MEMPHIS, Tenn. — The grade-changing controversy at Hamilton High School continued as the principal who was demoted last year faced the school board to try to reverse the ruling against her.
The vote was unanimous to keep the original ruling against Moneka Smith. The school board said they were being generous to allow her to keep a job, but Smith said she did not change grades, and she wants her principal job back.
“They thought they were just going to choose me to be a scapegoat for the district, and I was just going to go away, but I am here to fight Shelby County Schools,” Smith said.
Smith was demoted from her role as principal at Hamilton High last year and suspended after being caught in a grade-changing scandal.
“This is nothing but a way for them to tear me down,” Smith said.
Then-superintendent Dorsey Hopson moved Smith to a teaching role instead of firing her because the district could not prove that she actually changed the grades herself. It was instead believed that she gave her code to another faculty member who made the changes.
Smith thinks there’s a glitch in the system, and it’s all a misunderstanding.
“Whether she did it or allowed someone else to do it, those grades were changed,” SCS attorney Randy Jones said. “She does not deserve to be a principal. Her actions indicate that she does not deserve to be a principal.”
Smith said she felt singled out, especially because during her time at Hamilton, things seemed to be on the rise.
She said she got doors put on bathroom stalls to give privacy, made sure large holes in the walls of the school were filled and did more to help the school.
“I have videos of snakes in the building in my phone,” she said. “Things kids shouldn’t have to ask for, I had to beg for.”
When she arrived at the school in 2015, after her first year the graduation rate improved from 49 percent to 73.4 percent. Just before her demotion was announced, at least 200 students staged a walk out to demand answers in regards to Smith’s removal.
She thinks she has been treated unfairly throughout the investigation process and has not ruled out appealing the decision again.
“I was hoping for justice, that’s all I can say,” Smith said. “I wanted to be treated just like every other principal in the district.”
Smith was demoted to a teaching role, but she has not started because her doctor placed her on medical leave. The teacher who may have actually made the grade changes has transferred to a different school in the district.