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Principal dismissed for cheating responds

Frank Roti, the principal of Denver’s Beach Court Elementary who was recently fired after a cheating inquiry, has released his first public response by distributing a memo prepared by his attorney.

Roti emailed the memo to Denver school board members Thursday afternoon, asking for their review and consideration of the document. In its summary, the six-page memo notes ” … the conclusion that the principal, Mr. Roti, altered the student test results is at best highly questionable, if not clearly unsupportable.”

Later, during Thursday night’s lengthy school board public comment session, Beach Court parent Jenny Woodson and family members referred to the memo in remarks to board members and called for Roti’s reinstatement.

The Boulder law firm of Halpern Meacham prepared the memo, which is accompanied by a letter to Roti from attorney Alexander Halpern:

“Dear Frank … As you can see, upon closer consideration, it is not reasonably possible for you (or anyone) to have changed that volume of booklets during the period of time available,” Halpern wrote, referring to the accusation that Roti changed answers in students’ exam books.

“This is underscored by the fact that you were on vacation out of state for most of the 2011 spring break, when the superintendent has argued that you made those changes,” Halpern continued.

Roti, who was dismissed earlier this month, and his high-poverty, largely-minority school in Northwest Denver became celebrated for stellar test scores during Roti’s ten-year tenure. But the school’s third-grade reading scores plummeted this spring and sources later confirmed testing proctors had been placed at Beach Court.

A week after the third-grade results were released, DPS officials announced it had asked the state to investigate possible cheating at two schools, including Beach Court. On June 6, state and district officials announced “significant testing violations” had been discovered at Beach Court, including numerous cases of answers changed from wrong to right.

Denver Public Schools spokesman Mike Vaughn on Friday responded to Halpern’s memo.

“We acted on the results of a very thorough, independent investigation overseen by the state’s Attorney General’s office,” he said, “which concluded that there was serious wrongdoing at the principal level that violated the high standards of integrity and professionalism we have in DPS.”

In his letter to Roti, Halpern says his firm has submitted an open-records act request under state law seeking additional documents “that we believe will support the conclusion that you had a meaningful opportunity to change the answers is unsupportable.”

It’s not clear whether Roti intends to pursue legal action. He did not respond to a request for comment.

Roti was a popular principal at Beach Court, who liked to play four-square with his students during recess and whose voice exuded encouragement in his daily public address announcements.

Some parents who spoke Thursday became emotional as they talked about his influence on their children.

“He showed us that he truly cares about our kids,” said parent Amy Montoya. “I’m really thankful my kids got to have him as a principal. I feel that his reputation was tarnished and it was tarnished over an investigation that I don’t feel was done properly … I feel like the whole entire process was unfair.”

Letter and memo prepared for Frank Roti

Letter and Part 1 of memo, pages 1 – 4. You can also read the .pdf here.

Part 2 of memo, pages 5 – 6. You can also read the .pdf here.