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Buffalo School District tries to oust principal accused of manipulating graduation rates

The Buffalo school district is trying to oust a high school principal accused of manipulating graduation rates.

The Buffalo Board of Education has launched state disciplinary proceedings to fire Casey M. Young, the principal of East High School, according to three people familiar with the situation who asked that their names not be used because it’s an ongoing personnel matter.

District officials would not comment, but allegations have centered around the accuracy of graduation rates at the high school on Northampton Street.

Young has been on paid administrative leave since late last year when the district began investigating.

Young also declined to comment on the charges, but in a text message to The Buffalo News, the principal said he stands by the success of the students and staff at East.

Graduation rates at East have steadily improved under Young’s leadership, rising from 41 percent in 2011 to 52 percent in 2014, when factoring in students who graduated after taking credit-recovery classes during the summer.

In fact, Young had previously indicated that he wanted to challenge the status of East – which is being phased out – because graduation rates have been improving.

In December, however, school officials said they noticed a similar upward trend for 2015, raised questions and removed Casey from the school while the district conducted a formal review.

By the time the state publicly released the 2015 graduation rates in January, the rate at East was reported at 42 percent – a drop from 52 percent the previous year.

Young has generated some controversy before. When he took over at the school four years ago, he “counseled out” a number of students who missed the window to graduate on time and whom the principal deemed unlikely to earn a diploma.

But a previous graduation-rate audit performed by the state Education Department last year found no issues with East’s figures or paperwork.

In fact, several parents, students and alumni from East echoed their support for Young at a School Board meeting in January, when they made an impassioned plea for the principal and said his absence has hurt the high school.

The formal disciplinary proceedings, meanwhile, will be conducted by an independent arbitrator, who decides whether the district has grounds to terminate.