Charles Hankerson Changed Miami Northwestern Student's Grades Through Forgery

A watchdog agency is

accusing Charles Hankerson, once considered a no-nonsense principal, of instructing a

subordinate to illegally forge the signatures of two teachers at

Miami Northwestern Senior High. The forgeries were made on documents

that changed the grades of a student-athlete. This allowed the teenager to meet academic eligibility requirements for an athletic scholarship to

a major university.

The incident occurred shortly after the student -- who is not named in the report -- had graduated at the end of the 2009-2010 school year, according to a report recently released by the Miami-Dade Inspector General, which investigated Hankerson. 

Even though grade fixing is a crime, the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office declined to file charges against Hankerson because "the high burden of proof necessary for criminal proceedings could not be met," the inspector general report noted. However, the 30-year school district veteran could still face disciplinary action, including termination. Banana Republican first reported on Hankerson's troubles this past September 19. 

Hankerson, who served as Northwestern's principal from 2007 until last year, referred questions to his attorney Michelle Delancy, who could not immediately be reached for comment. However, Delancy wrote a 22-page response to the inspector general's probe claiming her client was innocent. "Once all involved persons have been thoroughly examined, it should be ever-more clear that Hankerson violated no rule," Delancy concluded. 

Investigators obtained a taped sworn statement from Sheri Bearman, the test chair and compliance officer at Northwestern. Under oath, Bearman said Hankerson asked her on June 28, 2010 to sign the names of English teacher Sylvia Carro and chemistry teacher Vivian Stephenson on forms changing the student's grades in both subjects from an B to A and a C to a B, respectively. Hankerson allegedly told Bearman that both teachers agreed to change the grades but could not sign the documents because they were not on campus for the summer. 

Carro and Stephenson denied granting Hankerson permission to change the grades or to sign their names. 

After she read a draft of the Inspector General's report, Bearman wrote a letter contradicting her testimony. "Mr. Hankerson did not direct, conspire, or coerce anyone to change a grade," Bearman wrote. 

Hankerson was supposed to start this school year as principal at Miami Killian Senior High, but was reassigned to a regional office were he remains until district officials decide what punishment, if any, he will receive.

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Francisco Alvarado was born in Nicaragua and grew up in Miami, giving him unique insight into the Magic City and all its dark corners. An investigative reporter with a knack for uncovering corruption, Alvarado made his bones as a staff writer at Miami New Times and remains in dogged pursuit of the next juicy story.