A former principal in Florida asked teachers to do math assignments for his son, pressured teachers to change students’ grades and charged students $1 just to go to pep rallies, a school district investigation has uncovered.
On top of it all, George Lockhart, former principal of Lake Worth High School, also suspended students without reporting the suspensions to the district and submitted incorrect fundraising reports that hid the fact that students were being charged to attend events during regular school hours, the Palm Beast Post reports.
By the time the investigation came to an end earlier this year, Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa concluded that Lockhart had “misused [his] position and authority” and “compromised the integrity of the district.”
Despite the details that the investigation brought to light, Lockhart was not fired.
Avossa had, according to the report, initially moved to fire the principal, but the superintendent later backtracked and allowed Lockhart to remain on staff, reassigned to a management position at the school district’s charter school office and taking a pay cut of about $21,000.
“Mr. Lockhart made some real mistakes in decision-making and lapses of judgment with his leadership on campus,” Avossa said. “But I always have to take the totality of the matter and press the bad decisions against a 27-year run where he was contributing in a very positive way.”
Lockhart’s attorney acknowledged Avossa’s approach to the case, calling it “very fair” and insisting that Lockhart had no malicious intent.
The investigation into Lockhart’s behavior began in December after an assistant principal, Terence Hart, became upset over how Lockhart had disciplined a student that got into an altercation with the assistant principal.
Lockhart and Hart were both removed from campus in December, with the school grappling with unrest for month afterward. Lockhart’s attorney Fred Schwartz told investigators that there was a “division” between staff who were loyal to Lockhart and those who were loyal to Hart, a division that played out in the investigation.
The investigation later revealed that Lockhart had asked three teachers at his school to complete math assignments for his son, who was a middle school student at the time and taking an online algebra course during the 2014-2015 school year. Lockhart claimed that he asked the teachers to do the assignments so that he would have a better idea of how to tutor his son, but that story fell apart when the investigation showed that in some cases, the completed assignments were submitted online within minutes of a teacher’s emailing them to Lockhart, according to the report.
“When I completed the assignment I would email them to Dr. Lockhart via district email,” math teacher Richard Gomersall told investigators. “I have known Dr. Lockhart for a very long time so, out of respect, I didn’t want to tell him no. I wish I was never put into this situation.”
Investigators also found that Lockhart created “an intimidating environment” at the school where teachers “experienced consistent pressure regarding their grading practices.”
Several teachers told investigators that they were called into Lockhart’s office at various points during the school year to ask why certain students had received low grades. In some cases, Lockhart questioned them over students receiving D’s and F’s, and in other cases, he wondered why a straight-A student would get a sole B in a particular teacher’s class.
“He handed me, along with other teachers present in his office, particular students’ grades and requested grade changes,” science teacher Gary Habib told investigators.
And then, of course, there is directly going against school rules, which prohibit charging admission to events that take place during school hours.
Investigators were unable to confirm Hart’s complaint that Lockhart often gave violent or misbehaving students off-the-record suspsensions in order to keep the school’s disciplinary numbers down, but did find proof in which the discipline records were inaccurate.
Hart was ultimately reassigned to a position at Turning Points Academy, which is an alternative school for at-risk students.
Read more at the Palm Beach Post.