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Unearned report card reveals very real problem at school

Andrew Thompson never attended a single class at Buffalo's Grover Cleveland High School. In fact, he's never been there and doesn't even know where it is.

So when the St. Joseph's Collegiate Institute freshman recently received a first semester report card from Grover Cleveland, he wondered if it was a hoax.

"I thought it was pretty funny," Andrew said. "I thought it was a prank planned by my parents."

Some prank.

Andrew received grades of 50 in all four classes, and some harsh comments.

"Shows lack of concern over poor grades, makes no effort to seek help," said the English teacher at Grover.

"Absence has had a negative effect on progress," according to the global studies teacher.

Andrew, who graduated last June from St. Mark's School, applied for admission to the Buffalo Academy for Visual & Performing Arts, but did not make the cut. Instead, he was assigned to Grover.

But when Andrew decided instead to attend St. Joe's, his father, Philip Thompson, called Grover last summer to let them know.

"They said: 'Oh, fine, we'll take him off the roster,' " Philip Thompson said.

Months later, the report card arrived in the mail at the family's North Buffalo home.

"[Andrew] came downstairs with it and said: 'I really don't know what it's all about,' " Philip Thompson said. "He was nervous about it, like he really messed up."

Catherine F. Battaglia, a community superintendent for the Buffalo Public Schools, said the district has procedures to track students who are not showing up for class, and that Grover Cleveland Principal Kevin Eberle is investigating why they were not followed in Andrew's case.

"It most certainly should have come to the attention of the [school] administration," she said.

Eberle also is looking into whether Andrew's family properly notified Grover of his enrollment at St. Joe's, and whether his records from St. Mark's were sent to Grover, Battaglia said. Grover has a high rate of truancy and transiency, but that is no excuse for the report card, she added.

In one sense, the Thompsons are willing to laugh the situation off as an innocent mistake.

"I thought: 'This has to be some kind of joke,' " said Dina Thompson, Andrew's mother.

But there are aspects they find troubling.

While the English teacher had Andrew marked absent for all 45 days of the semester, he was recorded as absent for just 28 Spanish classes and 41 global studies classes.

"It's scary. It has deteriorated to such a point that they don't know who's there and who isn't there," Dina Thompson said.

Battaglia said 28 absences is the legal limit set by the school district, so the English teacher apparently stopped counting when Andrew reached that limit. The teacher comments that accompanied the grades are ones commonly used in cases where attendance is a problem, she added.

Andrew's parents, both graduates of Buffalo public high schools, are hoping Superintendent James A. Williams' reform plan takes root, and say their comments about the bogus report card are driven by genuine concern. Andrew said he is enjoying St. Joe's, and that his first semester grades there were much better than the ones from Grover.

e-mail: psimon@buffnews.com

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