81 Percent of Douglass Mid-High Seniors May Not Graduate

Thursday, November 29th 2012, 10:35 pm
By: News 9

The public is now getting a better picture of the impact an alleged grade-tampering scandal has had on a metro high school.

Officials with Oklahoma City Public Schools say nearly the entire senior class of Douglass Mid-High is not on track to graduate in the spring of 2013.

The drama has been unfolding for at least two years. Former principal Brian Staples is accused of inflating students' grades in an attempt to make the school look better. Now, the district is faced with a harsh reality and some angry taxpayers.

School district leaders faced the cameras Thursday, but it was not your usual press conference.

"They've been knowing about [the allegations] since 2008," yelled concerned taxpayer Raynetta Shabbaz, as she temporarily hijacked a press conference at Oklahoma City Public Schools' district headquarters Thursday.

"Don't let [the district] lie to [you all]," Shabbaz told members of the news media in front of school officials.

11/29/2012 Related Story: Majority Of Douglass High School Students May Not Graduate 

After learning 81 percent of Douglass' senior class may not graduate, Shabbaz, who lives near the school, says the district has failed the students by not stepping in sooner to fix major problems.

District officials rejectd the charge saying they stepped in as soon as they learned of allegations against Staples.

"When you trust an individual to do a job, you expect them to do that," Linda Ware Toure, district director of secondary school and reform said.

Staples resigned amid the scandal nearly two years after a group of teachers sued the district. Those teachers say they were fired for refusing to give students better grades than those students deserved. Now, the district has just six months to make up for years of missed opportunity for 87 of the senior class' 107 students.

"The buck stops here," superintendent Karl Springer said after News 9 asked who should take the ultimate responsibility. "The buck stops with the schools' superintendent."

School officials say they do not anticipate this situation ever occurring again. However, citizen watchdogs who scrutinize the district say not so fast.

"It's not only happening at Douglass," Shabbaz said. "It's happening at U.S. Grant. It's happening at Capitol Hill."

The district denies the allegations against other schools. Students at Douglass must now take evening and Saturday classes in order to have a hope of graduating on time.

Janet Barresi, state superintendent of public instruction, sent a letter home to parents informing them of the situation with seniors this year and next year. Barresi plans to meet with parents in about a week to hear their concerns and work out a plan of action.