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"They wouldn't pay for substitute teachers," said Newton. "Once all these teachers got fired or resigned, you had to do something with the kids all day. If you don't have many teachers left by the last quarter, you have to do something about the students' grades." CL could not confirm these statements by Newton by press time, and principal Tara Anderson and attorney Janes Conrad did not return our phone calls.
Newton said that there was little or no instruction going on in other classes she sat in on, like English, where she says worksheets were handed to the kids everyday. Newton also says that many students had accrued so many absences that they shouldn't have been allowed to graduate. She estimates at least 50 percent of the 25-member graduating class shouldn't have received their diplomas because they failed at least one class. Newton says she believes other students in the lower grades were passed who shouldn't have been.
A woman who worked in the school's front office and who said her duties included entering students' grades into the system for their report cards, also says she saw evidence that grades were being changed. She asked that her name not be used because she says she is currently in litigation with the school.
"I had access to the computer to make transcripts for the children," she says. "We would run grades periodically through the week. I know a Spanish teacher who had failed some students for not coming to class and those grades were changed. Some of the students she failed went on to graduate."
Many of the students failed all three quarters, she says. "If you failed three quarters, how can make-up work make you pass?"
The woman says she also logged tardies and absences, and claims that on any given day as many as 25 of the approximately 150 students who attended the school didn't show up or didn't actually go to class. Discipline problems and arrests were common at the school, she says, and on a few occasions teachers were assaulted.
"We had six drama teachers in a matter of four months," she says. "We had a lot of students that people did not want. The ideal was good, of having kids, the worst of the worst, to go in and get caught up. But it wasn't well thought out."
Like so many at the school, the woman says she was eventually fired.
"I was fired for not doing my job," she says, "but I had never been written up. I think I was fired for not going along with the flow. I would question things. If you questioned the administration, there were backlashes."
School testing coordinator Michael Geter, who was also fired, says that the school had no formal policy for firing people and never wrote him up, gave him a formal hearing, or sent him a termination letter.
"Almost the entire staff left or were fired," said Geter. "They were just terminating people left and right. I thought before you were fired you would have a hearing with a board."
Geter says he suspects that the school had no formal policy for firing them since, at the time he was fired in March, the school had no policy and procedure manual to govern how the school would be run. Geter said he was helping Anderson author one when he was fired.
Geter was in charge of organizing the kids' transcripts and making sure they had taken state tests that would have allowed them to pass on to the next grade. He says the school did not have complete transcripts for some of the children and that he had not straightened out the mess by the time he was fired.
"They were looking to graduate and my biggest thing was that I didn't know if the kids needed to have certain tests required by the state," said Geter. "In reality, they may not have had the test or passed a test needed for graduation."
But grades and transcripts aren't the only issue teachers and school employees have with the school. Several of the teachers say they are planning a class action suit against the school to recoup money they say they are owed. Typically, teachers are paid their yearly salary in installments during the months of the year in which they work. But to help stretch the school's meager budget, teachers say they agreed to take their salary payments over a 12-month period rather than a 10-month period. But after they were fired or resigned, they claim they weren't reimbursed the full total they were owed for the months they had worked. Newton, Silver, Moore and Abrams estimate the school owes them up to $3,000 each. Geter says he didn't receive the money in his 401K account when he was terminated. And they all claim that the school received a grant that was supposed to be used to reimburse them for taking teaching classes, but that those who took those classes were never reimbursed.