Browsing Month July, 2012

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

By , July 14, 2012 | 3:37 pm | 0 Comment

Two major investigations launched into allegations of record fudging

ONUMBA.COM – In the fast moving investigations into whether Columbus City Schools tinkered with student attendance record to improve its report card, School Chief Gene Harris was recently ordered to turn over documents involving the case to the State Department of Education, one of a trifecta of entities now looking into the possible skullduggery. 

Accordingly, Harris was notified of the state’s investigation of the potential tinderbox a couple of weeks ago in a letter from Stan W. Heffner, state superintendent of public instruction.

“ODE will continue to expect that you and your staff, including your internal auditor, will be readily available to provide any necessary information or access to permit this special audit to occur,” wrote Heffner. 

Heffner’s agency has the authority to conduct the investigation to see if there was academic finagling involved.  Documents being requested include district policies for recording student attendance, email and handwritten correspondences by district officials involved in the matter as well as policies describing how and why students are removed and re-enrolled into the system. 

Harris, in response to Heffner, agreed to make all documents available to him and his staff.

But those documents would also be turned over to the Auditor of States’s office where David Yost is preparing to plunge into the allegations of euchre with his own investigation.  Spokeswoman for Yost’s office Carrie Bartunek said that her office is now assembling a cabal of investigators, attorneys and accountants for the project, for a gavel to gavel look into the labyrinth of matter.

Apparently, both investigations would run parallel with the one currently being conducted internally by the district’s audit office under Carolyn Smith.

So, with up to three separate investigations looking into the incident, it remains unclear how it all plays out. 

Apparently, Harris, in a heads-up June 15 letter, had notified Heffner of a potential problem with the district’s attendance record.  At the same time, when the story broke last week, she noted that she was not quite sure how serious the matter was and whether there was an intention to “cheat.”

“We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

Seemingly, the big question for the investigating teams, and the nexus of the matter, is whether district officials often intentionally fudged attendance records of students for the purpose of boosting the district’s state report card. 

Several current and former district employees, some of them data analysts and principals have expressed the view that some data manipulations and calculated Kafkaesque occurred in the district, with some recalling having wondered for years why a dizzying shoal of students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and then later reappear.

But, who could be doing that, and for what? 

They explained that the purpose of doing that would be to erase the records of students with poor attendance record from the system, that way they would be excluded from score tabulation for state report, which ultimately improves the district’s total student attendance score.  The students would then be re-enrolled later. 

Obviously, that’s their story and they are seemingly sticking to it.  But the ongoing investigations will ultimately determine exactly what happened, and why. 

Data submitted by school districts to the state are used for scoring district performances, especially student attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these reports of shuck and data manipulation are true, it certainly casts a scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com / Copyright 2012 Onumba.com.

The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Editor's Choice , Featured , News

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

By , July 1, 2012 | 7:00 am | 0 Comment

Visit by Nigerian official capped by tragedy at home

ONUMBA.COM For those in the Nigerian Community in Columbus, it was a great visit by a government minister from their homeland. 

But sadly, reminiscences of that June 2 jaunt were drowned out by a deadly tragedy back home that left them reeling in a collective grief.

Recently, a cabal of Nigerians in the United States by the name ‘Nigerians in Diaspora Organization America’ (NIDOA) inaugurated its Ohio chapter in Columbus. The event played out at the Aladdin Shrine on Stelzter Road where festivities included music, food, speeches, panel discussion and a few tamed outbursts of weird tantrums.

Nigeria’s Minister of Information and Communications Labaran Maku was at the clambake and participated in a panel discussion entitled ‘Nigeria: A New Frontier.’  He spoke at length and took questions from the audience. 

The minister, who was accompanied on the trip by the presidential consigliere on ethics and values Dr. Sarah Jibril, told Nigerians that the government of President Goodluck Jonathan is focused on addressing the smorgasbord of problems bedeviling the oil rich West African country, battering the Nigerian society and ravaging lives. 

