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Six Wesley Chapel High students benefited from grading policy lapse

WESLEY CHAPEL — An internal investigation into grade changes for a star Wesley Chapel High student-athlete has determined that the school deviated from district policy in improving grades for six students.

The grade changes gave only minor bumps to the students' grade-point averages, district officials said — not enough to change whether they were admitted to or given scholarships from the University of South Florida. Officials said the misunderstanding about the policy was limited to Wesley Chapel High, and employees there will get training to ensure they understand and properly enforce the procedures.

"We found the policy was being followed at all other settings," assistant superintendent Ruth Reilly said Monday. "We have narrowed (the misapplication) to one school."

The issue arose in June when standout football player Kamran Joyer was released from his USF football scholarship after questions arose about his academic records. At the time, the university's admissions director sent a letter to Wesley Chapel High principal Andy Frelick inquiring about an unusually large number of grade changes on Joyer's transcript.

Joyer's name was redacted from the records released publicly. But he is the only person to whom the circumstances described relate.

In the letter to Frelick, USF admissions director J. Robert Spatig observed that only one of nine grade changes fit within the district's procedures, which let a school replace a student's F or D if the student earns a better grade in the second semester or a retake of the course.

USF found instances where C's were being replaced.

Frelick's response — a two-page explanation that came a day later — did not fully satisfy Spatig, who shot off a letter to superintendent Heather Fiorentino asking for written confirmation from her that the grade changes fully complied with district rules.

Moreover, because Joyer's transcript did not meet all the necessary requirements, Spatig wrote, that raised concerns about the accuracy of all transcripts submitted by the high school.

He asked Fiorentino for assurances that all freshman applicants to USF from Wesley Chapel received equitable consideration under the rules.

"The implications in terms of their competitiveness for admission and merit scholarships is significant," Spatig wrote.

He enclosed a complete list of the applicants from the past year "to assist in this process."

Of those 52 applicants, six including Joyer had the policy misapplied, Reilly said. But the effect of those grade changes on their GPAs was minor, she said.

"The good news is, of all of those students, none of the USF recommendations for admission for those students would change," Reilly said.

Only Joyer's situation gained publicity because of the high-profile nature of college football. Spatig wrote that he wanted to ensure the school did not unfairly manipulate his grade-point average to meet NCAA qualifications.

"This was not an athlete who was treated specially," assistant superintendent Renalia DuBose said.

Joyer has since signed with the University of Louisville but not yet been guaranteed admission.

DuBose said that USF officials accepted the report as cooperative and complete, and she expected the issue to be closed.

Reilly deemed Spatig's questions legitimate and said they helped the district uncover what could have become a big problem.

"They wanted to be sure that the transcripts of the students that were applying were reflective of the GPAs the students earned," Reilly said. "We share that concern. … This was something we knew had to be corrected."

Frelick declined to comment about the incident, citing student confidentiality rules.

Times staff writer Greg Auman contributed to this report. Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at solochek@sptimes.com or (813) 909-4614. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at blogs.tampabay.com/schools.

Six Wesley Chapel High students benefited from grading policy lapse 07/20/09 [Last modified: Monday, July 20, 2009 8:39pm]

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