Special investigative team formed to look into Trezevant allegations

Special investigative team formed to look into Trezevant allegations
Board member Stephanie Love became emotional during the meeting and confronted Hopson about board members not being informed of the investigation (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
Board member Stephanie Love became emotional during the meeting and confronted Hopson about board members not being informed of the investigation (SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)
(SOURCE: WMC Action News 5)

MEMPHIS, TN (WMC) - Parents and community members packed a meeting Thursday night at the Shelby County School Board in regards to the allegations, investigation, and questions still surrounding Trezevant High School.

An investigation is underway after a former Trezevant High School principal resigned and sent out a letter about grade discrepancies. 

During the meeting, it was announced by that an investigative team has been put together to look into the Trezevant allegations. That team consists of a former FBI agent. Investigative team members include former U.S. Attorney Ed Stanton, Labor Employment lawyer Paul Lancaster Adams, and former FBI Special Agent J. Scott Newton.

The investigative team will be looking into the additional allegations, other than transcripts and grade discrepancies, that were mentioned in the 6-page-letter sent by the school's former principal Ronnie Mackin.

"Changing of grades I think is a systemic issue in Shelby County Schools," a current SCS teacher said at Thursday night's meeting.

Parents raised many concerns and questions, including where they should send their children to school and why Superintendent Dorsey Hopson's contract was up for amendment.

The questions as to what will happen to the high school students and how the audit impacts students are still unanswered and unclear.

"I want to say that I have a lot of empathy for Ronnie Mackin," Hopson said. "There were some grade changes at Trezevant and I am going to talk about that."

In addition to the announcement of the investigative team, tensions arose between one school board member and district officials. After officials said they were made aware of the allegations in September 2016 and an investigation was started, school board members were upset they were not notified anything was going on at the school.

School Board Member Stephanie Love was in tears expressing the fact she didn't know there was an active investigation. Love felt the lack of communication to board members left community members and parents in the dark about what was happening.

Hopson apologized for Love for the failure to communicate to board members.

"I apologize to you and your community for not communicating what was going on," Hopson said.

"Had I know there was an investigation going on...I would have had the opportunity to reassure the community that the district was doing what it was supposed to do.....this should have never happened," Love said. "I take it very personal."

Love made a plea to the district that board members be informed when something this serious happens and asked for the allegations raised to be taken seriously.

Many parents echoed Love's request that the allegations be taken seriously.

"Please take these allegations serious," one parent said. "You should have been watching Trezevant with a pair of binoculars."

Timeline of events and investigation

September 2016
  • While conducting a routine academic review to ensure all students were on track to graduate, it was discovered by Trezevant HS administrators that there were discrepancies in several student files where grades listed on report cards did not match transcripts.
  • Discrepancies were immediately reported to Commissioner Candice McQueen at the Tennessee Department of Education (TDOE).
  • The Trezevant HS football team forfeited football games pending the results of the internal investigation

October 2016

  • An initial review of Trezevant HS transcripts was completed
  • A Trezevant HS clerical assistant resigned
  • The District completed an investigation and submitted findings to the TDOE for review.
  • As an added measure of grade verification, the Department of Planning & Accountability retrieved and reviewed all grade verification reports from Trezevant HS.

November 2016

  • The District conducted annual training of all high school counselors, records secretaries, and additional school staff.
  • Monthly reports were initiated for all schools to check for changes to transcripts and ensure proper documentation from school staff.
  • It was required that any transcript changes be made via forms that are signed and documented to verify grade changes.
  • A recommendation was made to hire two school operations monitors that will help with transcript oversight for the 2017-2018 budget year.
  • The District's Chief of Staff and Chief of Audit met with the State Comptroller's Office and TDOE's auditor to provide updates.

February 2017

  • The District began to engage with an external auditing firm, Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLC.

April 2017

  • Then Trezevant HS principal Ronnie Mackin assumed another support role at the SCS Central Office
  • The District finalized a contract with Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLC.

May 2017

  • A new principal was named at Trezevant HS

June 2017

  • Mackin submitted a letter of resignation
  • Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLC is expected to begin its audit, with an estimated 100 hours required to complete the job.

Tennessee Department of Education Commissioner Candice McQueen sent a letter to all board members saying TDOE would "collaborate, advise, and act as a resource" for Dixon Hughes Goodman and SCS during the audit. McQueen said once the final audit report is completed, TDOE will review the report and determine if any additional steps need to be taken.

You can read her complete letter to board members below:

SCS chief auditor talks about transcript audits and allegations

The Chief Auditor of SCS sat down with WMC5 investigators as the audit gets underway to discuss the audit and allegations.

"There's a professional level of due diligence that we apply to allegations," chief auditor Leon Pattman said.

Dixon Hughes Goodman is the independent contractor hired to complete the audit of all high school transcripts.

"They're going to be a part of guiding us, partnering with us, to make sure the investigation's adequate, they're transparent, and everyone can trust the results of the investigation, " Pattman said.

Those changes included monthly reports to check changes to transcripts and a recommendation to hire two school operation monitors for the 2017-2018 budget year.

Mackin's resignation letter sparked more investigations and Pattman said they will need more details.

"When you make an allegation we want to know about the where, who, how, all these things happens," Pattman said.

Pattman said in depth steps are taken each time an allegation is made. As the school year approaches, and the district investigates, he said the focus is on the students.

"Channel our resources to provide a good, quality education for our students," Pattman said.

Pattman said, "if you see something, say something". He is encouraging parents, students, and staff members to come forward with any information they may have.

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