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Grading scandal: Compton college teachers accused of giving good grades in exchange for money

May 2, 2012 12:00:00 AM PDT
An investigation by a California reporting group found that three professors at El Camino College Compton Center were paid to give high grades to three international students in 2010.

According to California Watch, the three professors "awarded" grades to the international students who didn't even attend classes. An investigator working for the school said three students admitted paying for grades - the more money, the better the grade.

Keith Curry, the college's interim CEO, said the instructors were immediately removed from the school. Documents in the investigation said, "The falsification of student's attendance records jeopardizes the District's ability to enroll foreign students, as well as its efforts to regain accreditation."

Investigators were referring to a document that shows the teachers marked students as present in every class, but the students were not actually there, and their grades showed they passed. One person even received an A. The students reportedly then went to California State University, San Bernardino, but were unable to pass placement exams. That's when the alleged scheme started to unravel.

"They looked at students' test grades and wondered how did this happen and that's when they were able to call us and say, 'I think there is a problem,'" said Curry.

The school tried to fire the teachers and spent thousands of dollars in legal fees. But in the end, the teachers were able to resign. Last year, many of the students either changed their stories or hired attorneys and stopped cooperating. The school decided to settle. It took two years and cost $600,000.

"We weren't able to prove that students were paying for grades," said Curry. "We were able to prove that students were not attending classes...and were receiving grades."

The teachers named in the case were Herkie Lee Williams, who resigned in December 2010; Mohammed Boroujerdi, who resigned in September 2011 and was paid a settlement of $26,000; and Mohammed Ghafelebashi, who also resigned in September 2011 and was paid a settlement of $34,000.

Eyewitness News tried getting a response from the professors, but messages were not returned. California Watch contacted Williams, who now lives in Las Vegas. He denied the allegations, saying, "I just have one word: not true...I said, 'Well, I can't allow my reputation to go down the drain, so I had an opportunity to resign.'"

The students were suspended and the school is going through the process to change their grades. The school was known as Compton Community College when it lost its accreditation in 2006 after reports of corruption and financial mismanagement. Now, it's trying to get back on track.

"We want students to know that when they come to the El Camino College Compton Center, they will receive a quality education," said Curry.

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