Former SCS principal alleges academic scandal, corruption at Trezevant High School

Former SCS principal alleges academic scandal, corruption at Trezevant High School

MEMPHIS, Tenn. — In a resignation letter addressed to Superintendent Dorsey Hopson and Shelby County School Board members this week, the former principal at Trezevant High School describes a grading scandal and corruption among district administrators, writing in the letter that the district "promotes dishonesty, fraud and misrepresentations of academic progress in order to promote athletic success."

Ronnie Mackin's resignation comes less than a year after he was named principal at Trezevant High School.

Mackin wrote that he discovered the corruption after being named principal at the start of the 2016-2017 school year, but district leadership failed to correct problems, and, instead, they buried them.

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"I was hung out to dry in an attempt to cover up illegal and immoral actions of those who were before me,"  Mackin said in the resignation letter, which FOX13 obtained from a source Thursday.

The letter describes in detail the 2016 academic investigation of Trezevant's Championship football program, accusations against a former head coach, and the letter suggests district officials attempted to cover up details of the investigation, among other allegations.

During a phone call with FOX13, Shelby County Board of Education Member Stephanie Love, who represents Trezevant's district, confirmed the district received the email and the board is investigating.

Shelby County Commissioner Terry Roland said he also received a copy of the former principal's resignation letter, and that several public officials were carbon copied on the email.

"These allegations are very, very serious. I'm going to ask the district attorney and the U.S. Attorney to look into these allegations, and, if necessary, to prosecute," Terry Roland said.

Perhaps the most outstanding allegation in the letter is mention of a grading scandal involving student-athletes who are now enrolled in college.

"Their GPA's were inflated along with being provided credit for classes they did not pass," Mackin wrote, describing at least 131 former student-athletes at the high school.

Mackin said the district leaders were aware of the scandal and corresponded about it via email, but they did not take action.

"These students were formerly Trezevant students and were actively investigated regarding the transcript scandal," Mackin said.

"The email states the district will not notify or take any action on any of the students who have already 'graduated' from Trezevant, meaning there are multiple student-athletes now enrolled in colleges and universities who did not have appropriate credits to graduate or attend college," Mackin wrote in the letter.

Roland said he's been following the academic investigation for several months, and he said Mackin communicated concerns mentioned in the letter throughout the school year.

"I've been monitoring it," Roland said. "Now that he's releasing all this evidence, then we can take it to the next level."

The former principal mentions attached photos, documents, and emails in the letter, but they were not included in the copy obtained by FOX13.

Mackin also accused a former head football coach of paying students to attend the school, and of changing grades to keep students eligible.

"We discovered several students who came forward and made statements that that the former head football coach paid families of superstar athletes to attend Trezevant High School regardless of academic situation," the letter states.

The letter said families came forward before district leaders during a board meeting, but again, no effective action was taken by district leaders.

Mackin alleges that a former head football coach, who won two consecutive State Championship titles, lied to the TSSAA about Trezevant High School's enrollment totals.

"Trezevant High School should have been playing in 4A classification rather than 2A," he said, describing an enrollment discrepancy of about 250 students.

Mackin said in the letter that he's blowing the whistle on the school district because students in Shelby County deserve a better education that adequately prepares them for the future.

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"It is my hope that these concerns are investigated to the fullest extent possible so that we can get back to putting student's first," Mackin wrote in the letter.

Among other accusations, the letter alleges sexual misconduct between senior school officials and employees, and the letter alleges collusion between district leadership, employees and parents.

"I have dedicated the majority of my adult life working with at-risk, impoverished, minority and below grade-level students in efforts to close the achievement gap," Mackin wrote in his resignation.

"Poverty, lack of parenting, lack of community support and rigorous tests are not our students' biggest obstacles," Mackin continued. "It is the pure lack of concern for our kids by adults in our district."

Shelby County Schools later issued the following statement:

SCS received Ronnie Mackin’s letter concurrent with the letter being provided to the media. The letter’s import is clouded by Mackin’s prior demand that SCS pay him 2 years of severance pay, and his inability to provide names and facts to support many of his most defamatory allegations.

Any claims of questionable practices by current or former staff members at Trezevant High School and SCS that were reported to district leaders have been investigated or are currently under investigation.  Should any evidence support  wrongdoing by an employee, we certainly want that information brought to light so he or she may receive appropriate discipline.

SCS remains strongly committed to providing the families at Trezevant High a high-quality, positive and supportive school culture, which is why the District announced additional resources, funds and new leadership for Trezevant earlier this year.