Allegations of academic fraud prompt disbandment of Awaken 101
Uncertified Preacher's Program Intended to Turn "Teachable" Freshmen
into Influential Students backed by Shelton
Principal secretly awarded bogus credit for unsanctioned program
Donovan Stands Tall
Excellent Student Journalism
This from Sydney Momeyer and Braeden Bowen in the Devil's Advocate:
In its scheduled monthly meeting on Tuesday Oct. 13th, the HCHS School Based Decision Making Council (SBDM) discussed Awaken 101, a pilot program designed to discover and develop future leaders, which was implemented at the start of 2014-15. This class featured Jonathan Smith as an instructor, a pastor at Crossroads Christian Church.
Principal Greg Quenon
As of 2014, Smith was not certified to teach. The HCHS SBDM refused Awaken 101 as a course in February of 2014. The program was not to be recognized as a course without permission or approval from SBDM. Principal Greg Quenon, however, sanctioned it as a course and gave credit to enrolled students who passed the class.
“I bowed to pressure being applied by the parents of the Awaken 101 students and the Awaken 101 personnel,” Quenon said at the Oct. 13th meeting.
At the Oct. 16th meeting, Quenon elaborated on his previous statement.
“…I have a hard time saying no to people, and this situation alone has led me to understand the necessity and importance to consult and listen [to] my council,” he said.
Awaken 101 was originally a program in which the students would not receive a credit. On HC’s 2014-15 list of course studies, the program is listed under “Other Elective Programs.”
"Awaken 101 is a futuristic classroom experience for incoming freshmen who have previously demonstrated both a measure of teachability and the capacity to influence others,” the 2015-16 course of studies list detailed. “Awaken 101’s relational and experiential design aims to serve Henry Clay in the discovery and development of divergent leaders, who are committed to transforming cultures with a more holistic approach.”
Since the course was never approved by SBDM, HC social studies teacher Jody Cabble’s Infinite Campus login (for her Renaissance Leadership class) was used to give students a grade and an advanced credit for Awaken 101; Cabble never taught the class and was unaware of this unauthorized use.
“There was a miscommunication regarding the class being offered to students for credit because SBDM never approved it, nor was it to be implemented with school funds,” Cabble said at the Oct 13th meeting. “If they were receiving credit, who was the teacher of record?”
Though Cabble was unknowingly the teacher of record in the 2014-15, the 2015-16 school year teacher of record, Smith, did not initially have any teaching certification, but then received emergency certification retroactively. He was then considered a .2 teacher. This means, that through the Fayette County Public Schools Resource department, Smith was certified to teach one course and one course only. The question arises as to why emergency certification was needed, when there are plenty of certified teachers at HC.
“Quenon has not explained to me why Johnathan Smith was so important,” Associate Principal Laura Donovan said. “But he, [Smith], will not be returning.”
According to Quenon, the students were aware that they would not be receiving credit for the course in the beginning, but Jonathan Smith told the students at the beginning of the course that they would receive a credit for participating in this program. Quenon also sent out an email this past summer telling parents of the students how they could receive credit for the “program.”
“The course was never approved to get credit,” Donovan said. “At the start of the year, Jonathan Smith told the students he was going to make it so that they could get a credit for the program. Mr. Quenon then sent out an email to parents saying that if the students completed an independent study activity for the program, they could receive a credit. It was to be led by Jonathan Smith, but the activity never happened, and students still received credit.”
When queried, students were under the impression they were going to receive a credit for the course on their transcript.
“I did receive a credit,” Julia D’Orazio, participant in the program said. “An advanced one.”
It was decided in a meeting with the FCPS district attorney and representatives from Central Office on Wednesday, Oct. 15th that the class should be disbanded.
“It was discussed, and the individuals in that meeting… [felt] that it would be best for the class not to continue in any form that could be confused with the continuation of Awaken 101,” Donovan said.
On Friday Oct. 16th, the 2015-16 Awaken 101 students were told that the class was being disbanded, and were given the opportunity to switch into an alternative elective class.
Even still, the students, dependent on their choices and availability, will switch into courses that may or may not have a weighted credit, and are currently nine weeks into the semester. Awaken 101 was considered a weighted course.
“The students need to be aware that they are switching from a weighted class to an unweighted class,” Carlos Pena, member of the SBDM council said. “We need to have them sign a document or have them give clarification that they are aware of this.”
On Friday afternoon, Quenon called an emergency SBDM meeting solely to discuss the disbandment of the Awaken 101 course, and whether or not students would receive a .25 credit for the first nine weeks of the 2015-16 school year. The council voted against it.
“The [course] should be considered void ab initio [void from the beginning],” Jeff Walther, a member of the council said.
HC’s SBDM Council deliberates. Photos by Braeden Bowen.
On Oct. 19th, the students of the 2014-15 Awaken 101 class were told that they could not receive credit for the course. The council has proposed that the students complete an independent study project this year in order to receive credit. This project, managed by HCHS Academic Dean Adam Stephens, would be directed by a fully certified and trusted teacher of HC. Confirmation for this proposal will be discussed at a later date.
“I was trying to do something for students, but I should not have overstepped my bounds,” Quenon said to the SBDM council at the Oct. 16th meeting. “The bottom line here, guys, is that I messed up… I am deeply sorry that I broke your trust.”
Hat tip to Peggy.