Pensacola, Florida
Sunday December 17th 2017

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Outtakes—In Pursuit of Truth

Superintendent Malcolm Thomas is in hot water. Public records appear to show that he covered up allegations of grade tampering at one of his highest performing charter schools, Newpoint High School, and held back his staff from fully investigating a litany of serious complaints at the school.

Since School Board member Jeff Bergosh went to State Attorney Bill Eddins with the allegations and evidence provided by a whistleblower, Thomas and his deputy superintendent, Norm Ross, have changed their stories several times.

Ross told Inweekly when the allegations broke in late March that the district had been investigating the grade tampering for two weeks. He acknowledged that Superintendent Thomas received the whistleblower’s information several months ago and he said the district looked into those allegations.

The facts are the allegations first surfaced a year ago, and the district may have looked into the allegations but abruptly stopped the investigation without any explanation.

A few days after Inweekly spoke with the deputy superintendent, Thomas told the daily newspaper he had been investigating the grade tampering for a while—“more than months.” He said that the district was involved with the State Attorney’s office in a “complex, very active investigation” of Newpoint.

He didn’t mention that Bergosh is the one who brought the allegations to Eddins, not him, and the state attorney had no knowledge of any earlier investigations into grade tampering.

Since early April, Thomas has tried to block the release of the public records that were the foundation of this week’s investigative report. He and his attorney, Joe Hammons, claimed the documents were part of an active criminal investigation and did not have to be released to Newpoint or the media.

School Board attorney Donna Waters objected, citing Florida Attorney General Opinion 91-75. Still Thomas insisted Waters was wrong.

Chief Assistant District Attorney Greg Marcille intervened and agreed with Waters.  He wrote that while the State Attorney’s Office has disclosure exemption because of its criminal investigation, Thomas does not, “even for records from the District as part of our investigation.”

The public records given to Inweekly regarding the grade tampering don’t appear to be complete. Missing is the packet of information that Rev. Kirk Sutek delivered to Thomas’ office in May 2014 and four emails sent this past month to district investigator Gary Marsh containing evidence from Newpoint teachers regarding the allegations. Inweekly has asked for those documents, too.

We are hopeful that the truth will be revealed. We have little faith in the Superintendent’s doing so without the State Attorney’s investigators also being on the case.

The taxpayers deserve the truth, not a cover up.