Edison Grade Change Scandal

November 20, 2008 12:47:56 AM PST
Teachers by the dozen are coming to the defense of the teacher blamed for the Edison High School scandal -- making accusations against the Fresno Unified administration and explaining how grades can change without their knowledge.The school district is pointing the finger at Jeff Powell for the grade change that kept a star football player eligible at Edison.

Now, some teachers are pointing their fingers right back at the district. A few dozen teachers came to Wednesday night's school board meeting to support Jeff Powell, all wearing one of these stickers.

They have his initials, JP, and they say, "An injustice to one is an injustice to all." "I can't begin to tell you how disappointed I was," said Turner Elementary School teacher Jeanne Davidson.

Davidson and other teachers lined up to tell the Fresno Unified School Board they stand behind Jeff Powell and to accuse Superintendent Michael Hanson of a cover-up.

They say the district's computerized "SCORE" grading system makes it relatively easy for counselors and administrators to change grades and blame the teachers. "Every one of my bosses has access to my computer," said Davidson. "So does the computer tech. Anybody that wants my computer can come and take it."

The "SCORE" system allows teachers to enter grades remotely ... Anywhere they have access to a computer.

Fresno Unified teachers say they have to give their passwords to the school secretary, so the passwords are on file in the office and several people could have access, leaving questions about who changed grades for an Edison high school football player.

"Their investigation did not show from which computer the data was entered, nor what time of day it was done," said Fresno Teachers Association president Greg Gadams. "They cannot verify it was Powell who entered those grades."

Even Superintendent Hanson admits there are flaws in the system. But on Tuesday, Hanson announced the end of an investigation into the grade changes and pointed the finger directly at Powell -- the teacher who first reported the unusual grade switch. "Absolutely no evidence exists to suggest that anybody other than the teacher changed this grade," he said.

The teachers union is accusing Hanson of covering up facts to limit the damage to the school district. The union also claimed Wednesday that the scandal led to a physical run-in between Powell and Edison's football coach, Tim McDonald.

"The football coach accosts Mr. Powell outside his classroom, tapping his finger on his chest, telling Mr. Powell that the student received an 'A' and to leave his players alone," said FTA president Gadams.

Coach McDonald told Action News: "That's the biggest joke I've ever heard. I don't have anything to say about that. I don't deal with scum like that."

The school board also heard from the parents of another Edison football player with eligibility issues Wednesday night.

His parents say their son has re-earned his eligibility, but because of this grade scandal, teachers are scared of updating grades for athletes, so he may have to miss the playoffs.

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