The western Loudoun community was rocked two weeks ago with reports of grade tampering and administrative bullying occurring at Loudoun Valley, one of the most prestigious high schools in the county.
In an letter sent to LVHS parents Nov. 1, Loudoun County Superintendent Ed Hatrick acknowledged an ongoing investigation at the behest of the Loudoun Education Association.
Also in the letter, Hatrick noted some of the anonymous allegations have not been expressed in more than 60 interviews conducted to this point. He also said the school system will proceed with further inquiry to see if there is credence to those anonymous allegations.
Those conducting the investigation are looking into formal complaints filed with the LCPS Personnel Department against Principal Sue Ross, Assistant Principal Stephanie Teague and Head of Special Education Ella Hopson.
Hatrick said the personnel department has received six complaints.
Additionally, LCPS was previously aware of issues at the school. In 2008, the LEA held an off-campus meeting with concerned teachers. At the time, those teachers were upset about changes occurring at the school.
“This has been a school in transition for quite some time,” Hatrick said.
With the opening of Woodgrove High School in Purcellville in 2010, the student population at LVHS was split in half.
According to Hatrick, 27 teachers left Valley that year, although some of those were through de-staffing.
Ross was hired as the Loudoun Valley principal in 2005 following Gerald Black, who was the replacement for two years for longtime principal Kenneth Culbert.
In an interview with the Times-Mirror, Hatrick outlined the continuing investigation.
“We believe some of the allegations in the article are not yet being borne out but we are continuing to investigate them,” Hatrick said. “Some of the allegations were new to us, others were not, but we are in the midst of an ongoing review so it is really too early to say what is fact and what is fiction.”
This investigation comes on the tail of allegations in the spring about improper assistance to a disabled student at the school on the Standards of Learning tests.
The allegation was subsequently investigated, reviewed by the State Department of Education and the finding was there was a disagreement among staff members about how much or what kind of assistance a student who is disabled could be given.
“The states finding was that there had not been a violation of testing protocol,” Hatrick said. “Growing from the spring investigation was concern from one staff member that she felt she had been pressured by other teachers or other staff to do something she felt was inappropriate and that is part of the ongoing look we are taking.”
School Board Vice Chairman Jill Turgeon (Blue Ridge) spoke at a concerned parents community meeting Nov. 6 at the Carver Senior Center in Purcellville and mentioned the School Board was not notified of grading issues at Loudoun Valley High School and the spring investigation by the VABOE until August.
“In August, it was brought to the attention of the board regarding some grading issues at [LVHS]. This complaint was brought forward by a constituent to a different board member, who then shared it with me,” Turgeon said. “I spoke with the individual and we were concerned so the chairman and I went to the staff at LCPS and inquired and that was our first awareness of the situation.
“After meeting with staff, I was approached by about a dozen teachers who expressed some concerns as well,” Turgeon said.
While the Loudoun County School Board was not notified of the spring investigation, which is normal according to Hatrick, it was notified of it upon its completion.
Turgeon said at the parent meeting she had an issue with that process.
“As a board member that concerns me, because if there is something that has been brought forward and elevated to a level where you are going to have an investigation, and the board is not notified, I have an issue with that,” Turgeon said. “I requested the investigation and at first was denied. The issue was brought before the board as a whole and the School Board attorney did back us up on the request and the investigation was released to the School Board.”
At the meeting, some parents questioned whether the accused should be placed on administrative leave during the investigation.
Hatrick, who visited the school Nov. 11, said he believed those involved did not represent a continued threat or a problem to the daily functions of the school; none were placed on administrative leave.
According to Hatrick, in his almost 50-year education career, he has never dealt with this type of situation.
Parents attending the community meeting Nov. 6 expressed frustration with the school system, because they had not been notified of either ongoing investigation.
Hatrick noted that parents are routinely not notified of a situation like this unless the investigation directly involved their respective children.
“Parents would not typically be notified. Particularly where there are allegations against personnel, we wouldn't advise parents of them, unless their children were involved somehow and then certainly they would find out,” Hatrick said. “If we determine that something inappropriate had happened to a child in testing or whatever then that parent would know. But we wouldn't make a general announcement.”
When questioned directly on the spring investigation involving the disabled child, Hatrick said the student's parents were made aware of the situation.
“When people present concerns about schools we take them seriously until we find out either the perceptions are not correct or they are correct and if they are correct and they're problems, what are we going to do to solve them,” Hatrick said.