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2 Disciplined in Dropout Scandal

An inquiry finds that several Houston schools vastly underreported their numbers.

August 31, 2003|From Associated Press

HOUSTON — Under fire for underreporting student dropout rates, the Houston school district announced it is docking the pay of a former principal and a computer technician at one high school found to be among the worst offenders.

Sharpstown High School had been among a handful of schools saying they had no dropouts, claims that were questioned in a complaint filed with the Texas Education Agency by a state legislator from Houston.

A series of internal audits and external investigations that followed found that nearly all of the schools examined in Houston, with the nation's seventh-largest school district and where U.S. Education Secretary Rod Paige had been superintendent, were vastly underreporting dropouts.

"The Sharpstown investigation found that while no specific directive contributed to reporting of low dropouts, a climate existed at the school that tolerated the reporting of unrealistic dropout rates," Houston Independent School District Supt. Kaye Stripling said in a statement disclosing findings of an investigation by a Houston law firm.

Former Sharpstown Principal Carol Wichmann, who retired in August, will have the amount she would have received from the district upon retirement reduced, and the school's technician, Kenneth Cuadra, will be put on unpaid leave for two weeks and reassigned to another school, the district said in a statement.

Besides Wichmann and Cuadra, the district said it would place letters of reprimand in the files of three assistant principals and West District Supt. Anne Patterson. Sharpstown is the only school where officials have said dropout figures were intentionally falsified.

The Texas Education Agency, which oversees the state's public schools, found nearly 3,000 uncounted dropouts in Houston schools during the 2000-2001 school year.

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