MEMPHIS, Tenn. — FOX13 has learned the independent “auditor” hired by Shelby County Schools to investigate the grading scandal will review the district’s book-keeping practices, but not employees implicated by recent allegations.
The school district hired Dixon Hughes Goodman, LLP to “conduct a thorough review of our record-keeping practices to protect the integrity of student records,” according to a statement from the district Monday.
The district clarified the independent review via email today, saying personnel will not be investigated as part of the DHG’s investigation.
“The auditing firm was not hired to look into personnel but to look into student data and records, and how the information is recorded,” the statement said.
In the week following Ronnie Mackin’s bombshell resignation letter, parents and former teachers have alleged a culture of misconduct in Shelby County Schools, demanding that people be held accountable.
County commissioner Terry Roland told FOX13 current or former SCS employees have reached out to him since Mackin’s letter became public, with similar allegations.
“I had five contact me yesterday,” Roland said. “That's one thing I want everybody to know. If they have something to say they can come to me.”
Roland said the Tennessee Department of Education should require a thorough, independent review of the district, including an investigation of personnel implicated by the allegations. He added that the state should pick the auditor, rather than the district, to ensure an unbiased investigation.
“They cannot investigate themselves,” Roland said of the school district and the board of education. “It should be the state doing it. If any laws are broken, they’re probably state laws.”
Mackin, the former principal at Trezevant High School, accused district leadership of cover-ups and misconduct.
“I have uncovered illegal and unethical wrong doings and was basically told to not comment on it,” Mackin said. “I was hung out to dry in an attempt to cover up the illegal and immoral actions of those who were before me.”
The school district and its board of education are meeting Thursday to discuss the next appropriate steps.
“I want to get to the bottom of this. We take this seriously and we want to be fair to everybody who is involved in this,” SCS Board Chair Chris Caldwell said.
Board members expressed support for an independent investigation at a private meeting Tuesday.
“We have to make sure we treat everybody fairly and not accuse people who don't know,” BOE Member Stephanie Love said, and then described appropriate action after an investigation. “If allegations are found to be true that the superintendent [should] hold people accountable.”
Terry Roland may have a battle getting the investigation out of the hands of the district.
Walter Bailey, the county’s education chair, said the board is capable of handling the investigation.
“As I understand it, from what I’ve been told it’s just allegations – unfounded allegations,” Bailey said. “Even if any of them have any inkling of truthfulness and trustworthiness, then the school board would deal with it appropriately.”
Roland said the public deserves a third-party review to ensure its students are led by a district whose employees have integrity.
”If you take away from the people the ability to think that they have fair government, we don't have anything,” Roland said. “If you're not transparent you're taking that ability away from the people.”
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