New record-falsification allegations made against third HISD school

March 22, 2012 4:02:00 PM PDT
Just last month, two former HISD administrators were charged with falsifying school records. They were accused of changing records at Key Middle School and Kashmere High School to make it seem as though dropout rates were better than they actually were.

Now, a former HISD employee from another school is coming forward with similar accusations.

Dr. Sabrina Norman says she does not have an ax to grind and maintains this is not part of some political ploy. She says she's speaking out for the sake of the students.

"It was a travesty," Norman said.

As an educator for 33 years, Norman says she was blown away when she started looking at student transcripts while working as a junior counselor at Sam Houston High School in June 2008.

"I realized that approximately 85 to 90 percent of those students would not graduate on time," she said.

Norman claims school administrators tried to push as many students into graduation by giving them credit for classes they flunked because of excessive absences and changing their schedules so they could receive credit for two classes in one semester.

And says she has mountains of evidence to prove it.

"My concern with this is that there were blatant violations," Norman said.

TEA guidelines state that when a student enters a class, school counselors have 15 days to change their schedule. An email allegedly sent by the school's principal in September 2008 told administrators not to make any more schedule changes. An email sent two months later in November, way past the deadline, states that 98 seniors had theirs changed so they could graduate.

Norman says she took her concerns to HISD's director of compliance.

"She told me it was not illegal; however, it was unethical," Norman said.

Norman also claims students were told they could sit in local Baptist church for a few hours and earn hours toward graduation. HISD later hired an independent firm to conduct an investigation. According to the final report issued last year, an audit of 192 transcripts found "Although numerous changes were noted ... the vast majority did not result in a student receiving credit hours. The changes were consistent with HISD's policies and were not found to be improper."

However, as a result of the investigation, two employees accused of using students as volunteers in exchange for credit hours resigned in lieu of termination.

"I want to do what is in the best interest of the students and that has not happened," Norman said.

HISD says it forward the findings and evidence collected in this case to the Harris County District Attorney's Office. An HISD spokesman tells us the DA's office declined to prosecute the case.

Meanwhile, Norman has hired an attorney and says she plans on pursuing legal action against HISD.

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