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It took nearly two years from the day that someone made an anonymous phone call to San Diego Unified, claiming that “transcripts appear to be ‘cleaned up’” at their high school, before the school district changed grades back for more than a dozen students.

Why did it take so long? A new report from the County Office of Education, sought as an outside opinion, lays out the timeline of the grade-changing saga at the Met, a high school on the Mesa College campus with an unusual grading system.

The central dilemma was whether the Met, which allows students to improve their grades over time by doing more work, could change grades that students earned at other schools, based on new work done at the Met.

Going through three different investigations on that question stretched the timeline.

December 2009: Though the allegations were first reported to the district in June 2009, it wasn’t until December that school district administrators who oversee the Met exchanged emails with the principal asking for “a brief explanation about each of the alleged discrepancies.”

January 2010: The school turned in its explanations less than a month later. Tony Burks, who was overseeing atypical schools like the Met at the time, wrote a memo a few months later in April, explaining how its grading practices were different. His memo suggested the allegations were baseless.

June 2010: Meanwhile, school district internal auditors were still at work. In June, one year after the phone call came in to San Diego Unified, the auditors sent a memo to Principal Mildred Phillips, outlining their findings that grades from former schools had been improperly changed and asking to meet.

Then it gets a little confusing, at least from what we can tell from the County Office report. Several emails went back and forth asking to set up meetings to bring together the Met staff, the school district auditors and some higher-ups, but the County Office found no record that the meetings happened.

August 2010: The internal auditors released their audit to Principal Phillips and gave her until early September to respond. Phillips said the school would change the way it records grades in the future, but the internal auditors weren’t satisfied with her suggestion that students whose grades from former schools were changed based on new, improved work at the Met be grandfathered in.

September 2010: Met staff sent a letter complaining about how the internal audit was done. That spurred the school district to investigate “allegations of harassment” against its own internal auditors.

What did it find? I don’t know and the County Office doesn’t either. “Due to its confidential nature, this report was not provided to SDCOE,” the County Office report says.

December 2010: Another school district administrator got involved, Area Superintendent Mike Price, and did his own review. A few days later, Superintendent Bill Kowba announced he was seeking an outside opinion from the County Office of Education.

Two employees there put together their report by February. Then they turned to the Fiscal Crisis Management & Assistance Team, which advises school districts, to check over their work. That took another few months. San Diego Unified didn’t get the report until April.

Present Day: The school board reviewed it behind closed doors in late April and again this Tuesday. (School board President Richard Barrera, whose son goes to the Met, recused himself.) It was then released to the principal and to the public. That brings us to this week, two months shy of two years later.

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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