A new state audit has found that the principal of a St. Louis Public School District elementary school purposely manipulated attendance figures.
The findings indicate that Patrick Henry Downtown Academy Principal Esperansa Veal ordered a staff member to falsify hundreds of attendance records, which may have helped the school meet federal “No Child Left Behind” requirements.
State Auditor Tom Schweich says the evidence his office found was overwhelming.
"We had persons with direct knowledge indicating attendance was being manipulated. We had allegations that documentation had been destroyed or disappeared. And we had analysis performed by the school social worker and a teacher also indicating that attendance was being manipulated," Schweich said at a press conference today.
SLPS Superintendent Dr. Kelvin Adams says Veal has been placed on paid leave of absence while the district investigates the audit’s findings.
"Obviously the data speaks for itself so we’re going to follow the data. The data clearly states based on the preliminary report that there were some outstanding things that were inappropriate at the school and so at this point in time we’re going to continue our investigation and then make a decision from that point in time," Adams said.
Schweich says his office did not investigate every school in the district but it appears attendance manipulation is not a city-wide problem. This was the first use of the auditor’s so-called “rapid response team” that was set up to investigate fraud claims before evidence is destroyed.