Vera Hirsh, principal at the Miami Springs branch of the Academy for International Education (AIE) Charter School, strongly denied on Monday allegations of cheating at the charter school made by a former employee.
Retired teacher Anna Harris wrote a letter to the state and district officials on July 5 claiming that school administrators had teachers change students’ grades to boost their grade point averages, according to a story published by The Miami Herald.
“Totally untrue,” Hirsh told the River Cities Gazette on Monday. “No substantiation. And I am sure we will be totally vindicated. That would not happen on my watch. I’ve been in education for 35 years. That employee resigned prior to the FCAT being administered.”
Miami-Dade schools police have been investigating the allegations at AIE, a K-8 center located at 1080 LaBaron Drive in Miami Springs. The probe was launched in response to the July 5 letter from Harris to state and district officials.
Harris wrote that a lead teacher serving as an acting assistant principal “prompted students to review and change answers during the 2012 and 2013 FCAT testing examinations,” according to the The Miami Herald story.
“The children’s education is being compromised at this school,” Harris told the The Miami Herald. “And it’s illegal to change grades.”
Harris told The Herald she didn’t directly witness cheating.
Lisette Tuckler, the third-grade teacher whom Harris said confided in her, denied to The Miami Herald having the conversation.
“There was no such thing as students’ grades being changed. The FCAT was administered the way it should be administered. There’s nothing that was corrupted in the system,” Tuckler was quoted. “AIE is a good school.”
The school opened two years ago as the state’s first district-run charter. It has campuses, in Miami Springs and South Miami and, according to the district’s website, serves about 300 students.
Hirsh, who oversees the Miami Springs school on LaBaron Drive, is a former assistant superintendent for the Miami-Dade school district.
Harris also sent her letter to Miami-Dade School Board members, who last week broached the issue with Superintendent Alberto Carvalho, according to The Miami Herald. He said the district probably receives a half-dozen letters each summer alleging similar abuses at charter schools, and each is investigated and taken seriously.
But he cautioned against taking allegations as fact and said judgment should be reserved until after the conclusion of a schools police probe.
“Until the results come back, we maintain silence,” he told The Miami Herald.
Harris said she was a Miami-Dade teacher for 23 years and resigned from her post as a sixth- and seventh-grade reading teacher at AIE Charter in March. She said she asked for the investigation because she doesn’t think teachers who witnessed the cheating will talk unless they are compelled to.
“They’re petrified,” she said.