Grade fixing investigation for star athlete leads to firing

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by JIM FORMAN / KING 5 News

wwltv.com

Posted on May 6, 2011 at 2:25 PM

SEATTLE – Accusations of grade-fixing for a basketball phenom at Garfield High School appears to have been the last straw that got the school's athletic director fired.

A series of investigations into a number of improprieties in the Garfield athletic program started last fall surrounding football. Over the winter, it turned to basketball and eventually led to the dismissal of AD Jim Valiere.

The highest profile student in the investigation is Tony Wroten Jr. He's the University of Washington's top basketball recruit -- a gifted player many expect will go pro.

But, if Wroten doesn't meet UW's admission requirements, including two years of a foreign language, he may not get the chance to become a Husky.

That's where a Seattle school investigation found that Valiere crossed a line. Investigators say Valiere changed grades and gave credit for work that students admit they never did. It was all an effort to help Wroten and another student meet the foreign language requirement.

Some students at Garfield defended the athletic director Thursday.

"No, I don't think he should have gotten fired. Mr. Valiere shouldn't have gotten fired. That's weak," said one student.

"I feel like he got caught up in some unfortunate circumstances because he wanted Tony to succeed," said another.

In an eight page termination letter, Seattle Public Schools Interim Superintendent Sue Enfield said Valiere was fired for "participating in a scheme that allows ineligible players to participate in sports, gifting public funds, and disregarding policy and providing grades/credits for coursework not earned."

The Seattle Times reports Wroten Tweeted in January "we got a 3 person Spanish class. #Niccceeee."

There was no public comment from Wroten Thursday, but he was active on his Twitter feed, writing:

"Anyways. HAPPY cinco de mayo EVERY1. Hahahahahahaha."

"I really think spanish is an important language with so many of our spanish speaking brothers and sisters here in the country"

"So I appreciate the opportunity to take the class and will continue to work on my Spanish"

The district says there are no other investigations into grade fixing under way.

Some student athletes tell us star players often are given breaks.

"Everybody gets it, really. I mean if you play sports and you know that you are going to get a little more," said a student.

"I think that's kind of a given at any school you go to," said another.

Valiere has requested a hearing to dispute his firing. He was unreachable for comment Thursday.

UW officials said Thursday it would be inappropriate to comment on the matter.

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