UPPER MARLBORO, Md. - Documents obtained by FOX 5 show that more than a year ago, Prince George's County Public Schools (PGCPS) performed its own internal audit that found students were graduating even though staff had not determined if they were eligible.
The existence of the audit reveals top brass at Prince George's County Public Schools knew about deficiencies and problems with records of graduating seniors prior to a state-mandated audit that started over the summer. The state audit was prompted by a FOX 5 investigation into PGCPS staff members' claims that teachers were being told to change grades so failing students would graduate as well as allegations by several board members that there was top-down corruption to boost the high school graduation rate.
In an interview Tuesday, Prince George's County Public Schools CEO Dr. Kevin Maxwell maintained he had no knowledge that students were graduating without meeting requirements before the state audit.
When asked how that was possible when he received the internal audit in May 2016, he said, "So that was copied to me, it was not my audit to actually go through myself and respond to at that moment, but our folks took that very seriously and looked at it."
He went on to acknowledge he did know of cases where students were graduating without evidence they earned a diploma.
"So I knew that the audit found that there were cases," he said. "I asked my folks. This is what our folks do."
Maxwell went on to name people tasked with examining and correcting the findings.
The PGCPS internal audit was never discussed by the full school board and Prince George's County Executive Rushern Baker's office said he was not aware of it until FOX 5 inquired on Tuesday.
"It is extremely troubling to know there was a prior audit done that showed we were graduating students that didn't meet state requirements and our records weren't properly managed," said school board member Edward Burroughs, one of the members who requested the state audit. "What else don't we know? Based on this report, it is very clear board leadership is actively withholding information from the full board."
Later on Tuesday, a Prince George's County Public Schools spokesman provided an email that went to all board members in August 2016 that included the audit findings in a quarterly report.
The audit was completed before May 2016 and found "non-compliance with state mandates and graduation summary completion."
It says, "There is no standard operating procedure to ensure full compliance with State of Maryland mandate regarding student records." It goes on to say that students had graduated before guidance counselors had confirmed they met state requirements. The audit looked at student records from 2013 to 2015.
The audit also found that students were not being properly managed, which prompted a recommendation that the "[The Office of Student Records, Transfers and Archival Services] should also continue to identify schools with disorganized and incomplete records."
Following the audit, PGCPS created a plan to address and correct the findings.
The full internal audit was obtained by FOX 5 on the same day Dr. Maxwell presented a new plan required to address the findings of the state audit.
FOX 5 asked why the new plan would work when the first one did not.
"I'm not sure that it didn't work, I'm not sure that we didn't improve," Maxwell said.
He said in a year, he expected that "you'll see that the implementation of this plan has gone very well and things are much better," and then abruptly ended our interview after less than eight minutes.
FOX 5's coverage on grade-fixing allegations in Prince George's County Public Schools: