A Miami-Dade County Public Schools principal
credited with turning around a storied inner-city high school's
academic performance is under investigation for illegally changing
student grades. The allegation against Charles Hankerson is the
latest black eye for Miami Northwestern High School, which earlier
this year was almost shut down by state education officials for
being a chronically failing school. The probe is being conducted by the Miami-Dade Office of the Inspector General, although the agency's
head, Chris Mazzella, declined to comment.
During the three years Hankerson was in charge of Miami Northwestern Senior High, he was a strict disciplinarian who oversaw school-wide improvement on the FCAT and tripled the number of students enrolled in college-level courses.
He requested a transfer last year following a dispute with the Northwestern alumni association over his treatment of the school's popular football coach, Billy Rolle. Following a win over Miami Edison last year, Hankerson fired Rolle, prompting an outcry from alums. Three days later, he reinstated the coach, whom Hankerson has known since middle school.
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But Hankerson continued to clash with some students, alumni members, and other Northwestern supporters. He was roundly criticized when it was revealed that one of his assistant vice principals had forgotten to submit grades for students taking college courses that would have pushed Northwestern's overall grade from a D to a C. As a result, state education officials were considering closing the school or turning it over to a charter school operator.
Hankerson was supposed to start this school school year as principal at Miami Killian High. Instead, he has been reassigned to a region office while the investigation is conducted, says Miami-Dade County Public Schools spokesman John Schuster.