A former Dallas Independent School District auditor is seeking reinstatement after she was allegedly terminated for uncovering evidence of “grade and attendance manipulation” at a district high school.
Dallas ISD fired Andrea Whelan, its auditor and manager of investigative services, back in late March. Whelan claimed the district retaliated against her for a complaint she filed with the Texas Education Agency (TEA) earlier in the month.
Whelan claimed that the district’s internal audit office rewrote her report on W.W. Samuell High School in East Dallas, expunging any mention of supposedly illegal conduct regarding grade and attendance manipulation that Whelan insisted she found at the school.
She appealed her termination and appeared before select school board members for a grievance hearing Thursday.
Whelan’s attorney, Austin Campbell, stated at the hearing:
“In 2021, Ms. Whelan uncovered evidence of grade and attendance manipulation within the district, including at Samuell High School. … This included situations where the principal of Samuell High School was directing the changing of grades — including giving passing grades to students who performed no work.”
Campbell explained that such manipulation meant the district received more state and federal taxpayer dollars than legally allowed. He also claimed that Whelan was “fired in retaliation for protected activity under the Texas Whistleblower Act.”
Whelan is seeking back pay and reinstatement to her former position.
For its part, Dallas ISD denied that it retaliated against Whelan for filing a complaint with TEA. It also denied any grade or attendance manipulation at Samuell High School.
“What the principal was trying to do was not deal with grade changes but with credit recovery,” stated Kathryn Long, outside counsel for the district. “Trying to get students to complete courses for graduation — particularly in pandemic conditions.”
Long claimed that Whelan was to blame for her firing.
“She was terminated because she didn’t efficiently complete her reports, her reports failed to adhere to an investigative and auditing standard, and she emailed confidential information to her personal email account, which is illegal,” said Long.
The campus received a “Not Rated” designation from the TEA the last two years in a row, meaning it would have scored a “D” or “F” rating under the pre-COVID-19 grading system.
Whether grade manipulation was happening at the school or not, the entire district has struggled academically for years.
Nearly 20% of Dallas ISD’s graduating class of 2021 either dropped out or did not receive a high school diploma on time.