False attendance reports found at district ex-DeKalb school chief led

Kansas City Public Schools officials said Wednesday that several district employees manipulated student attendance records to regain full accreditation between 2013 and 2016, when former DeKalb County School District Superintendent Steve Green led the district.

Kansas City Schools officials said the Missouri Department of Elementary and Secondary Education alerted them to the data tampering in January. An independent investigation through a district-hired law firm found inflated numbers were reported during the 2013-2014, 2014-2015 and 2015-2016 school years, where a number of employees changed student attendance records in the district’s student information system. That resulted in a higher reported percentage of students attending class, which helped the district receive a higher score on the Missouri School Improvement Performance Standards. The district also received more funding from the state that it had not earned. An unspecified amount will have to be repaid for each inflated attendance record.

The data tampering occurred under Green and Al Tunis, who led the district as interim superintendent until Green’s replacement was hired. Data alterations were not found after the 2015-2016 school year. Student attendance is critical to accreditation in Missouri and is factored into state performance scores.

“The findings within the report revealed an unhealthy culture within parts the of school district’s staff several years ago,” said Mark Bedell, Kansas City Public Schools’ superintendent, who came to the district at the start of the 2016-2017 school year. “We have since worked tirelessly to build a new culture within the district, one that is geared toward achieving excellence while providing a workplace that inspires and empowers all people.”

The independent investigation also determined seven employees were responsible for the inflated numbers, Kansas City Public Schools officials said. Four current employees were placed on paid administrative leave. Three no longer worked for the district. Officials declined to say whether Green was among the employees.

Efforts to reach Green for comment Wednesday were not successful.

Kansas City Schools officials detailed corrective steps the district is taking to avoid future instances, including revised training for attendance monitors, improving student information system management and an attendance standard operating procedure guide.

“While we are disappointed and frustrated by the findings of this report, we are also grateful that the current district leadership took decisive action to address the outcomes of the report with the appropriate parties, and subsequently implement the necessary personnel decisions,” Kansas City Public Schools chairwoman Pattie Mansur said.

Kansas City Schools lost its accreditation effective January 1, 2012. Under Green, the district was able to earn provisional accreditation, partially due to the inflated attendance figures. That work was touted when he was chosen to lead the rebounding DeKalb County School District in 2015, which at the time was “accredited on advisement” by accrediting agency AdvancED.

The DeKalb County Board of Education severed ties with Green on Nov. 11, unrelated to the news out of Kansas City. He currently is under investigation by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission for failing to report educators for various ethics violations.