Spring ISD investigation uncovers districtwide transcript irregularities

Spring ISD Board of Trustees

The 2014–15 SISD board of trustees is Justine Durant (front row, from left), Jana Gonzales, Rhonda L. Faust, and Rhonda Newhouse and Chris A. Bell (top row, from left), Ron Crier, Deborah Jensen and Superintendent Rodney E. Watson. (via Courtesy Spring ISD)

A Spring ISD internal investigation has revealed systematic districtwide irregularities with transcripts that may affect 600 students at SISD’s three comprehensive high schools, including upperclassmen looking to meet graduation requirements.

SISD board member Rhonda Newhouse said a district-initiated audit in the fall by an independent agency discovered that some data on transcripts was incorrect. In a few cases, some courses were placed on students’ transcripts twice, while in other cases, transcripts were not completed or course information was overlooked.

“As a retired educator and given my background in counseling, I am disappointed that some of these practices which should have been put in place were not,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse said the board started the process of evaluating the entire district last October through November in an ongoing effort to increase tests scores throughout SISD.

“In the district’s investigation of all high school transcripts, serious issues and irregularities were identified, exposing negligent course-schedule and record-management practices that appear systemic as well as potentially endorsed or overlooked by the district for several years,” said SISD Superintendent Rodney Watson, who was appointed by the board of trustees in July.

Watson said he was disappointed to find these issues within the district.

The district is working with the Texas Education Agency to follow their guidelines and establish correct course numbers, Newhouse said.

District officials said school counselors are instituting a range of solutions to help students complete required coursework, including completing courses online, earning credit by exam, enrolling in the virtual school program or taking missing classes during the day.

“We’re putting in new people to oversee that best practices are done systematically and that there will be checks and balances established,” Newhouse said.

Newhouse said other districts have had similar problems. She said faculty at the school district will be trained and will be a part of the process to ensure similar issues never happen again.

“These types of practices identified in our investigation do not serve our students well and will no longer be a part of how [SISD] manages its schools and prepares its students from this day forward,” Watson said.

There have been some resignations as a result of the irregularities, Newhouse said, including the principal at Westfield High School, a chief academic officer and a data integrity officer at the district office. She said it is too soon to tell if additional punitive actions will be taken against other district staff.

A meeting for high school seniors and their parents is scheduled for 6:30 p.m. Feb. 16 in the Dekaney High School Star Theater, located at 22351 Imperial Valley Drive. The meeting will provide seniors and their parents an opportunity to hear district officials offer information on the investigation and discuss steps to ensure all students meet graduation requirements.

For more information, visit www.springisd.org.

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Ariel Carmona Jr. received his bachelor’s degree in journalism from California State Polytechnic University, Pomona and an M.A. in Communications from California State University Fullerton. Ariel has written for the O.C. Register, L.A.N.G. newspapers and AOL’s Patch media. He currently works as a reporter for Spring Klein covering city and education news including Spring ISD.
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