Kokomo Tribune; Kokomo, Indiana

Local News

July 31, 2013

Emails: GOP donor's school grade changed

Bennett scrambled to move charter school's grade from "C" to "A."

(Continued)

It’s not clear from the emails exactly how Gubera changed the grading formula, but they do show DeHaan’s grade jumping twice.

“That’s like parting the Red Sea to get numbers to move that significantly,” Jeff Butts, superintendent of Wayne Township schools in Indianapolis, said in an interview with The Associated Press.

DeHaan, who opened the Christel House Academy charter school in Indianapolis in 2002 and has since opened schools in India, Mexico and South Africa, said in a statement Monday that no one from the school ever made any requests that would affect Christel House’s grades.

Current Indiana schools chief Glenda Ritz’s office declined comment on the emails.

Ritz, a Democrat, defeated Bennett in November with a grass-roots campaign driven by teachers angered by Bennett’s education agenda.

Bennett said Monday he felt no special pressure to deliver an “A’’ for DeHaan. Instead, he argued, if he had paid more attention to politics he would have won re-election in Indiana.

Yet Bennett wrote to staff twice in four days, directly inquiring about DeHaan’s status. Gubera broke the news after the second note that “terrible” 10th grade algebra results had “dragged down their entire school.”

Bennett called the situation “very frustrating and disappointing” in an email that day.

“I am more than a little miffed about this,” Bennett wrote. “I hope we come to the meeting today with solutions and not excuses and/or explanations for me to wiggle myself out of the repeated lies I have told over the past six months.”

Bennett said Monday that email expressed his frustration at having assured top-performing schools like DeHaan’s would be recognized in the grading system, but coming away with a flawed formula that would undo his promises.

When Bennett requested a status update Sept. 14, his staff alerted him that the new school grade, a 3.50, was painfully close to an “A.” Then-deputy chief of staff Marcie Brown wrote that the state might not be able to “legally” change the cutoff for an “A.”

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