NAACP asks for investigation into Troup Co. Schools

Published 8:09 pm Tuesday, June 5, 2018

The Troup County Branch of the NAACP has demanded an investigation into the Troup County School System. The branch alleges that administrators are falsifying discipline data and teachers are being pressured to change grades to pass students, according to a letter sent out last month.

The Troup NAACP sent a letter to Gov. Nathan Deal’s office, along with the Georgia Board of Education and the Georgia Department of Public Safety’s Office of Professional Standards on May 18 detailing the allegations, according to Troup County NAACP President Ernest Ward. The letter was not sent to the Troup County School System, who said in an email from Public Relations Director Yolanda Stephen that they received it from a secondary source on June 1.

Stephen said there have been “no findings to support the anonymous allegations listed in the June 1 letter.”

The letter is on NAACP letterhead, listing the names of Ward, Senior Vice President Willie Cofield, Secretary Jennifer Ward and Treasurer Diana Cofield, but it is unsigned. The letter is combined with two other letters in support of an investigation — one letter that claims to be from TCSS administrators and another that claims to be from TCSS teachers, but both are anonymous “out of the fear and repercussions and retaliation.” Ward declined to say how many people were involved in writing each of those letters, nor would he disclose in general terms how many employees of TCSS the NAACP had spoken with. 

“I’m keeping it vague for a reason because, like I stated, the culture is a culture of retaliation and threats,” Ward said.

Ward compared the current state of the Troup County School System to the Atlanta Public School System around a decade ago, when a cheating scandal resulted in a full investigation and several arrests.

“I’ve had teachers tell me that they were made to change grades into passing grades, students who had failed,” Ward said.

“If a percentage of students in their class that were failing wasn’t what their administrator thought it should be, they had to go in and change those grades. To me, that’s just as bad as the cheating scandal, because you’re inflating a kid’s grade, which is what the cheating scandal did.”

Ward said no one he talked to said they had altered College and Career Ready Performance Index scores, but they did say they had altered discipline scores.

“Why have a CCRPI and why collect discipline if you are going to alter it to make it be what you want it to be?” Ward said.

Other allegations include student alcohol use that went unreported, underwhelming discipline for fighting and a disregard for dress code.

Stephen said in an email that the school system recently completed a review of its policies.

“The Troup County School System just completed an intensive analysis of its policies, practices, procedures and continuous improvement cycle by AdvancED, an international accrediting organization,” Stephen said. “AdvancED conducts rigorous, on-site reviews of educational institutions. The process allows the reviewers to examine the whole school system — programs, governing bodies, leadership, cultural context and community of stakeholders.

The analysis and review consisted of review of documents, observation of 55 classrooms on 13 school system campuses and interviews with 421 individuals (board members, administrators, teachers, school personnel, students, parents and business representatives). The preliminary report compliments the Troup County School System for things they believe we are doing well (collecting data, continuous improvement, engaging stakeholders). It also points out areas in need of improvement (test scores, CCRPI). There were no findings to support the anonymous allegations listed in the June 1 letter.”

Ward said the only media outlet that the letter was sent to was The Atlanta Journal-Constitution. The LaGrange Daily News received the letter through request of the Troup County NAACP.

“As an organization, we are not seeking media attention,” Ward said. “We want things done because right now, of the data that I (have) looked at, of the seven surrounding counties, our kids are suffering. We think this has a lot to do with it because some of our best kids are leaving our school system, going to Heard County and some of our best teachers are going to Heard County, Harris County and all of the surrounding counties. We can continue to build up our community by bringing these industries here, but our greatest resource is our people. It’s time out that we keep letting them go to the dogs.”