UPDATE (Jan. 29): Several current and former Oak Park teachers are alleging gross misuse of the school's NOVA program, which is designed to help at-risk students achieve better grades and successfully return to OPHS.
Sources have pointed to NOVA principal Derek Faulk and Oak Park Superintendent Dr. Daveda Colbert for "abusing the system" and essentially floating students through the program in order to boost OPHS' graduation rate.
In past instances, NOVA students have been given answers to "test-out" packets.
"Faulk leaves the answer key on his desk and leaves the room," said one district employee.
UPDATE (Jan. 28): Oak Park Superintendent Dr. Daveda Colbert responded to my e-mail inquiry Wednesday, saying that coach Bryant Tipton resigned as the school's boys varsity hoops coach and that he was in fact being investigated for altering student-athlete's grades. She went to say in the e-mail that she doesn't want the inappropriate and illegal actions of one individual to define her district.
Since breaking the news of academic issues at Oak Park, I have received several threatening tweets and phone calls.
UPDATE (Jan. 27): Oak Park basketball Twitter initiated contact with my personal account @AdamBiggers81 on Monday night and throughout Tuesday. The above photo is from the DM exchange. I'm not clear who runs the team's Twitter, but this isn't a good look for the Oak Park district.
By Adam Biggers
Bryant Tipton is the focal point of an ongoing investigation into the academics of at least two boys varsity basketball players at Oak Park High School, according to five district employees who spoke with Sports in the Mitten throughout Monday evening and Tuesday morning.
Two of the players were identified as junior Kelvon Fuller, a 6'8" power forward, and senior Rodney Scales, a 6'7" power forward. According to an Oak Park teacher, Scales transferred to the school in December and frequently missed one or more classes.
"I saw him no more than three or four times," said the teacher. "There's not a grade in the grade book [for him] other than a semester grade. We were asked to keep a lid on it [academic issues] because they [the school] didn't want the word getting out to media and others."
On Monday, OPHS sent an e-mail to local media and district employees stating that Tipton was granted a leave of absence for “unknown” circumstances. Those reasons, according to two OPHS teachers, were because the second-year coach had been caught logging into the school’s computer system this past week and manipulating grades in order to make two star players academically eligible this semester.
“I think he thought he would get away with it. But he got bit by a technology glitch,” said a district employee with direct knowledge of and access to the school’s computer grading system. Several teachers noticed that their grades were altered, according to the district employee, and have taken their concerns to administrators and other district officials.
“Teachers and administrators noticed that grades ‘weren’t posting correctly’ and that students were getting better grades than they should have,” said another district employee. For example, one teacher handed out a D for the marking period to one of Tipton’s stars. However, the system showed that the player earned a B-, therefore making him eligible.
The wrongdoing isn’t limited to boys basketball, unfortunately, says the employee. At least one athlete on Oak Park’s 2013-14 track team was also ineligible for most, if not all, of this past school year.
“I had two of those boys in my [redacted] class,” said a current OPHS teacher. “They both failed and had other Es on their report cards—yet they were still on the team. I brought it to [athletic director/coach Greg] Carter’s attention and received no reply.”
Davon Friar was “one of the studs on the team,” said the source, and “he had straight Ds and one E for the fall semester [of 2013-14] which made him ineligible.”
Oak Park placed second in the 2013-14 MHSAA state track meet.
Allowing academically ineligible players to participate is a common practice at Oak Park, according to the district employees. The district employees who spoke with SITM said the lack of concern is appalling and it makes the jobs of teachers that much more difficult.
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