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Patrick School Board looks to future
Mangrum expects to use state report as building block

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

By DEBBIE HALL - Bulletin Staff Writer

More than 50 people on Monday attended the first of what will be a series of meetings by the Patrick County School Board to review the preliminary results of an investigation by the state Department of Education (DOE).

“My expectations are we are going to take the information” set forth in the report “and build a better school system,” board chairman Bobby Mangrum said.

One of the teachers who sat on the floor for the 90-minutes meeting said her fellow educators are “very supportive” of building a better school system and only want their “voices heard in the construction process.” Many who attended the meeting stood in the room and the adjoining hallways.

One of the main issues discussed Monday centered around the DOE’s claim that 21 of the 183 students to graduate in 2011-2012 were inappropriately awarded diplomas or certificates, including one special education student and six general education students who were awarded Standard Diplomas they did not earn; one special education student and 10 general education students who were awarded Advanced Studies Diplomas when they had actually earned Standard Diplomas; and three general education students were awarded Certificates of Program Completion when they should not have been awarded certificates.

Several of those students had enough credits to graduate, but lacked a required Science credit, school officials said.

Darrell Porter, Director of Student Services at Patrick County High School, said he was responsible for that mistake because he signed the diplomas.

“It’s easy early on to say, ‘We’re all stakeholders,’ and then on graduation day, I’m the one” handing out the diplomas, he said.

No one checked the information behind him, he said. “The system is not there.”

With the findings of the draft report, Porter said he realized the basic tenant that “what we did in the past is not going to work.”

There are plans to create a review committee and possibly incorporate other safeguards in the process, according to school officials.

Dan River District School Board member Quinn Brim thanked the counselor for taking responsibility, as did Mangrum.

The problem with the awarded certificates was due to the fact that the school division lacked a written guideline for that program, school officials said Monday.

The board also reviewed a series of unfounded complaints included in the preliminary report.

Among issues identified in the draft and by school officials as unfounded were: manipulated test scores/grades to inflate graduation rates for students graduating from Patrick County High School in 2011-2012; teachers being told to alter grades by the high school principal and assistant principals; the manipulation of certain test scores/grades resulting in a diploma status change of four students with disabilities; testing irregularities that occurred during the spring 2012 testing period at the high school and from the 2008-2009 through 2011-2012 school years at Meadows of Dan Elementary School that were not properly addressed by school administrators or central office administrators.

The draft noted that several issues, such as personnel matters, nepotism, principals changing practices and financial matters related to the school division’s superintendent, were not included in the scope of the investigation.

Rather, the local school board has oversight, and those matters will be addressed with the appropriate personnel at some point in the future, Mangrum said.

Mangrum said the board will continue to review the report to develop a complete understanding of it, ensure that DOE receives an appropriate response to the report and work with those involved to establish compliance as required and in the areas needed.

After agreeing to an established set of actions, the board will seek a final report from the state and develop a way to implement the actions deemed necessary, and begin corrective actions, address identified current noncompliance issues with responsible staff, establish a timeline to complete the process, and a follow-up if applicable, he said.

Also Monday, the board took no action on a move to place schools superintendent Roger Morris and two other employees on leave. Mangrum said a petition had been given to Brim before the meeting, but Mangrum advised against putting anyone on leave amid the current issues.

The school board will hold another open meeting at 4:30 p.m. Friday.


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