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Teachers Pressured to Change Grades, Brea Olinda Trustee Contends : Education: Grade-changing scandal at high school widens as board member charges that some instructors were asked to alter scores to keep athletes and student government leaders eligible.

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SPECIAL TO THE TIMES

As the investigation continued into the Brea Olinda High School grade-changing scandal, a school board member alleged Monday that some teachers had been pressured into changing student grades.

“There are instances that teachers were pressured from the administration to change grades, and I won’t stand for that,” trustee Todd A. Spitzer told the school board of the Brea Olinda Unified School District.

Spitzer said he wanted to elaborate during the meeting, but other board members declined to second his motion to discuss the matter in public.

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Spitzer said he believes that in some cases teachers were pressured by the administration to change grades of athletes and student government leaders to keep them eligible for those activities. He also said children of prominent local residents may have benefited similarly.

Administrators would not comment on his allegations, and referred all questions to the Orange County Department of Education’s legal counsel, whom they hired earlier this month to investigate the scandal.

Rachael Alcorn, the auditor who has been investigating grade-changing practices at the high school, confirmed Monday that student transcripts were altered. She said she did not know who made the changes and told trustees she needed more time to complete her investigation.

Alcorn was appointed earlier this month following disclosure that more than 360 student transcripts had been improperly altered by former guidance counselors.

Hundreds of students’ traditional A, B, C and D grades were changed to simple “pass” notations, it was revealed in June. Also, some students received double credit for taking the same course twice under different titles.

In addition, school officials said there was an inequity in correcting original failing grades. Some students who later replaced failing grades with higher grades by taking the class over were still penalized by having the original “F” grade computed into their grade point averages. Other students, who replaced their failing grades, did not have the “F” grade computed into their grade point averages.

“This is just one more link in the chain to show that it’s true that there’s been widespread improprieties occurring at the high school,” Spitzer said.

Brea Olinda Principal John Johnson had ordered the switched grades restored when he learned of the situation last October. However, the grade-changing scandal did not publicly surface until May 20 when school board members learned that the Brea Olinda Teachers Assn. had filed a grievance with the state Commission on Teacher Credentialing.

Even though those records were changed, Alcorn said Monday that other records still must be changed.

District officials last month said that the transcript changes were made by former guidance counselors without teacher approval, a violation of the state education code.

Assistant Supt. Peter J. Boothroyd said the high school’s current counselors in the last two months combed through last year’s student transcripts and determined that none of the changes would have made athletes ineligible to play on school teams.

Adding to the grade-changing scandal is an unsigned memo dated Nov. 12, which outlined the problems at the high school. Supt. Edgar Z. Seal, who retired last week, said two weeks ago in an interview with The Times that he never received such a memo. He said he gets many anonymous memos but had never received one regarding the grade-changing issue.

Last Friday, he sent a confidential memo to school board members, saying that he saw the memo last week for the first time, Spitzer said.

But Spitzer said he had confronted Seal about the memo at a closed session in June and that Seal had acknowledged reading “something in writing on the subject matter, but couldn’t recall where.”

“It’s a complete cover-up,” Spitzer said.

In addition, Seal told the board that he knew about the grade changes in January, Spitzer said. He told The Times last month that he has known about the grade changes since February.

Seal was not at Monday’s board meeting and could not be reached for comment.


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