The principal of a Memphis high school has resigned, saying he faced retaliation for drawing attention to a pattern of grades being changed, which has led to an investigation by an independent auditor of all high school records in the district.
In a lengthy and revealing resignation letter dated June 1 and published by WREG News Channel 3, Ronnie Mackin said parents demanded that he be fired and that a district official told him he didn’t understand the students at Trezevant High School or the community because he is white.
Trezevant is part of the Innovation Zone (iZone) program in Shelby County Schools designed to turn around troubled schools. Trezevant is one of the lowest-performing high schools in Tennessee. Mackin was brought on board at the start of the 2016-2017 school year to help get the school in shape.
Mackin said in his resignation letter that he and others “discovered inaccuracies and inconsistencies in historical transcripts and report cards,” especially for football players, when he and his staff early in the school year were making sure seniors were on track to graduate.
In September, the district announced that the football season was on hold because of an internal investigation into the matter. The Tennessee Secondary School Athletic Association did not find any violations involving the team and the season resumed with only one game having been forfeited. However, the district disciplined two Trezevant staff members, including the head football coach who was suspended for five days without pay. The team went on to win the TSSAA Class 2A state championship for the second year in a row.
In his resignation letter, Mackin said that students received credit for classes they did not pass and that numerical grades had been changed in the computer to boost grade point averages to compensate for low ACT scores. He also that the football coach, now at another school, “paid families to keep student athletes enrolled regardless of their academic situation and promised parents to take care of the grades for the students.”
Mackin said the retaliation started soon after he raised concerns about grades and that he was told to make the problem “go away.”
“It was communicated to parents (by a district level supervisor) that I was ‘White’ and did not ‘understand the Trezevant kids or its community,’ ” Mackin wrote. He also recounted how two football players painted racial slurs on his vehicle, including the words “white boy bitch ass.” Mackin said two teachers helped facilitate the vandalism.
Mackin’s resignation letter portrays a school marked by chaos and immorality. In addition to the grades scandal, he alleged that some staff members were having inappropriate sexual relationships and that there were multi break-ins at the school because of lax or compromised security. He also said three staff members were stealing money from the school, including the two involved in the vandalism of his suburban.
Mackin said he was told in the spring that district officials wanted to move him to another position away from Trezevant because of concerns for his safety. He characterized discussions about his next assignment as being fraught with tension and miscommunication.
Officials with Shelby County Schools say Mackin is making allegations because he didn’t get the severance pay he wanted, according to WREG News 3.
“The letter is clouded by Mackin’s prior demand that SCS pay him two years severance pay and his inability to provide names and facts to support many of his most defamatory allegations,” said Rodney Moore, chief legal counsel for the district.
As a result of Mackin’s allegations in the fall about grading irregularities at Trezevant, the district and the Tennessee Department of Education agreed to an independent audit to ensure proper handling of records in all of the district’s high schools. The records are currently under review.
In his resignation letter, Mackin said there is a “dire situation at not only Trezevant High School, but at many of the schools across SCS, particularly in the iZone.”
The district has already hired a new principal for Trezevant.
Read the full, 6-page resignation letter: