Strasburg-Franklin Schools superintendent commits data rigging scheme, board to be asked to place superintendent on leave

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(Feb. 16, 2016 - Strasburg, OH) Teachers, parents and community members in the Strasburg-Franklin Local School District are asking that Superintendent Cindy Brown be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation for leading a data-rigging scheme to change student grades that created the illusion of inflated student performance.

A data-rigging scheme to change student grades in Columbus City Schools resulted in several administrators being criminally charged, at least one jailed and its then-superintendent found guilty of dereliction of duty.

In December, Brown announced a mid-year change to the district's grading system and ordered teachers to alter grades that had already been issued to students for the first and second quarters of the school year from August to December. The order included instructions to change grades only to make them look better. No grades were to be changed to lower performance.

Carrying out Brown's data rigging scheme, Principal Brian Garrett and Director of Curriculum Deb Haglock ordered teachers to change 392 of the 1,000 grades previously issued for 288 students in grades seven through 12. They did so in a written notice to teachers Jan. 5 and an in-person meeting Jan. 8.

Most teachers complied with orders to change grades out of fear of retaliation and discipline from Brown, Garrett and Haglock. One teacher who refused to participate in the data-rigging scheme, Deb Vaishnav, was disciplined with a letter of reprimand for insubordination.

When Vaishnav refused to participate in the data-rigging scheme, Brown Jan. 26 changed the grades in Vaishnav's grade book. Grade books are online records of student work and grades issued for their report cards and transcripts.

A Resolution of Action signed by teachers asking that Brown be placed on administrative leave pending the outcome of an independent investigation will be presented to the Strasburg-Franklin Board of Education at its 6 p.m. Feb. 17 meeting at the board office, 140 N. Bodmer St. in Strasburg. The resolution outlines actions ordered and taken by Brown, Garrett and Haglock in carrying out their data-rigging scheme.

"It was wrong for Superintendent Brown to pressure teachers to participate in this scandal which was at best dishonest and immoral and likely in blatant violation of state education rules," said Shawn Miller, president of the Strasburg Education Association. "Teachers have come together to ensure that these actions do not harm our students and that the people perpetrating this wrong are held accountable."