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Published: Thursday, 4/18/2002

Port Clinton grade scandal forces school to check scores

PORT CLINTON - School officials were working yesterday at the tedious task of recalculating grade-point averages for hundreds of students in the wake of a grading scandal at Port Clinton High School.

Principal Michael Schifer resigned Monday after district administrators said he made unauthorized changes to the weighted grade policy for advanced placement courses, covering the last three school years.

School board member Walter Wehenkel said district officials are checking the transcripts of students who were juniors and seniors from 1999 to the present to see whether they took advanced placement courses. The GPAs of those who took such classes are being recalculated by hand, using the weighted grade policy the board approved last year.

Under the district's weighted grading policy, regular courses are based on a scale of 4 points for an A. Advanced placement courses are supposed to carry 5 points for an A, but Mr. Wehenkel said the students who took those classes didn't get full credit for their grades. “Students that took AP classes received less weight for the classes than they were supposed to receive under board policy for the three years,” Mr. Wehenkel said.

Mr. Wehenkel said he's been bombarded by calls from shocked and worried parents.

“The majority of the calls are looking for two things, one, a realization that it's really true,” he said. “It's hard for some people to believe it really went on the way it was described. And two, they want to know `How's it going to affect my kid?'”

According to the district, as many as 550 current and former students could be affected.

“We know of one example of a student that was ranked 18th in a previous year [who] may end up being ranked in the top 10,” Mr. Wehenkel said.

With Mr. Schifer's resignation, former high school principal Jack Nitz returned to the job on an interim basis through the end of this school year. Mr. Nitz referred questions to Superintendent Bart Anderson, who could not be reached for comment.

Mr. Wehenkel said school officials don't believe anyone else was involved in the GPA changes.

“We really don't know why it was done,” he said. “There really isn't a good explanation available to us at this point in time.”

Once the grade-point averages have been recalculated, Mr. Wehenkel said the district will have a third party check the numbers to make sure they're right.

The revised numbers could affect former students who received college scholarships because of their GPAs or class rankings, he said.

Also affected are current seniors who are applying to colleges and seeking scholarships. Among those is Mr. Wehenkel's daughter, Marie, who is ranked in the top 10 of the senior class.

“Whether she will remain there, whether she will move up or down, I don't know,” Mr. Wehenkel said. “She's patiently waiting to see what happens. She's concerned. She's still negotiating with one of the universities, and obviously, this throws that up in the air.”

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