He conceded that Nigeria is indeed mired deep in a monumental mess, social squalor and apocalyptic economic morose, but he blamed most of it on eons of neglect going back to the military era, and then assured the community that candid efforts are being made by the current People Democratic Party government to pull the economically moribund country out of ravine of despair and into a path of prosperity. He said that the government is growing the economy, promoting technological advancement, working to provide electricity and to improve security.

Frustrated Nigerians have heard it all before and yet not much progress has really been achieved.  But while Maku left them with that nice package of reassuring and hopeful messages on his way back to Nigeria, it turned out it was a trip back with a heavy heart after the tragic news of a Nigerian plane crash in the bustling commercial city of Lagos located in western Nigeria. 

Apparently, the doomed Dana Air flight, which was traveling from the capital city of Abuja to Lagos, went down with “153” passengers on board. Reportedly, the American pilot radioed trouble with two engines of the aircraft just before its catastrophic rappel. It was reported in the media that the plane crashed in a densely populated district of Lagos, slamming into a two-story building that instantly erupted in an inferno.

Rescue workers rummaged through the mangled wreckage of humans and shards of what was left of the aircraft and found no survivor. A visibly lugubrious President Jonathan visited the glum site of the crash, calling the tragedy a “setback” for the country and vowed to improve aviation security. 

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).  

Editor's Choice , Featured , Immigrant Community

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

By , July 1, 2012 | 6:38 am | 0 Comment

Harris defends integrity in wake of allegations of fudging records

ONUMBA.COM – Columbus School Chief Gene Harris, in response to the recent allegations involving falsified student’s attendance records in her district, wanted to make one thing abundantly clear about her integrity: 

“I will not tolerate a situation where there is anyone knowingly or willingly manipulating the data,” she said. “We don’t know what we have here — a big issue, a medium issue or a small issue.”

But at the very least, we do know that it is an “issue” and that it potentially looks pretty bad for the district where almost all its schools maintain near sterling scores in attendance.  Now, some may start to question that record.

This mess bubbled up after media reports exposed disturbing instances over several years where attendance records of students were altered, usually in June, just before the data is sent to the State Department of Education for analysis, compilation and reporting. 

Harris explained that the allegations reached the media after several students who were documented in the system as truants were told by the courts that they were not.

Data submitted by school districts to the Ohio Department of Education are used for scoring district performances, especially attendance rates which has direct and profound impact on student performances.  If these knavery reports of shuck and shenanigans are true, it certainly casts a combustible and scandalous pall of uncertainty over the performance of the Columbus School district the past several years.

Harris, limpidly grappling with an uncomfortable matter of a gossamer ilk, said she does not know if this was an error or whether there was an intention to “cheat.”  Well, that’s precisely what the district internal audit investigation will soon uncover and let everyone know.

The big question for the investigators is whether district officials often intentionally tinker with attendance records of students for the purpose of skewing the district overall scores.  It appears when more of students who maintain good attendance record and less of the truants are included in compiled test scores for statewide report, it improves the performance of school districts.  It then means that when the attendance records of students who are performing poorly are manipulated and excluded from data analysis and score tabulation, which is exactly the allegations facing the Columbus School district, it potentially could be for the purpose of skewing performance in state report. 

However, it is all speculation at this cusp.

At the same time, one former school official, among many who have known for years about problems involving the district’s attendance data, recalled instances of possible data Kafkaesque, having wondered for years why students with poor attendance records would suddenly be erased from the system and before you knew it, they would re-appear there.

 At this cusp, everyone is embracing a “wait and see” posture not knowing the scope and gravity of this potential tinderbox until more is uncovered.

School board member Mike Wiles has nothing to say for now.

“As far as what exactly is going on, I don’t know.  There is an internal audit report imminent,” he said.

Apparently, he and the rest of Columbus are ardently awaiting that report to get to the bottom of a snowballing saga that could be a big mess for the district.

Mgbatogu is a freelance writer and editor of Onumba.com based in Columbus.  He can be reached by email at: Onumbamedia@yahoo.com

Copyright 2012 Onumba.com. The information contained in the Onumba.com news report may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or otherwise distributed without the prior written authority of Onumba Media Group (OMG).

Columbus School District , Columbus Talking , Editor's Choice , News