A controversial program at the center of a grade-doctoring scandal will no longer be offered to Lodi Unified School District students, officials confirmed Wednesday.
The afterschool program that partnered Humphreys College and Lodi Unified is no longer being funded by a foundation overseen by Trustee Ken Davis.
That means the program will not be offered this year at Bear Creek and McNair high schools, as it was last year, according to Odie Douglas, the district’s assistant superintendent.
The program allowed qualified at-risk students to earn college credits through Humphreys, a private college based in Stockton.
But it has come under intense scrutiny since the release of a report exploring a grade-changing scandal at Liberty High School in Lodi. That report outlined how former Liberty principal Robert Rivas changed pass-fail grades to letter grades so students would qualify for admission to the Humphreys program.
The report, by Sacramento lawyer Donna Matties, indicated that some district employees believe Rivas acted at the behest of Davis, who wanted to increase enrollment at the Humphreys program.
The report sketches the actions of Rivas at some length. However, it stops short of implicating Davis directly, saying a sperate investigation would be required to fully review his involvement. The report also leaves open the question of whether other district employees were involved in the grade falsification.
Davis said his reasoning for pulling the plug on his foundation’s financial support of the afterschool program was because he was “concerned” his foundation would get dragged into the current controversy.
“I decided to pull my foundation’s support, but the board decided to pull the program,” he said. “That was not my call. I’m not the one with a (memorandum of understanding) with Humphreys College.”
In January 2010, Davis brought to the board the idea of a partnership, and in April of that year a memorandum of understanding was signed between Humphreys and the district.
It was offered at both McNair and Bear Creek high schools, with Davis saying students would be able to earn a four-year college degree at no cost to either the students or the district. He abstained from voting on the MOU, which was approved with a 5-0 vote.
Even before the document was signed, there were 42 students signed up for the program, according to a staff report.
The MOU is clear about the money: “Humphreys College will be responsible for hiring instructors, ordering textbooks, and invoicing the Achievement Gap Educational Foundation for the cost of the instructors and textbooks.”
Davis is president and chief executive officer of Achievement Gap Educational Foundation.
On its website, AGEF claims to be a nonprofit organization with a public charity status founded in February 2008. Its vision is for “educational and business leaders to “boldly confront and eliminate the systemic achievement gap in California K-12 public education.”
Among the foundation’s other board members are a Humphreys employee and former Lodi Unified principal.
Davis is also president of the Stockton-San Joaquin Mediation Center. The center’s website states Davis was at some point an instructor at Humphreys.
According to Matt George, a spokesperson for the college, Davis taught part-time for the Court Reporting Department.
George declined to comment on the cancellation of the afterschool program and Davis’ involvement in the controversy surrounding the program, stating it was a Lodi Unified matter.
In her investigative report, Matties writes that “questions have been raised in the investigation about” the role of Davis and possible conflicts. However, she states that pursuing those questions is beyond both the scope of her investigation, and the district’s financial commitment to it.
The investigation to date has cost the district more than $20,000, Nichols-Washer said last week.
Douglas said students will be able to continue to have dual enrollment in both district high schools and Humphreys College to receive some college credit at no cost.
However, he could not provide further details on how such a program will continue to be funded.
Meanwhile, the district is also revising its policies regarding the changing of grades.
A new policy is expected to go before the school board for a vote prior to the release of first-quarter grades next month after receiving input from teachers and other staff, according to board president George Neely.
Rivas admitted changing student grades, in some cases without the permission of the teacher, a violation of state education code. Rivas was placed on administrative leave and has since retired.
Neely said there are times a grade will need to be changed — inaccurate information, teacher error or other issues permitted under state Education Code — and the district’s new policy will address that. However, technical safeguards will be put into place to alert someone if a large number of grades are changed at one time.
Rivas, who was placed on leave in April, retired as planned at the end of last school year.
However, the district is still dealing with fallout from the fiasco. The number of students with altered records appears to be less than 10, but it is unclear how the district will rectify the changes.
Exhibits provided to the News-Sentinel clearly show students who had previously received a “pass” grade now have straight A’s.
Nichols-Washer said last week the district is still tracking down those students to make appropriate changes to the transcripts, but declined to provide further details. Neely said he believes letters were sent to those affected students, all members of the Class of 2010.