Friday, 19 October 2012

Montgomery mayor asks media to 'shut up' about grade-change allegations until investigation complete

As he closed his media briefing Thursday, Montgomery Mayor Todd Strange said everyone should ?just shut up? about reports of improperly changed grades at three Montgomery high schools until investigations of the allegations are completed.

?Whatever the facts are, wherever they lead, I know that the (county) Board of Education will do the right thing because our community, including your city government, including your county government and including the state Board of Education, will be watching,? he said. ?Because at the end of the day, we?ve got to have a great educational system for us to continue to make this step forward, continue to have these dreams that we all have realized in this, the capital of dreams.

?So my advice is, let?s just shut up until we see what the results (are), and then it will be time for (editorializing), for talking, for taking action or for doing whatever else it is that is appropriate.?

On Oct. 3, after being informed that a Montgomery Advertiser investigation had found nearly 30 current and former Montgomery Public Schools employees who said hundreds of grades had been changed improperly for failing students at Robert E. Lee, Jeff Davis and Sidney Lanier high schools, MPS Superintendent Barbara Thompson announced she would ask the school board to approve hiring an outside investigator to look into what she called ?rumors? of alleged grade changing.

A former FBI investigator has been hired to look into the allegations, and after another request from Thompson, the Alabama Department of Education has appointed a three-person investigative team to also investigate the allegations. MPS board chairman Charlotte Meadows has requested that Attorney General Luther Strange conduct a third investigation.

The Montgomery mayor believes that should be enough, and that the newspaper and other media should stop reporting on the allegations until the investigations are complete.

Advertiser reporter Josh Moon has written a series of exclusive stories in which teachers and data-entry specialists have said on the record that they witnessed improper grade changes.

Advertiser executive editor Wanda Lloyd said while the Advertiser understands the importance of focusing on the city?s accomplishments, it also realizes it has to focus on the problems.

?We always walk the fine line between being a champion for the positive developments in our community and our watchdog responsibility to investigate and share information about things that may need to be corrected,? she said. ?We are committed to continue in this role.?

She said the community needs to know the good and the bad.

?Our journalism is based on the information we gather and verify, and the community?s need to know,? she said ?When we hear about good things going on in the community, we write about it because the community needs to know about the progress being made here. There has been a lot good news about economic development in Montgomery in the past few years and we proudly share those stories with our readers.

?At the same time, we take very seriously our First Amendment responsibility to help readers understand some of the things that may be a lot less than positive news. When a reporter came to us several months ago with information about allegations by teachers of grade changing in Montgomery schools, we approached the story with the same level of attention to verify sources and fairness that we do with any other story that may have great impact for the community. For every allegation made by teachers, we asked MPS officials to respond or to help us verify information.?

The Montgomery mayor said Thursday that he believes the stories focusing on the allegations are keeping people from focusing on the good things the school system is accomplishing, and that this is hurting the city because ?so goes education, so goes Montgomery.?

?When we talk to economic development people, when we talk to companies that come in here, we will share the message of having the No. 1 high school in the state of Alabama, of having 72 percent of the national merit scholars in our public schools in this River Region,? he said.

?The graduate rates are higher than others, not as high as anyone wants them. (It?s incredible) to be able to have our magnets and to have MTEC (The Montgomery Technical Education Center) and to have the academies that are doing all of these great things.?

But he said because of the grade-changing allegations, that?s not the message others are seeing.

? ... I wake up mornings and I read about allegations of grade changing, a very serious allegation,? he said. ?We as the city, the county, the state, we take that not lightly at all. But we?re not going to comment about that until we know what the facts are.

?And I promise the citizens and I promise the (members of the) media who all (are) here, the city leadership, the City Council, the County Commission, the local elected officials will assure ourselves that we?re doing the right thing for the kids in our public schools in Montgomery.?

The mayor said that he, Thompson, County Commission Chairman Elton Dean and state Rep. Jay Love, who is head of the House Education Committee, will hold a 6:15 p.m. forum Tuesday at Carver High School to address the good things that are happening with education in the city and will make themselves available to ?answer questions from the community via live TV, call-ins, questions at the forum, texts, whatever.?

View the original article here

No comments:

Post a Comment