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Former Columbus Schools Chief Faces Charge Linked To Data Scandal

The former top admininstrator of the Columbus City Schools faces possible jail time for alleged dereliction of duty. The charge is linked to a data-rigging scandal in Columbus that surfaced more than two years ago. County prosecutor Ron O'Brien says the charge against former superintendent Gene Harris is based on false attendance and grade data the district filed in 2012 with the state Department of Education. State law requires each school district to file accurate reports. "So the nature of the charge is that as the CEO of the Columbus school district that Dr. Harris did not see that the reports are accurate," says O'Brien. Harris is the third Columbus school official to face criminal charges linked to a data scrubbing scandal. A state audit last year showed thousands of student grades and attendance records were changed to make the district look better on state report cards. The audit described a 'culture of data manipulation and intimidation' that lasted for years. Harris is expected to plead 'no contest' to the misdemeanor charge later this week. She could be sentenced up to 90 days in jail. O'Brien says in exchange for the plea of 'no contest' Harris agrees to cooperate further with prosecutors in future cases linked to the district's data scrubbing and she will no longer be subject to possible federal prosecution in the scandal. Harris testified last August in a dismissal hearing for a school principal that she first became aware of "systemic attendance and grade changes" in June of 2012 and that she ordered it stopped when she became aware of it. Harris is expected to plead 'no contest' to the misdemeanor charge later this week. She could be sentenced up to 90 days in jail.