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Published: Friday, 5/16/2003

Ex-educator should lose certification, state is told

BY STEVE MURPHY
BLADE STAFF WRITER

PORT CLINTON - A state hearing officer has recommended that a former Port Clinton High School principal lose his teaching certification for two years for his role in a grade-point scandal.

Michael Schifer, who resigned from the district in April, 2002, changed the district's weighted-grade formula for advanced placement courses without approval from the school board, hearing officer Stephen Teetor said.

Mr. Schifer has 10 days from Tuesday, the date of Mr. Teetor's report, to object to the proposed sanction in writing, J.C. Benton, a spokesman for the Ohio Department of Education, said yesterday. The decision will be made by the Ohio Board of Education.

The former principal said he won't contest the recommendation and doesn't plan to work in education again.

“I feel it was a slap on the wrist,” Mr. Schifer said. “I have since retired, and I'm not using the teaching certificates anyway.”

He added: “I didn't want that gentleman who is superintendent now to take away my license.”

Bart Anderson, Port Clinton's school superintendent, could not be reached for comment.

The Department of Education, during a hearing in February, accused Mr. Schifer of changing the grade-point formula to benefit his daughter, Megan, who graduated from Port Clinton as one of three valedictorians in the class of 2001.

Mr. Teetor's report said Mr. Schifer acted improperly.

“The conduct of Mr. Schifer in implementing a weighted grading policy that had not been properly presented to [or approved] by the board ... constitutes `conduct unbecoming to the applicant's or person's position,' as set forth in Section 3319.31(B)(1), Ohio Revised Code,” Mr. Teetor wrote.

He continued: “In mitigation, Mr. Schifer is a competent and respected educator who should probably never have been put in the unilateral position of determining the GPA and comparative class rank of his own daughter in the first place.”

If the state Board of Education follows Mr. Teetor's recommendation, Mr. Schifer's high school principal and school counselor certificates would be suspended for two years. In addition, his pending application for an elementary principal certificate would be denied.

Yesterday, Mr. Schifer said his weighted-grade formula for calculating advanced placement classes was no secret, and that it had nothing to do with helping his daughter.

“She should never have been involved in this in the first place,” he said.

District officials accused Mr. Schifer of altering the weighted grade policy for advanced placement courses in the 1999-2000, 2000-01, and 2001-02 school years. The changes affected class rankings for students who graduated in 2001, including Mr. Schifer's daughter, who was one of the top two students, district officials said.

Students receive 4 points for an A in regular classes and 5 points for an A in advanced placement classes. At the time the grade-point scandal came to light, Dr. Anderson said Mr. Schifer used calculations that gave some students extra credit toward their GPAs and some students less than full credit.

The district recalculated the GPAs of 85 students from the classes of 2001 and 2002 and issued new transcripts.

Dr. Anderson testified in February that he realized there was a discrepancy last spring when a student approached him with questions about his average and class rank.



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