Columbus School Leaders Deny Wrongdoing

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Columbus City Schools(Photo: Columbus City Schools)
Columbus City Schools(Photo: Columbus City Schools)

Within hours of the release of an interim report about alleged attendance data scrubbing by school officials in five Ohio districts, several Columbus City Schools officials held a news conference yesterday afternoon.

Columbus City Schools attorney Buzz Trafford said school officials only had a few hours to go through the State Auditors interim report. But they took exception to much of what they read.

“There are two sides to every story,” Trafford said.

Trafford, Superintendent Gene Harris and school board president Carol Perkins say they were disappointed that more guidance had not been forthcoming from higher ups as to how to file information on students who were truant or who had withdrawn from school.

“We had expected that Columbus City Schools and other school districts across Ohio would be provided some specific guidelines and direction. We asked for recommendations so that we could begin the process to work on. And to date, no report or recommendations have been provided,” Perkins said.

Superintendent Gene Harris once again repeated her claim that she had never told anyone to change attendance figures – changes that would have improved school performance ratings.

“As superintendent, I have never issued any kind of directive to make changes to student records that are not authorized,” says Harris.

But Harris too insisted that data recording instructions were vague and that more information was needed.

“We are now a little bit more than a month into the new school year. If we need to implement more changes, we need direction now,” Harris said. “Not six months from now.”

“I really had very little to make a response and listen I understand that the auditor has what he believes are compelling reasons to move forward quickly,” Trafford said. “I would simply say to you that you should never sacrifice fairness for speed and we did not have, there has been no dialog between the auditor’s office and to my knowledge any of the representatives of the school districts certainly not this one. On this issue.”

Gene Harris added that she would provide information that at present cannot be located.

“While I am deeply troubled by the fact that the auditor report that some student’s files targeted for review could not be located I am deeply troubled by that. I would want to look at this issue further before drawing any conclusions.”