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CCS Wants Bonuses Returned From Year Marred By Data Rigging


The Columbus City School district is asking staff awarded performance bonuses based on rigged data to give the money back.  Alison Holm reports.  

Superintendent Dan Good sent out the letter Wednesday to around 600 teachers, support staff and administrators who got bonuses in November 2011 for helping boost their schools performance on state report cards.  A state auditors investigation concluded that some of those gains were based on inflated grades and attendance data manipulation, which has led to some staff being fired, and landing some in court.  This summer, the Ohio Department of Education took the unusual step of recalculating report cards for the 2011, 2012 and 2013 school years.  District spokesperson Jeff Warner says those new reports changed the picture for the 2011 school year.

"When we had the conclusion from that we were able to determine when we could pay out bonuses that are still outstanding, or where we had to recover bonuses that had been paid out.  This would include administrators, teachers and support staff who received bonuses as part of their schools incentive program.  And when the Ohio Department of Education recalculated state report cards it was determined that nine of our schools that initially qualified for bonuses -- did not."

At stake is roughly $400,000 dollars, in amounts ranging from $74 to $3,000, and mostly affects teachers.  Union president Tracy Johnson says the clawback is unfortunate, but the CEA is not planning to argue the point.
"The teachers went to work, they taught, and they administered the tests in a fair manner.  And because, unfortunately some administrators made some decisions to do... some alternative things, our teachers are being asked to repay some bonuses that they thought they had earned.  So it's unfortunate, however when you receive funds or payments that you didn't necessarily earn, they have to be recouped."
Warner says the decision to try and recover the money was an internal one, not prompted by the State auditor or the Department of Education.  He says it's an important part of putting the data rigging scandal behind the district. "
"We wanted to take the first step to address and issue that we believed to be a credibility issue for the district.  And we want to do everything we can to restore the faith and trust of the community with Columbus City Schools."
Warner says any question of recovering the money from the few high level administrators who were determined to have actually manipulated the data is  "a discussion for the courts."

A native of Chicago, naturalized citizen of Cincinnati and resident of Columbus, Alison attended Earlham College and the Ohio State University. She has equal passion for Midwest history, hockey and Slavic poetry.
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