As results of grade-fixing probe loom, five Kennedy High School administrators are ‘no longer employees,’ board president says

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Charles Maldonado / The Lens

John F. Kennedy High School at Lake Area on Paris Avenue in Gentilly.

Weeks after the resignation of New Beginnings Schools Foundation’s CEO amid a grade-inflation investigation, five administrators at John F. Kennedy High School are no longer employees of the network, according to the charter group’s board president.

In a letter to parents Friday afternoon, board President Raphael Gang wrote that an  investigation by the Adams and Reese law firm will be presented next week. Having promised transparency, he wrote, he wanted to inform families that the Gentilly high school’s principal and four other leadership team members were no longer employees.

“We were presented with strong evidence of improper conduct by members of our staff and we took decisive action,” Gang wrote. “As of today, the principal and four members of the JFK Leadership Team are no longer employees of NBSF.”

Released one week after Kennedy seniors wore blue and gold graduation regalia at Xavier’s Convocation Center, the letter alludes to potential ramifications for students.

“We are still going through the records of each of our students in detail,” Gang wrote. “We will follow-up with each affected student and family as soon as possible.”

A program from last week’s graduation ceremony listed 155 names. As of February 1, Kennedy had 168 seniors. It’s unclear what effect the continuing review of records could have on students.

Runell King, a former employee, said he thought employees changed students’ final letter grades from F’s to D’s and D’s to C’s in an attempt to give students credits they didn’t earn.

At least 17 students in Algebra III moved from an F to a D, King said.

King worked as the director of data, assessment and accountability for the New Beginnings Schools Foundation, which runs Kennedy. He told The Lens that he discovered the irregularities while reviewing records with an employee at the high school. King alerted New Beginnings CEO Michelle Blouin-Williams in a letter. Shortly after, he was suspended and has since been fired, which King claimed resulted from his letter.

Blouin-Williams initially said an internal investigation did not confirm King’s allegations. But after the allegations became public, the board hired the firm to conduct an independent investigation. The Orleans Parish school district is also investigating the claims.

Blouin-Williams resigned May 7, about one month after being placed on paid leave. She has also been accused of doctoring board meeting minutes to falsely reflect that the board approved a lucrative contract with the Scholars First bus company.

In an email, Friday afternoon, Orleans Parish school district spokeswoman Ambria Washington wrote “OPSB is aware of recent transitions. Our investigation continues to remain open and ongoing.”

The New Beginnings board meets on Tuesday.

That agenda includes an item “ratification of personnel decisions.”

The board will also consider CEO candidates, according to the agenda. An education consulting firm, TenSquare, has been managing the network since Blouin-Williams was placed on leave.

In a text message on Friday, King said he was grateful that the network is holding employees accountable.

“I was very confident that school leaders engaged in misconduct. It’s unfortunate that the decisions of adults will adversely impact students, especially those who have plans to seek higher education,” King wrote. “This should be a lesson learned, and a final lesson for the repeat offenders. I’ll kindly accept that I’ve been vindicated. “

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