“They’re eligible for it, but we can’t go to the next step to get them certified,” Frein said of the teachers K12 had hired for Florida in the recorded conversation.
That meant the for-profit online educator was having difficulty complying with a request from the Seminole County School District to provide class rosters signed by teachers with the required subject certifications. No other Florida school districts required signed rosters. Seminole County officials were suspicious of K12’s practices.
At the time, according to the recording, K12 teachers were swapping “watercooler talk” that they had heard their certifications were used for classes they weren’t instructing. Teachers were objecting to the idea of signing off on students they had not taught.
Company managers said during the conversations recorded in 2009 that they were ending this practice. If that had happened, it would support the state investigation’s draft conclusion that teacher certification problems at K12 were due simply to paperwork problems.
But internal emails over a two-year period from K12, also obtained by the Florida Center for Investigative Reporting and StateImpact Florida, suggest that the practice of using teachers of record continued through at least early 2011.
In a Feb. 15, 2011, email, K12’s Samantha Gilormini, who was in charge of the company’s Florida schools, asked teachers to sign class rosters that included students they had not taught. The reason: K12 needed to use their certification to comply with Florida law on classes for which they didn’t have teachers with the required subject certifications.
“So if you see your name next to a student that might not be yours it’s because you were qualified to teach that subject and we needed to put your name there,” Gilormini wrote.
One teacher, Amy Capelle, was given a roster of 112 students. She’d only taught seven of those students, and refused to sign. After learning of this, Seminole County school officials called for a state investigation in 2012.
Asked about the emails and recording, K12 spokesman Jeff Kwitowski said in a written statement: “K12 takes compliance seriously. It is a core value of the company. K12 is committed to meeting all state requirements and to address any issues and errors that may arise.”
The Florida Center for Investigative Reporting is a nonprofit news organization supported by foundations and individual contributions. For more information, visit fcir.org. StateImpact Florida is an education reporting project of NPR, WUSF in Tampa and WLRN in Miami. For more information, visit http://stateimpact.npr.org.