Parents, board members, TSSAA react to claims in former Trezevant principal resignation letter

MEMPHIS, Tenn. -- It's the first week of summer vacation, so there wasn't much activity around Trezevant High School Friday morning, besides students signing up for summer school, a few faculty members walking in and out and cars parked near the football field house.

Yet, there's lots of talk surrounding the high school that's been at the center of controversy before.

Former Principal Ronnie Mackin outlined serious allegations in a six-page resignation letter regarding academic and athletic cheating.

He also accused some leaders at Shelby County Schools of turning a blind eye.

One grandparent who didn't want her face shown says it's all confusing.

"How do they know who did what?"

Mackin didn't answer the door at his Millington home Friday.

When we reached out via social media, Mackin said he was out of town and not doing personal interviews at the time.

However, his thoughts are quite clear in his resignation letter.

Among many things, Mackin accused Trezevant of grade fixing, inflating GPAs and reporting inaccurate enrollment to TSSAA in order to be placed in a lower classification.

He alleges the former head football coach, Teli White, paid families.

He also talked about employees stealing money and said "SCS students are put last."

A student who also identified himself as a football player said the allegations aren't true.

"He's lying, we wasn't doing no cheating. We were doing like every other school, working, striving, trying to come up."

SCS launched an investigation into a grading scandal at Trezevant in late 2016 after Mackin discovered discrepancies. TSSAA didn't find any violations, saying none of the students with grade discrepancies had played during the 2016 season.

The district disciplined two Trezevant staff members, and suspended White without pay following the investigation, saying they realized tighter controls were needed.

In December, Trezevant went on to win its second straight Class 2A Championship.

White was named head football coach at Melrose High School in March.

In a statement released Thursday, SCS said all the claims had been investigated. The district also said "The letter's import is clouded by Mackin's prior demand that SCS pay him 2 years of severance pay."

Board member Stephanie Love who represents the Frayser area says she's confident any new allegations will be thoroughly reviewed.

"There will be an investigation and it will be a complete, unbiased investigation. If things are found that are true, I'm confident the district will do what it needs to do."

When asked if the public could trust SCS to investigate itself, given that some of the allegations implicate high-level staffers, Love said she trusts the district to do a thorough job, and if problems arose she said, "I guess the question is who knew, what did they know and when did they find out."

Love also said it's important for people to keep in mind that rumors are just that without proof.

"We can't just go fire people or get rid of people."

Love also says everyone should be treated fairly, and that includes Mackin and his claims.

"I'm not going to discredit anything that was in that letter, because that letter was written for a purpose."

Love said what's most important are the students and families of Trezevant High School. "Our number one priority is to our children and to our families who entrust their children to us."

WREG also spoke with TSSAA Executive Director Bernard Childress. He said they spent six to eight weeks investigating the grade miscalculation claims late last year.

He said SCS requested data on every student athlete, in every sport going back four years.

He said Mackin's allegations about inaccurate enrollment numbers doesn't make sense because it's "impossible for a school to do."

Childress further explained TSSAA does not gather enrollment data from principals or coaches. It gets the information directly from the district's attendance office.

He says more importantly, they use the same enrollment figures that districts report to the Tennessee Department of Education, which are used to calculate federal reimbursement for schools.

So, if Trezevant did somehow attempt to report lower enrollment figures to remain in a lower classification, Childress said that would have cost SCS thousands of dollars.

He said he plans to have TSSAA's legal counsel contact SCS to make sure nothing was missed in the previous investigation.

Mackin told WREG he may speak at some point, and said there were other families that shared his concerns.