School struggles

Instead, a credit check exposed the high number of underperforming students.

OKCPS Superintendent Karl Springer and board president Angela Monson noted on Nov. 29, 2012, that the last audit of Douglass had been in 2009. The remarks came as they declined to blame the crisis on Brian Staples, the former Douglass principal who had resigned in the wake of a district investigation.

At the same time, Springer and Monson announced their findings that most of the 2013 Douglass senior class would not graduate without massive assistance.

A credit check is normally performed by counselors at various high schools as they assess each student’s records and determine whether he or she is on track for graduation.

By contrast, an audit is normally conducted with the help of a district central office staff member  — in other words, putting another set of eyes on the records.

Now it turns out there never was such an audit. The discovery came after Oklahoma Gazette, on Dec. 4, 2012, requested a copy of the referenced audit.

A week later, Tierney Tinnin, OKCPS media services director, responded in an email that “counselors from Douglass and another OKCPS high school traded and audited each other’s transcripts,” and that the district could not release a copy of the audit.

“Per our legal counsel, Tammy Carter, these are audits of student records, as opposed to financial records, and release of that information without parental permission would violate [federal law],” Tinnin replied.

Oklahoma Gazette then requested the audit, but with names redacted. OKCPS began searching for the material before Christmas. On Jan. 11, however, Tinnin said that “we have exhausted all possibilities and are unable to locate the 2009 audit information.”

The following week, she said district officials had used “wrong verbage,” and that the findings actually came from a credit check.

She explained that from 1990 to 2000, the district did perform random audits of the schools and students.

“But in 2000, we switched and broke up the district into regions,” said Tinnin. “We did not have someone who oversaw the high school audits.”

Since that time, the district has conducted only credit checks of students.

Monson said she was surprised by the revelation.

“[Administration officials] did a briefing, and [‘audit’] was the term they used,” she said.

More trouble

In the wake of the Douglass controversy, however, a true audit of the school was performed last month by the state Department of Education. Auditing of the junior class started a week after OKCPS announced its findings regarding the senior class.

Angela Monson
Credit: Shannon Cornman

The state agency found another poor showing of students — namely, that only 20 of the 92 juniors enrolled were on track to graduate based on required courses. As a result, another 20 had attended a December intercession, while seven were enrolled in night school.

Word of the troubling showing at Douglass’ other classes also surprised Monson, a Douglass graduate, who learned of the numbers from Oklahoma Gazette.

“These numbers are crazy,” she said. “We really, really have work to do.”

State education department officials then audited the sophomore class during the week of Dec.16, reviewing the records of 118 enrolled students. It found 69 were on track for graduation.

“A crazy, crazy situation … makes me angry,” said Monson. “This is the first time I’ve heard of this.”

The state then audited U.S. Grant High School, and found 233 seniors in a class of 267 were set to graduate this spring.

“The remaining 34 are not on track based on a number of reasons — new to the district and waiting for transcripts from out of state or country, waiting for credits to transfer, or didn’t pass a course and are now enrolled in night school to make it up,” said Tinnin in an email response.

While Monson said the Grant figures are encouraging, she lamented the situation at Douglass.

“This is a real critical issue for the district,” she said. “It’s a problem that starts at the district elementary schools that are feeder schools for Douglass.”

Douglass moves on
OKCPS recently issued a news release about the strong spring semester
showing of the Douglass students who need extra work to graduate this
year. It noted that 21 juniors and 42 seniors took advantage of a
week-long intercession in December to earn half a credit each toward

Barbara Davis

“This is a true testament to the resilience of these students and the commitment of our teachers,” said Barbara Davis, Douglass’ new principal.

“And the Oklahoma City community has stepped forward to offer help in making sure the students are graduated on time. Businesses, fraternities, sororities, civil organizations, faith-based groups, colleges, universities, alumni and school staff are offering help to the students.”

Her remarks were echoed by Joyce Henderson, Douglass consultant.

“There are restaurants providing snacks for students, local colleges interested in serving as tutors and more than 75 percent of the seniors have chosen to be partnered with a mentor who will offer encouragement for students,” she said.

Meanwhile, a U.S. Department of Education investigation that started last August continues to look into allegations of corruption in Douglass’ administration. As for the district probe that led to Staples’ resignation, it remains in the hands of Oklahoma County District Attorney David Prater.

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Jerry Bohnen

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