The most amazing aspect of this AJC news story on an assistant principal at Stoneview Elementary in Lithonia ordering teachers to tamper with attendance records is when it occurred: Between December of last year and this January.
That means this DeKalb administrator allegedly ordered illegal actions despite full awareness of the state cheating scandal and the growing intolerance for any sort of record tampering.
If this charge is proven, whatever possessed this assistant principal to take such a risky step? He calls in teachers and orders them to change attendance records at a time when state prosecutors and GBI agents are walking the halls of APS buildings interviewing educators for testing irregularities and possible test tampering? His own county was in the midst of an internal investigation after the state found DeKalb had more wrong answers erased and changed to correct answers than most school districts in the state.
Everyone was on edge and on alert, and yet he purportedly tells eight teachers to alter students’ attendance records on a school computer. It almost sounds like a professional death wish.
Derrick Wooten was indicted Tuesday on four counts of public record fraud, four counts of criminal attempt to commit a felony and one count of computer forgery.
A DeKalb judge signed a warrant for his arrest.
Wooten was working as an assistant principal at Stoneview Elementary in Lithonia when he instructed eight teachers to change students’ attendance records on a school computer, District Attorney Robert James told The Atlanta Journal-Constitution.
“He is accused of changing attendance records to reflect children were in school when they weren’t. This was all to make it look better for AYP,” James said Tuesday. “The motive was to cover this up so the school doesn’t get put on the Needs Improvement list.”
In addition to academic achievement, the U.S. Department of Education tracks student attendance to determine if a school makes Adequate Yearly Progress. Schools with 15 percent of students with 15 percent absent rates will be flagged and likely not make AYP, James said.
The altering allegedly occurred between Dec. 1, 2010, and Jan. 31. Stoneview did not make AYP in 2010.
Four teachers complied with Wooten’s orders, but no teachers were charged. James said the teachers were not indicted because they were simply following instructions from their supervisor.
The other four reported Wooten to school officials, who contracted the district attorney’s office.
Wooten was one 24 educators yanked from the classroom in January as part of a probe into allegations of cheating on the CRCT test. Wooten is not accused of irregularities with the standardized test, but the internal CRCT investigation uncovered the attendance altering, district spokesman Walter Woods said.
–From Maureen Downey, for the AJC Get Schooled blog