we don't want to be put down or laid aside," Bynum said.

School officials say procedures are already in place to avoid these issues, but they say there will be more oversight, just as a precaution.

There's no word on if this will affect the teacher's certification, but school officials say any new information will be released after the investigation.

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