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Former Columbus Administrator to Serve 14 Days in Jail in Data-Scrubbing Case

A former Columbus school district administrator was sentenced to 14 days in jail for his role in manipulating student data to inflate the district's standing, the Columbus Dispatch reported.

Michael Dodds, a former high school principal and later executive director in the district, was expected to report to jail on Thursday to begin serving the sentence, the paper reported. 

In June, Dodds pleaded no contest to charges of attempted tampering with government records and two counts of unauthorized use of property, according to the paper. He will also serve 16 months of probation once he completes his jail sentence.

Four people so far have been convicted in the data-scrubbing scheme, which was the subject of an exposé in the Columbus Dispatch.

In January, former district superintendent Gene Harris pleaded no contest to dereliction of duty, a misdemeanor charge, in connection to the case, the paper reported.

A judge found Harris guilty and sentenced her to one year of probation and 100 hours of community service. She also had to surrender her educator licenses and pay $750 in fines, according to the paper. (Harris had always maintained that she did not know about the changes to attendance or other student data that administrators were accused of making.)

In December last year, Steven Tankovich, who is described as the mastermind behind the plan, was sentenced to 15 days in jail for his role. 

A former principal, Stanley Pyle, pleaded guilty to one count of attempted tampering with records in November for allegedly changing "hundreds" of failing students' grades to passing ones, according to the Columbus Dispatch.

In its series  "Counting Kids Out," the Columbus Dispatch found that some school officials had changed student data to make their schools look better on state report cards. Administrators were accused of withdrawing frequently absent students from school, deleting student absences, and then re-enrolling students.

Some administrators received unearned bonuses because it appeared that their schools had improved academically. Last year, the Columbus Dispatch reported that nearly 600 employees had received such bonuses adding up to $390,000 and that only one-third should have received them. The data-scrubbing also meant that some students who could have qualified for state vouchers or scholarships to transfer from low-performing schools to private schools didn't get the opportunity to do so. 

Dave Yost, the state auditor, followed the Dispatch series with an 18-month investigation that showed a "culture of deception" in the district where administrators felt extreme pressure to "manipulate data or face consequences to their careers."

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