By Adam Biggers
On Monday, a story about how Oak Park basketball coach Bryant Tipton altered grades in order to make players eligible was brought to my attention. Since then, I've talked with numerous sources and have learned of more than just an isolated incident regarding athletes.
Margina Parker, a "very, very proud" Oak Park grad, shared her letter of resignation with me Friday. She essentially gave up her position at NOVA because of alleged corruption on the part of principal Derek Faulk and Superintendent Daveda Colbert.
She is one of many with an identical story.
Parker is an administrator at a Michigan charter and said that Oak Park used to be a "great" district that prepared students for college.
"I'm a product of Oak Park," she said firmly. "[Today, under Colbert and Faulk] Oak Park is a joke. Oak Park is a farce."
The following italicized entry is the letter she wrote to the state of Michigan and to Oak Park.
December 10, 2013
Dear Mr. Faulk, Please accept this as my formal resignation from my position as English teacher with NOVA Discipline Academy with the Oak Park Public School District, effective immediately.
I would like to believe that my decision is for good reasons, but the reality of the fact is that some of the duties and expectations assigned to me were in direct conflict with my accountability as a professional educator as well as my personal morals. I could not continue in good faith to be obligated to these responsibilities that jeopardized both my character and my teaching certification with the State of Michigan.
The acts included but were not limited to the following: We are to mark students who are absent as present. Even though we were told that these students were calling in their attendance, without direct communication from the office to us, there is no way of knowing if this was actually occurring. We are assigning what are supposed to be valid grades to studentʼs grade reports, when in fact the students are not earning these grades.
The “system” that is currently in place for student grading is extremely abstract and not based upon any true learning or procurement of knowledge. When we are directed to ensure that students are only to receive a grade of a ʻCʼ or a ʻDʼ regardless of any work that is done, that is wrong and unfair to both the student(s) and the teacher. A high school diploma is a legal document and I cannot contribute to unethical grading. A real, rational and justifiable system of discipline is non-existent at what is supposed to be a discipline academy.
When I attained my position at NOVA, I was prepared for the challenge that was discussed in both my interview and subsequent conversations with you personally. Students are allowed to behave in a such a manner towards each others and staff that is unacceptable. This is often done with no recourse or consequences, with the exception of being removed from the classroom for the duration of the day.
This occurs on a consistent basis, if not everyday. Allow me to recall a specific incident with a student, L. Pope. I was giving her a directive after school to either leave out or stay in, to which she began screaming and using profanities in her response to me. You, Mr. Faulk, were sitting right there and said nothing. I commented to you that the entire situation couldʼve been suppressed had you supported me, interrupted her rant and gave her a consequence for her unacceptable behavior. Instead you chose to comment to me that I “shouldnʼt allow these kids to get to me”.
Attitude reflects leadership. When there is no leadership, or leadership fails to support their the team, the results are what is now NOVA Discipline Academy. You will find my keys in the upper drawer of the desk in room 102. I sincerely wish both you and the staff at NOVA the best.
Educationally Yours, Margina Graham Parker, M.Ed
Parker worked at NOVA from Feb. 2013 to Dec. 2013.
Parker said that teachers were often intimidated and discouraged to raise concerns.
"Colbert won't listen. Everybody in that school district is afraid of her," later adding that "NOVA is where they house babysitters. There is no real teaching going on there. They won't let us."
The EAA was on the verge of taking over Oak Park in 2013-14 due to low test scores and graduation rates, says Parker. NOVA was used to unethically remedy the situation.
She also said that NOVA students "worked in the office" at the school and made the "test-out" packets given to students.
On top of that, "they have uncertified teachers giving grades," Parker added. She says diplomas are "being handed out" at Oak Park. She was aware of one senior who had three credits during her time but yet still graduated. She said another student entered NOVA as a freshman and transferred to another metro-area school as a junior the same school year--that was due to her grades being inflated through NOVA, says Parker.