- Associated Press - Monday, January 12, 2015

COLUMBUS, Ohio (AP) - The former Columbus school superintendent was charged with dereliction of duty in connection with the district’s attendance data-scrubbing scandal and will enter a no contest plea, the superintendent’s lawyer and a county prosecutor said Monday.

Franklin County Prosecutor Ron O’Brien said he filed the charge against ex-superintendent Gene Harris, who is expected to enter her plea Wednesday, according to the Columbus Dispatch (https://bit.ly/1BVxG50 ), which first reported the deal.

Harris faces 90 days in jail and a $750 fine. O’Brien and Harris’ lawyer, Yvette McGee Brown, agreed to let a judge decide the penalty without O’Brien seeking a certain outcome, the newspaper reported.

At issue are allegations first reported by the Dispatch in 2012 that administrators changed attendance numbers to manipulate schools’ performance ratings in the state’s largest district.

The charge against Harris doesn’t imply she participated in the number changing, only that she presided over a district in which dozens of administrators who worked for her did, and she failed to stop it, the newspaper reported. Harris has always denied she knew about it.

In December, a former top data official for the district was sentenced to 15 days in jail for his role in the scandal. Investigators say Stephen Tankovich, who had been executive director of the Office of Accountability Systems, created a system used by Columbus school officials to alter students’ attendance records. Tankovich pleaded no contest to attempted tampering with government records.

In October, the Columbus district directed hundreds of teachers and other employees to repay bonuses totaling about $400,000 because they qualified for rewards only after administrators manipulated attendance data affecting school report cards.

Investigations into data-scrubbing spread beyond Columbus, and in June, the state Department of Education said it would recalculate report cards for Cincinnati, Cleveland, Columbus and Toledo districts for 2011-12 and scrutinize their attendance data for the following year.

In January 2014, state Auditor Dave Yost released findings from an 18-month investigation that determined Columbus city schools played “fast and loose” with attendance data, grades and other records.

Yost said his review showed a culture of changing the numbers and a lack of oversight by its board of education.

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Information from: The Columbus Dispatch, https://www.dispatch.com

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