Tyrone Reid, Senior Staff Reporter
Just over two weeks after the Caribbean Examinations Council (CXC) disqualified scores of students from one of the country's pre-eminent secondary schools, Jamaica College (JC), over concerns about the integrity of the school-based assessments (SBA), there is word that two other schools are facing similar probes.
The Overseas Examinations Commission (OEC) has reignited investigations into allegations that teachers from two Westmoreland-based schools tampered with the SBAs of their students.
Emails obtained by The Sunday Gleaner revealed that the initial complaint about the two schools was lodged with the OEC on May 1.
"There needs to be some investigations into the CXC preparation of students in Westmoreland … . For example, at Manning's [School's] evening class, accounts students were given old SBAs to type over as their own. At Belmont Academy, OA (office administration) students reached no further than questionnaires, … [the] teacher finished it.
"The students don't have a copy of the finished paper, but were given A for SBA. Ask the students. Please investigate," the author of the email claimed.
Three days later, Hector Stephenson, executive director of the OEC and local registrar of CXC, responded. "Thanks for your correspondence. The allegations raised are quite serious. We will investigate."
SBA SAMPLE SENT
On May 15, the complainant sent one of the SBAs to the OEC. That day, the local CXC registrar informed the whistle-blower that he had done some preliminary investigation and asked for additional evidence in order to proceed to the next step.
On May 30, the whistle-blower told the OEC that it was understood that the "teacher who sent up the students at Belmont Academy for office administration does not officially teach the subject", but "she was running a pilot project with the students".
The complainant also alleged that the teacher was "an official CXC marker for the subject".
On October 6, the day our news team reported that the 70 JC sixth-form students were disqualified by CXC after a probe unearthed that they were instructed to plagiarise previously written labs, the whistle-blower forwarded the emails claiming that similar infractions occurred at the two Westmoreland-based schools to an address believed to be that of Minister of Education Ronald Thwaites.
Last Thursday, Stephenson confirmed that the allegations of plagiarism and SBA tampering at the Westmoreland-based schools had surfaced in May.
He said he had discussions with the principals of the two implicated institutions.
"Both of them denied that there were irregularities. I didn't do any further investigations at that point," said Stephenson, even though a single SBA had not been examined.
DIDN'T NOTICE EMAIL
According to the local CXC registrar, he asked the complainant for additional information to substantiate the claim, but did not receive this.
However, when our news team pointed to an email containing one of the SBAs sent to Stephenson by the whistle-blower, he accepted that he had the evidence needed to proceed with the probe, but said he did not know that he had received the email.
"I will definitely look at it. I will complete the investigation into the complaint that was made. The investigation was stalled because of a lack of information. Now that we have the information, we will proceed," Stephenson pledged.
The local registrar also said the SBAs will now be examined and the students will be interviewed.
Stephenson assured that the probe into the allegations of impropriety will be taken to "its logical end".
However, he stressed that complaints of this nature must be handled with care because the reputation of students, the principal, and the school are at risk.
PRINCIPALS UNCOVERED NOTHING
The principals of the implicated schools have already denied that anything untoward took place at the institutions.
Rayon Simpson, principal of Belmont Academy, told The Sunday Gleaner that after discussions with Stephenson earlier this year, he thought the allegations of impropriety died a natural death.
"He called and we spoke about the matter and I thought it was in the past," said Simpson.
"I spoke with four of the six students, who told me that they had to do the SBAs by themselves, only being guided by the teacher."
Simpson confirmed that the teacher who prepared the students did not teach the subject but said that was inconsequential.
He said Belmont did not offer OA last year, and the teacher - as a part of her action plan which is required of every teacher at the school - decided to prepare the six students for the subject.
Steve Gordon, principal of The Manning's School, said he, too, thought that the matter involving the seven accounts students at the school's evening institution had been settled.
"I was of the view that it was over. I did my checks and found nothing at all," he said.
Gordon told our news team that he asked the school's head of the business and computer department, who is also in charge of the evening institution where the breach allegedly occurred, to do checks as well.
The Manning's School principal also welcomed the reopening of the probe.
"If it has restarted, I have no problem with them investigating," said Gordon.