EBR diplomas held up while officials check transcripts _lowres

Advocate staff photo MICHAEL DUNLAP -- McKinley High School seniors stand after marching into their commencement exercise at Southern Univeristy

One consequence of correcting problems with graduation records, highlighted in a recent state audit, is that almost 2,000 high school seniors in Baton Rouge walked across the stage last month at graduation ceremonies without actually collecting their diplomas.

Most high schools in the district have completed their diploma review and are finally issuing the diplomas and official transcripts at the end of this week and early next week. That’s on schedule, since most schools told parents they’d be done by early June, said Keith Bromery, a spokesman for the school system.

Belaire and McKinley high schools, however, are not planning to issue diplomas to their graduates until the end of next week.

“It’s a one-time review,” Bromery said.

In the future, the school system will have in place a new system to ensure the accuracy of transcripts by graduation day, Bromery said.

The parish school system alerted its 1,956 high school graduates of the likely delay in a May 7 letter. The letter makes no mention of the audit as the reason for the delay, but does mention the new diploma verification process the audit prompted. The letter also raises the possibility that some students might not end up getting diplomas.

“Please understand that a student’s participation in the actual graduation ceremony does not guarantee the official awarding of a diploma,” the letter reads.

Bromery, however, said he’s not aware of any student who walked in May and was later found ineligible.

He said this year’s diploma review has been extensive and laborious.

The speed of the review at a given high school depends on how many graduates and on the number of qualified personnel at the school to do the work, as well as the state of the records kept there.

“There are 26 steps involved for each senior class student prior to being cleared to receive his or her diploma,” Bromery said.

Five School Board members reached Wednesday said they’d received no complaints about the delayed diplomas. Neither did leaders of two parent groups in town.

Nan McCann, principal of Baton Rouge Magnet High, which is letting its 322 graduates collect their diplomas Monday, said she does not recall any complaints, either.

“We didn’t have any problems,” she said. “They knew what was happening.”

McCann said the delay in issuing diplomas is short enough to not cause students any problems with college admittance or scholarships.

The state audit found, among other things, that some students earned grades or credits that differed from those the school system later reported to the state, suggesting possible wrongdoing by school administrators, human error or both.

The audit, released March 16, examines in depth how one Glen Oaks High student — School Board member Vereta Lee later went public to say the student is a granddaughter of hers — was allowed to walk with her graduating classmates.

The school system hired Postlethwaite & Netterville to review the records of all high school graduates from 2010 to 2013 and to look into other issues raised by the audit. School Board President David Tatman said the auditors have finished their field work and started writing up their findings. He expects a final report in the near future, but has not been given a precise completion date.