VOLUSIA COUNTY, Fla. – Hundreds of freshmen students at Mainland High School will have to wait until July 5 to learn if the advanced placement tests they took in May will actually apply toward college credit after an investigation into the school's principal was launched for administering fake tests, according to the Volusia County School Board.
"Regardless of how noble her intentions were, this should have been stopped, really, before it even started," said Carl Persis, chairman of the Volusia County School Board.
Persis said 414 students were enrolled in the Advanced Placement Capstone Seminar but only 78 students took an AP exam that would give them college credit. The other students were given last year's test, which doesn't count, according to Persis.
The school board chairman said Principal Cheryl Salerno asked the school board to fund tests for all students but the district said no because it wasn't prepared for that budget item.
"The other thing that was not known at the beginning of the school year was that Mainland High School didn't have the funds to pay for the tests," Persis said. "There weren't enough funds to pay for over 400 tests."
The scheme was uncovered when a teacher sent an anonymous complaint to the Florida Department of Education about the "fake" tests. The tipster said teachers weren't allowed to inform students or parents of what was going on.
News 6 obtained a copy of the 25-page summary released by the FDOE that listed the complaint and findings so far, which also includes Salerno's response to the complaint.
"My intention was never to "dupe" anyone nor do I believe anyone has been 'victimized,' Salerno's response read in part. "I did not believe that the students could actually earn a college credit for taking this one course without the other capstone course ..."
Persis said this situation could have been prevented had Salerno asked for help.
"If this was her first time doing it, and it was, she should have asked for some guidance," Persis said. "Certainly, there was some oversight here and so we need to know, given that oversight, wherever that came, why wasn't it stopped?"
Persis said the school board is working on solutions and that students who took the fake exam might have the opportunity to take a real test next year.
"Let's face it. It isn't good. But, we also, at this point, need to take measures to ensure something like this doesn't ever happen again," Persis said.
The Volusia County School District released the following statement to News 6:
"Volusia County Schools is investigating complaints that students enrolled in an AP Capstone Seminar course at Mainland High School did not participate in the three-part Advanced Placement exam offered by College Board, Inc.
"We cannot ,at this time, comment on the active investigation. We are addressing the issue and reaching out to parents. These parents will also be contacted at the end of the investigative process to inform them as to what the district will do going forward.
"The Professional Standards investigative findings and any actions determined will be made public in 2 weeks.
"If parents involved have any questions they can contact Area Superintendent Susan Freeman at 386-734-7190, ext. 20237."