The CEO of the James M. Singleton Charter School and Dryades YMCA is stepping down after the state voided dozens of standardized tests at the school for suspected cheating and other irregularities.
The departure of Gregory Phillips follows the termination of four Singleton employees earlier this month.
Phillips said he’s assisting in a leadership transition and will resign once that is complete. “I want to make sure the board has a clear pathway to move the organization forward,” he said Thursday.
Phillips directly oversaw School Leader Rosemary Martin, one of the four employees fired.
Board Chairman Darren Mire said the educators were terminated after the board started looking into the testing problems. “As we were doing the cleanup, we realized this is a systematic problem,” he said.
A lawyer for the four employees said they did nothing wrong and were fired without a fair hearing.
The Dryades YMCA runs Singleton out of a facility at 2220 Oretha Castle Haley Blvd.
After the Orleans Parish School Board voted in November to close Mahalia Jackson Elementary School, 2405 Jackson Ave., it decided to turn over that campus to Singleton. A spokeswoman for the district wouldn’t say whether that’s still in the works.
The testing investigation was launched after the state Department of Education received a tip last summer that students had gotten copies of LEAP tests beforehand, that test administrators were coaching students and teachers and staff were taking the tests themselves.
State officials discovered many students had gotten help on LEAP tests, even though the assistance wasn't authorized by their Individualized Education Program. That document describes how a school will accommodate a student's learning disabilities.
Those accommodations vary. In some cases, teachers read questions aloud to students. Some students get extra time to take the tests.
The state voided tests for 155 students because of those problems.
Separately, officials found on tests for 21 students a suspicious number of answers had been changed from a wrong answer to the right one. Those exams were voided as well.
In all, tests for 165 students were voided at the school, which has 410 students in prekindergarten through eighth grade.
The school is trying to sort out exactly which students shouldn’t have received help.
“We are working on correcting records,” Phillips said.
A similar cheating scandal at Landry-Walker High School resulted in administrators being suspended after a state Inspector General's Office investigation into the school's impressive 2013-14 test results. Those scores plummeted the following year after monitors kept a close watch on classrooms during tests.
After that incident, the School Board and state Recovery School District promised to hire test security monitors for all charter schools that were up for a contract renewal or extension. Other charter leaders hired their own monitors for one of four testing days.
Mire confirmed Phillips’ resignation, saying the board “decided to move in a different direction with the school.”
“The Board’s Education Committee along with myself are managing the day-to-day activities of our transition team and our corrective action plan,” he wrote in an email.