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Principal resigns after changing grades of dozens of students

A high school principal in Michigan is out of a job after an investigation found he changed the grades of dozens of students — including his own children, according to a newly-released report from Spring Lake Public Schools Superintendent Dennis Furton.

Spring Lake High School principal Mike Gilchrist submitted his resignation in January following an investigation after a teacher brought copies of mysteriously changed records to the superintendent. The resignation went into effect on February 10, but a report about the incident was not released until Tuesday. 

The district’s review found 51 grades were changed since 2014, including some for Gilchrists’ own children, according to the report. Gilchrist, several teachers and others were interviewed and it was determined Gilchrist altered the grades. Many of the changes were slight bumps, from a C+ to a B-, for example. Many of the grades were changed months after the school term ended. 

Gilchrist was offered the opportunity to meet with the superintendent to review findings from the investigation, but declined, according to the report. However, he did email the superintendent on February 9, saying: “I think it’s important to understand that many of the families I worked with had very delicate situations that involved abuse, mental health, and other traumatic situations they did not feel comfortable sharing with anyone else.”

After initially denying making changes, Gilchrist acknowledged he sometimes made “adjustments to properly accommodate kids with special needs and was not aware of a formal policy for these adjustments.”

He apologized and said he thought what he was doing was “in the best interest of children and providing families trust, comfort, and a relationship during some of life’s lowest points.”

The district’s grading policy states that grades for a particular course should be determined by the teacher, and the grade can’t be changed without permission from the superintendent, according to the report.

The investigation did not uncover that any teachers were involved or even aware of the misconduct. 

Seven current high school students had their records changed, including three current seniors, one junior and three sophomores. Each change will be reviewed and discussed with the student and parent before determining next steps, the district said.

In the future, officials said the district will only allow the high school registrar to have access to changing final grades. A new form was also developed for grade changes and it must include a detailed explanation and be signed by both the teacher and principal. Finally, there will be an annual audit of grade changes, the report said..



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