NORWALK, Conn. The students who celebrated getting their diplomas from Briggs High School last June can breathe a sigh of relief: Norwalk's Board of Education has affirmed the validity of those certificates.
The diplomas of both the 2010 and 2011 Briggs' classes were called into question because the students did not earn credits in a manner approved by the board. This was uncovered in a review conducted after former Principal Alaine Lane retired last spring. As principal, Lane had the responsibility and authority to grant the students alternative means to gain credits but the board was not informed of the changes she made, causing the problem.
Assistant Superintendent Tony Daddona conducted a review of the credits the students obtained and presented the results at Tuesday's board meeting. "As an alternative high school there are many ways students can earn credits," he said. "We have to understand that credits can come in different ways that is why it is named an alternative school."
That included work done at Norwalk Community College. Some students were also allowed to retain good grades they had earned despite attendance problems.
Board members voted unanimously to affirm the diplomas because the students had earned them in good faith. "No child who has done academic work should worry that a diploma is going to be taken away," said board member Steven Colarossi.
Sue Haynie questioned whether Lee gave any previous Briggs graduates similar leeway. Daddona did not know. Colarossi confirmed that the board does not conduct an audit at graduation to verify that students had met the requirements. Daddona mentioned how many students graduate from Norwalk's high schools and said, "It is the responsibility of the building principal to assure the board and the superintendent that the students have earned the graduation requirements."
Superintendent Susan Marks said that future conversations she and Daddona have with high school principals would include the question, "Are your counselors on top of the credits that the children are earning?"
"We learn from this," she said. "We do need to move forward, we need to make sure that we are the stewards of our students and oversee them."
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