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State to Investigate Charter School

Final grades for graduates will be checked

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The final grades received by graduating seniors at a local high school will soon get a closer look from officials at the North Carolina Department of Public Instruction. Dr. Otho Tucker, director of the state's Office of Charter Schools, says he has been in contact with officials at Crossroads Charter High School and plans to look into how the school calculates grades."We have been in communication with the school to review the policies and procedures they have undertaken," said Tucker.

As we have reported the last couple of weeks, three of the school's former math teachers who describe themselves as whistleblowers have demanded that someone investigate whether the school ignored failing grades to allow some seniors to graduate. The teachers also charge that some of the students received little classroom instruction because they spent their days in the school's refocus program, where movies were shown.

A lower ranking official with the office of charter schools told Creative Loafing three weeks ago that the office lacked the power to investigate the school, and that they were merely charged with helping it administer its charter. State statutes governing charter schools are unclear as to how much responsibility anyone outside the school's board has for how it educates children and executes the policies laid out in its charter. A state act in 1996 allowed schools whose charters were approved by the state to operate under a private nonprofit board of volunteer directors. The private nonprofit boards are not accountable to the local elected school boards operating the traditional public school system.

The Crossroads Charter High School teachers say that because the board would not listen to their complaints, they were forced to take them to the media. To support their allegations, the three teachers turned over educational records they kept personally at their homes. School attorney James Conrad, who refers to the materials as "stolen" in court documents, convinced a judge to slap a restraining order on CL to prevent the paper from printing the students' names. At the time the order was filed, CL had already printed the first story about the situation without using the students' names. The paper remains committed to protecting the students' privacy.

In court on Monday, during a hearing of an appeal of the gag order, Conrad also asked Mecklenburg County District Court Judge Avril Sisk to force CL to turn over the teachers' personal records of the students' performance to the court where they would be sealed until the court rules on which entity they rightfully belong to, the teachers or the school. The judge had not reached a decision on CL's appeal of the gag order by the time we went to press.

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