MPS: State probe into grade-changing shows more staff involved - WSFA.com Montgomery Alabama news.

MPS: State probe into grade-changing shows more staff involved

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MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson holds a news conference to update grade changing investigation. MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson holds a news conference to update grade changing investigation.
MONTGOMERY, AL (WSFA) -

In a news conference held Thursday, Montgomery Public School's Superintendent Barbara Thompson announced that the state's expanded investigation into grade-changing allegations within the system found more staff involved than originally believed.

Thompson held the news conference in an effort to ensure transparency into the ongoing probe. While more employees were involved, Thompson said details on exactly how many teacher or administrators, and which schools, have not been released to MPS.

Thompson said the employees have not been notified by the state but that it was expected to happen over the course of the next two or three weeks.

Thompson also used the news conference to note MPS had satisfied almost all of the findings from the Alabama Department of Education regarding systemic issues initially uncovered by the DOE's investigation.

Five of the six employees who were initially implicated in the grade-changing investigation were placed on administrative leave. Those individuals remain on the system's payroll. The sixth employee was fired for other unspecified reasons.

The State's hearings are scheduled to begin sometime in November.

When reached for comment, the Alabama State Board of Education said it has "no statement to offer at this time."

The Montgomery Public School System issued this statement regarding Wednesday's news conference:

About a year ago, Montgomery Public Schools Superintendent Barbara W. Thompson asked the state Department of Education to investigate allegations of improper grade postings. In addition, a second investigation was undertaken by the system using a retired FBI agent. Both investigations suggested possible misuse of the grading system by a small number of MPS high school employees.

A letter from state Department of Education Superintendent Tommy Bice to MPS suggests that the state investigation is nearing its end and action against employees is possible. Board Attorney James "Spud" Seale believes any sanctions will be isolated.

"We are reviewing the state superintendent's letter," said Attorney Seale. "Most of the items listed are the original concerns that have been addressed with changes within the system.  The letter did not contain any specifics about how many employees were involved, their positions or the specifics of the action against them."

MPS worked closely with the state Department of Education to restructure safeguards for the student grading system and reporting procedures for any employee with concerns about grades. Superintendent Thompson announced today that the system is going one step further.

"In addition to the anonymous web-based and phone reporting systems, we are going to ask the board to approve the addition of an outside person, an ombudsman of sorts, that employees can report concerns to," said Superintendent Thompson. "This individual is of impeccable character and will be charged with notifying the board of any reported impropriety within our system."

The name and contact information would be made available to all MPS employees once the board approves the new safeguard. Superintendent Thompson also indicated that the system would actively pursue any personnel who violate board policy and state law.

"We understand this is a serious issue that we are working with the state Department of Education to resolve and to ensure all safeguards are in place," she added. "We are committed to ensuring that our students and parents can be assured our grading system is secure. The safeguards we put in place in the middle of last year were approved by the state. The forthcoming actions by the state Department of Education along with the additional layers of reporting should reassure parents and reinforce to our staff how serious we are about maintaining grade security so that something of this nature won't occur again."

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