In the wake of a scandal involving alleged fraud in graduation rates, Prince George’s County officials have shaken up some of the top staff at a high school where investigators found violations of grading and graduation certification procedures.
District officials announced the changes Monday afternoon, signaling the first personnel fallout from a controversy that touched off a state-ordered examination of student records and whistleblower complaints in the state’s second-largest school system.
Five people have been removed from DuVal High, including the principal, an assistant principal and three other employees, according to people familiar with the situation. District officials said they could not provide details because personnel matters are confidential, but they said the employees learned of the change Friday.
The school of 1,866 students in Lanham, Md., was once touted as an example of the district’s success — one of eight schools celebrated with fanfare last year for having a graduation rate at or above 90 percent. DuVal’s was 92.4 percent.
“Intentional violations of school system policies and procedures will not be tolerated,” Kevin Maxwell, the system’s chief executive, said in a statement released shortly after a letter went home to families. “Changes are being made to improve student achievement and strengthen the DuVal community’s confidence in its school.”
The changes come a week before Prince George’s is scheduled to appear before the Maryland State Board of Education to present its plan to address problems identified by the state report.
That report, which sampled students with late grade changes in 2016 and 2017, found that at DuVal, more than 27 percent of that group lacked documentation showing graduation eligibility or did not qualify to graduate.
It found that DuVal ran a large, unofficial credit recovery program for students trying to compensate for failing grades. Staff told investigators that previous credit recovery programs were not always graded and that students got points for attempting, according to the report. Seventeen students in 2016 and 2017 racked up more than 50 days of unlawful absences, it said.
School board member Edward Burroughs III, who has been critical of the district administration, raised concerns that punishment appears limited to employees at DuVal.
“It appears that there is one standard for school-based employees and an entirely different standard for executive level staff,” he said.
Burroughs said he expects that other actions will follow the DuVal shake-up.
“DuVal is the first school to go through this but certainly not the last,” he said.
District officials said they have assigned a support team of central office supervisors to assist at the school. An acting principal has been in place since August.
Raaheela Ahmed, a board member who joined Burroughs in calling for an investigation of whistleblowers’ complaints, said the letter sent home to families doesn’t give enough detail.
“It is a statement saying change is being made without specifically pinpointing what exactly is going to happen and what exactly is going on,” she said. “There is a lot of wonder left.”
School district officials said they got a call reporting problems at the school in May 2017, which triggered an internal audit.