Grade changing questioned at WHS

SOUTH BEND -- Even as the school year winds down, the controversy surrounding allegations of grade manipulation that first surfaced in the fall at Washington High School continues.

From a May 1 ruling by the Indiana High School Athletic Association that says three basketball players' grades were amended after the certification date for academic eligibility, to a police report filed by Principal George McCullough in which he acknowledges an incident of grade changing occurred, but points to the superintendent as being responsible, the issue has taken a variety of twists and turns.

For months, there have been several critical, anonymously authored letters and e-mails sent to The Tribune, school board members and administrators claiming, among other things, the changing of more than one teachers' grades against their will.

A related bumper sticker that says "Integrity in our schools" is in circulation.

In November, an ROTC teacher resigned from the National Honor Society selection committee at Washington citing concerns about grade integrity.

And in the midst of the debate, Superintendent Carole Schmidt, who first sat down for an interview with The Tribune almost two weeks ago and then issued a written statement late Friday afternoon, says the school corporation doesn't have an official policy on dealing with disputed grades.

McCullough, through a school corporation spokeswoman, declined to comment for this story.

A case in point

The case of one student whose grades were changed, it seems, is what sparked the anonymous letters critical of McCullough, and ultimately, the principal's police report.

To protect the student's identity, their name and other details are not being published, though the student's parents sat with The Tribune for a lengthy interview last week.

In their teenager's case, they say, the changing of two grades -- in the student's favor -- was justified.

And, they say, it was Schmidt who ultimately had the final say on the matter.

When Schmidt talked with The Tribune, she said she couldn't discuss the specific case, citing student-privacy laws.

The Tribune obtained a copy of the March 19 police report filed by McCullough that mentions the superintendent.

In it, McCullough reports receiving harassing letters.

They haven't contained threats, McCullough said in the report, but he feels they attack his character and reputation.

And though he doesn't know who sent them, the report says McCullough feels Thomas Lustik, director of Washington's ROTC program, is involved.

Furthermore, the report says, "McCullough said that the letters all question his integrity reference a student who's (sic) grades were changed. McCullough said he had nothing to do with the grade change that the decision to change the grade came from the Superintendent not him."

When asked about that statement, Schmidt said she couldn't speak to it directly.

"I certainly wasn't consulted on that," she said of the police report. "I can't comment on that. What other people say, they choose to say."