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After internal San Diego Unified auditors found grade changing at an alternative high school, its employees complained about how the audit was done.

Their complaints delayed school board action on the audit and even led the district to investigate its own auditors. But when the audit was leaked to reporters before Thanksgiving, San Diego Unified wouldn’t explain what went wrong and why it was now scrutinizing its own auditors.

Outgoing school board member John de Beck provided us a memo this week that sheds light on the school employees’ complaints, though it remains unclear exactly what prompted the school district to investigate. In the September memo, Met High School employees lodged several complaints.

They argued that the audit was plagued by poor communication, with “inconsistent and/or nonexistent interviews with faculty and staff.”

They said they didn’t know about all the allegations until the audit was completed and argued that a simple meeting with the whole staff could have answered many of their questions before the auditors launched their investigation. The memo called the process “accusatory and confrontational.”

Met staff also wrote that the auditors forced them to spend more than 500 hours gathering information, that student records had been compromised (the memo does not explain exactly how) and that former employees were interviewed without telling the current staff.

San Diego Unified has since hired outside attorneys to investigate how the audit was conducted. The grade changing allegations have only become public because de Beck aired them. He argues that by investigating the auditors, the school district is just trying to bury the audit.

“If every employee can complain about internal audit when it makes them look bad … then what is the purpose of an independent internal audit?” de Beck said.

The audit found that the Met changed more than 70 grades for students who came from other school districts, sometimes on the same day the student enrolled. School staff said they improved kids’ grades after the students did new, independent work at the Met, part of its unique “Big Picture” philosophy.

But the internal auditors concluded that the school couldn’t legally increase grades given by another school and record them as if they were earned at the old school, instead of the Met.

Please contact Emily Alpert directly at emily.alpert@voiceofsandiego.org or 619.550.5665 and follow her on Twitter: twitter.com/emilyschoolsyou.

Emily Alpert

Emily Alpert was formerly the education reporter for Voice of San Diego.

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