McKinley H.S. principal reinstated

April 1, 2011

David Pinder, the McKinley Technology High School principal who was placed on leave March 23 after allegations of grade-doctoring, was reinstated Friday by Acting Chancellor Kaya Henderson because of misconduct by the school system investigator assigned to the case.

Henderson’s action comes one week after the District fired investigator Eastern Stewart, who admitted that he lied to an interview subject by claiming that Lisa Ruda, the school system’s chief of staff, wanted to quash other aspects of the inquiry.

Officials said Friday that the Pinder investigation is continuing and that the reinstatement, effective Monday, does not preclude future action.

Schools spokesman Frederick Lewis said in a statement Friday afternoon that Stewart’s conduct did not directly relate to the merits of the allegations against Pinder. But it “may have compromised the integrity of some or all of the information collected in this investigation,” he said.

He added that Robert Utiger, the school system’s general counsel, and the school security office are reviewing information that Stewart gathered “to ensure that it is credible, reliable and completed in a timely manner.”

Stewart was dismissed for statements he made about Ruda to an interview subject about a separate aspect of the investigation — that Pinder had allegedly mishandled a $100,000 award from AARP.

“She wants to cover it, push it under the rug. She’s trying very hard not to get this exposed,” Stewart told Thomas Ammazzalorso, a former McKinley faculty member now at Coolidge Senior High School.

The statements can be heard on an audio recording of the Jan. 12 interview, made by Ammazzalorso. He provided a copy of the recording to The Washington Post.

When asked about the comments, Stewart acknowledged that he’d never spoken to Ruda and that his comments were an investigative ploy designed to test Ammazzalorso’s trustworthiness and credibility .

On March 15, D.C. Attorney General Irvin B. Nathan referred the results of Stewart’s inquiry into the AARP grant to the U.S. attorney’s office, saying that funds “may have been mishandled.”

The money was intended to fund a community service program in which McKinley students were to tutor senior citizens in using the Internet. Stewart said on the audio recording that a portion of the $100,000 is unaccounted for.

School officials said at the time that there was not enough evidence to warrant action against Pinder. That changed after the Washington Examiner reported March 22 on allegations from current and former staff members that he had doctored student transcripts to award credit for courses never taken. Pinder was placed on leave the next day.

Bill Turque, who covers Montgomery County government and politics, has spent more than thirty years as a reporter and editor for The Washington Post, Newsweek, the Dallas Times Herald and The Kansas City Star.
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