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Published in Print: August 11, 2004, as Baltimore Probes Erroneous Bestowal of Diplomas

Baltimore Probes Erroneous Bestowal of Diplomas

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Close to 100 seniors who received diplomas from a Baltimore high school in June fell short of meeting graduation requirements, a finding that has prompted school officials to begin combing through the records at all the district’s 39 high schools.

The checks completed at "a little more than half" of those schools have so far turned up no similar problems, Vanessa C. Pyatt, a district spokeswoman, said last week.

But the uncertainty that surrounded about a third of the graduating class at the 2,000-student Walbrook Uniform Services Academy when the problem was announced July 27 is proving hard to clear up.

An emergency summer school session designed to provide needed course credits was postponed by two days last week and the registration period extended because administrators had heard from fewer than half the students whose diplomas have been deemed invalid.

The district scrambled to get in touch with graduated seniors after the problem was announced. Of the 125 students originally flagged by a review of the records, 93 need makeup work to earn their diplomas, according to Ms. Pyatt.

Also affected are hundreds of students in grades 9-11 who may have been wrongly promoted, the spokeswoman said.

Principal Suspended

The diploma-granting failure comes as the 90,000-student district tries to beat back a sea of troubles, including budget shortfalls, misuse of federal aid, and lawsuits over the district’s alleged failure to provide students an adequate education. ("Deep Budget Cuts Taking Toll on City Schools," July 14, 2004.)

Even against that stormy backdrop, the Walbrook fiasco has caught the city’s attention. Columnists, teachers, and parents have all publicly sympathized with students, including the class of 2004’s valedictorian, whose futures suddenly seemed to be thrown in doubt.

Adding to the turmoil is the role of the school’s former principal. Andrey Bundley, the principal, has defended the legitimacy of the diplomas and the promotions while hinting that the probe is politically motivated. Last year, as a candidate for mayor of the city, he polled a surprising 32 percent of the vote in a race with the popular incumbent, Martin O’Malley.

Mr. Bundley, who was transferred to a new school in June for unrelated reasons, has been suspended from his new job with pay while the investigation continues, Ms. Pyatt said. Mr. Bundley’s lawyer did not return calls for comment.

Vol. 23, Issue 44, Page 3

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