St. George backers want Taylor, other EBR school officials to resign

Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- East Baton Rouge Superintendent Bernard Taylor speaks to the Baton Rouge Press Club about improvements made in school scores in this September 2013 Advocate file photo taken at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino in Baton Rouge. Show caption
Advocate staff photo by CATHERINE THRELKELD -- East Baton Rouge Superintendent Bernard Taylor speaks to the Baton Rouge Press Club about improvements made in school scores in this September 2013 Advocate file photo taken at the Belle of Baton Rouge Casino in Baton Rouge.

St. George supporters inflamed by audit

St. George supporters dramatically escalated their criticism Tuesday of the East Baton Rouge Parish school system, calling for mass resignations in the wake of the release of a four-year audit of graduation records, calling it “the single greatest scandal to ever occur in East Baton Rouge Parish or its school system.”

The supporters of this effort to incorporate the new city of St. George called for the resignation of Superintendent Bernard Taylor and Deputy Superintendent Michael Haggen.

They called as well for the resignation of any School Board member who was aware of or “may have participated” in any of the problems documented in the audit.

The Committee for the Incorporation of St. George is calling on supporters to go in force to the next School Board meeting, scheduled for 5 p.m. Thursday, and demand answers.

“Remind them that they are elected by the people to ensure this type of scandal is incapable of occurring,” said the statement, which was posted online Tuesday afternoon.

Keith Bromery, spokesman for the school system, declined to comment.

School Board President David Tatman would not comment either, but welcomed anyone who wants to attend Thursday.

“The citizens of East Baton Rouge Parish have the right to come and express their thoughts, opinions, disdain, whatever emotions they might have,” Tatman said.

The audit, made public Sunday night, sampled roughly 5 percent of graduates from 2010 to 2013.

Auditors found about 7 percent of those sampled earned grades or credits that differed from those the school system later reported to the state.

Auditors stopped short of determining whether these errors were inadvertent or represent intentional fraud by school-level administrators.

Auditors also pulled a sample of three years’ worth of students who transferred either out of state or to private or home schools in-state, and found that school officials rarely followed up to see if those students actually changed schools. If those transfers can’t be substantiated, the school system may have to reclassify them as dropouts.

The audit also probes deeply into a case that sparked the investigation in which a student was allowed to graduate despite lacking the necessary credits.

The audit is now in the hands of the state inspector general and the legislative auditor for possible further investigation.

Taylor is developing a corrective action plan, due to the state by April 4, which would establish audit teams, mandate training for school administrators and create an internal tracking system to track students who exit the school system.

“That’s a good first step, but I think we have to do more,” Tatman said. “We have to restore public confidence.”

Tatman wants to hire a third party to conduct a more extensive review of school system graduation records and to report its findings to the board. He has placed an item to that effect on Thursday’s agenda for the School Board to consider.

“We need to find out exactly what happened, why it happened and to develop policies and procedures to ensure that this doesn’t happen again,” Tatman said.

Once the state and the school system complete the comprehensive review of graduation records, the state may decide to recalculate individual school performance scores for years past as well as scores for the entire school system.