WSFA 12 News was granted exclusive access to state's first takeover meeting with Selma City School employees. This is an introductory meeting where state intervention team members introduce themselves to employees.
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SELMA, AL (WSFA) -
In some ways the report card on the Selma City Schools district has gone from bad to worse. Week two of the state's interventionended Friday, and so far, it's a mixed bag.
The intervention team says there is now evidence of test scores being manipulated and covered at the elementary school level, not just the high school level.
"I am laser focused," said Dr. Larry DiChiara, theintervention leader, who is close to making a decision on the future of three administrators, including Superintendent Gerald Shirley, who was put on leave with pay. He anticipates making his decision within the next week.
"Clearly there were violations and we will let theevidence guide us," said Dr. DiChiara.
The Alabama Department of Education took over the school district after an investigative report showed significant issues; grades being changed at Selma High School and a teacher at Selma High allegedly having sex with a student in her own classroom.
Now, the intervention team is growing, up from 5 to 7 because of more allegations, allegations that test scores in someelementary schools were manipulated, not by teachers, but allegedly by centraloffice personnel.
"That is another area I feel needs attention," Dr. DiChiara admitted.
The other reason for beefing up the take-over team is because theschool district was close to losing $200,000 in grants.
"They were either not submitted correctly and missedimportant deadlines to be submitted. I am confident the district will not losethe grants," Dr. DiChiara explained.
On the upside he gives high marks to employees who've beencooperative and accommodating.
School board president Henry Hicks tells WSFA 12 News theintervention is good medicine to cure some longstanding problems.
"I like the team and they're on a roll. I feel good aboutthis," said Hicks.
Dr. DiChiara's team started the intervention process back in February.
"My style of leadership is to go in with roses but I have a hammer in my pocket and will use it if I need to," said DiChiara.
Dr. DiChiara says depending on how everything goes the state could end up revoking teaching certificates. However, the intervention team leader made it clear it's too early to say whether that will happen.
Meantime, the focus now is to get the intervention plan up and running which includes taking over the day-to-day operations of the school district.
"The biggest challenge is to give them hope and motivate them because for the state to take over that says something's not right," said DiChiara.
So far the team likes what it sees; cooperation from district employees and a willingness to change.
Dr. DiChiara is confident the Selma City School System will turn the corner for the better.