Investigation finds cheating, theft at Key Middle

March 12, 2010 4:13:25 AM PST
Questions raised by Eyewitness News about the movement of laptops between schools led to an investigation of possible cheating on the TAKS test at Key Middle School. HISD Thursday released a report of its internal investigation into the cheating allegations. The laptops had been moved from Key to Kashmere High School and that became part of a broader investigation.

Dozens of teachers and administrators have been interviewed over the last few months by investigators hired by the district. What they found was cheating, misuse of funds and theft.

Former Key Middle School teacher Jackie Anderson is seeing the scathing report for the first time. She takes issue with the fact that she is named in it.

"I'm very insulted, very insulted," said Anderson.

She says what's written about her is simply not true.

"I really don't like the fact that somebody would take something that I said and misrepresent it or just blatantly lie," said Anderson.

HISD released the lengthy report Thursday afternoon. It was the result of an investigation that began when we asked about allegations of equipment theft at Key Middle School. Surveillance video showed former Key Principal Mable Caleb wheeling a chair out of the building. She was the focus of the investigation.

According to the report, there was much more going on. For instance, investigators say the following took place:

  • Certain key teachers were given advanced copies of the TAKS tests
  • There was a pattern of nepotism. Both Mable Caleb's son and niece were hired as teacher's assistants
  • Student uniforms were sold to students at a profit
  • The cafeteria sold unauthorized junk foods
  • Dances for which students had to pay for were held during school hours

"I think what the district got was what they paid for. They wanted to find something wrong," said Gayle Fallon, President of the Houston Federation of Teachers.

Much of the report focused on the equipment removal. It says when Key was forced to move to another building because of mold problems, 49 items were listed as having no room location, and 210 were listed as lost during the move. What was unaccounted for equaled more than $700,000.

Over the phone, Mable Caleb's attorney said, "The facts contained in this report are fabrications and fantasies that do not conform with the reality of the education that went on at Key Middle School."

They plan to file a complete response to the report.

Gayle Fallon can easily pick it apart, but her biggest issue is that the report names names. She's hired an attorney to represent the teachers.

"In some cases, it's libel. I'm going to let the attorney do the legal work," said Fallon.

The teachers and administrators named in the report have until March 22 to respond. HISD will then consider those responses and the superintendent will make recommendations to the board which could include up to termination.

Principal Mable Caleb was most recently at Kashmere High and is now on leave for health problems, according to her attorney.

HISD looked into possible cheating at Key Middle School back in 2005. In that case, a teacher was fired following a four month investigation into those same allegations.


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