A state audit of student transcripts at Douglass Mid-High School reveals 4 of 5 seniors are not on track to graduate, sparking calls for future auditing of all Oklahoma City high school transcripts.
The audit shows years of academic mismanagement by administrators, and students are the ones who are suffering the consequences, Oklahoma City Superintendent Karl Springer said.
“This is something I hate to see happen under my watch,” he said Thursday, two days after the results of the audit were handed over to district officials by the state Education Department.
State workers audited the transcripts of seniors, and district workers audited transcripts of juniors.
“Our preliminary findings regarding the senior classes of 2013 and 2014 are very troubling,” state schools Superintendent Janet Barresi wrote in a letter to Douglass parents this week.
“... Unless we start working right away, there may well be some students who will have difficulty graduating on time.”
Audit triggers more action
Counselors and building administrators are responsible for ensuring students are enrolled in the necessary courses to graduate.
What happened at Douglass was a repeated failure to follow district procedures, said Linda Toure, secondary schools director for Oklahoma City Public Schools.
It's a mistake that cannot be made again, Toure said.
State workers will train district employees how to audit transcripts and better help students stay on track for graduation.
“This is one that needs to be addressed at a district level,” Toure said.
The transcripts were only compared to graduation requirement checklists — not evaluated for fraud.
Earlier this year, former Douglass Principal Brian Staples was accused of manipulating grades and attendance records of students.
The district still is investigating the accusations, though Staples resigned earlier this month.
Accusations against Staples surfaced this summer, and the investigation unearthed concerns about graduation eligibility.
As soon as the Oklahoma City School Board heard the allegations, they took actions, board Chairwoman Angela Monson said.
“We did not fail our students,” said Monson, who graduated from Douglass High School in 1973.
“Unfortunately, there are students in this school who have an extreme challenge in front of them.”
Recovery plan put into place
According to district data, the state audit revealed that 87 of the 107 seniors at Douglass are lacking credits needed to graduate or haven't passed state-mandated end-of-instruction exams.
Interim Principal Barbara Davis met with the seniors Thursday.
“We discussed some options we could do to help them succeed,” she said.
Davis and others have come up with alternatives for students who are behind:
• After-school tutoring.
• Night school through the district's adult education program.
• Saturday school, which would be paid for by the district. Transportation would be provided if necessary.
• Summer school, even though the district no longer offers it in general. A summer graduation ceremony is also on the table.
• Intensive intersession classes, which help students study for state exams during school breaks like the winter holiday.
• Changing the school's master schedule to beef up core class offerings.
• Online classes through iOKCPS, also called Innovations Virtual School.
It's tough, but doable, Monson said.
“We are very concerned,” Monson said. “We are very serious about this situation. But we are ready to meet the needs of the students.”
Community members already have started coming forward, offering to help students at Douglass, Monson said.
For example, ministers have offered to bring in food for weekend or night classes.
Churches have offered to provide care for younger siblings while their older siblings are in after-school tutoring and their parents are at work.
It's this kind of effort that will be necessary for the seniors at Douglass to succeed, Monson said.
“We know the challenges are great,” she said.