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8/2/2018, 6 a.m.

Where is LeBron James when we need him?

This week, while Mr. James was in Ohio announcing the opening of his new, multimillion-dollar I PROMISE School in conjunction with the Akron Public Schools, Richmond Public Schools officials were busy dissecting the cheating scandal at Carver Elementary School and trying to prevent the sad turn of affairs from becoming a national public relations nightmare.

Carver’s former principal and the school previously received blue ribbon acclaim from the U.S. Department of Education along with many local accolades for students’ high achieving test scores that state officials have now uncovered as fake because of a cheating ring among a half-dozen educators at the school.

The tragic irony is that the principal of Carver and her small inner circle of teachers may be facing termination or loss of their teaching licenses because they, like Mr. James, simply wanted the best for the largely African-American student body from high-poverty, low-income backgrounds.

 Unfortunately, unlike Mr. James, the Carver principal and her buddies were going about it in a drastically detrimental way.

By helping third-, fourth- and fifth-graders pass their state Standards of Learning tests through unacceptable means and winning federal blue ribbon recognition, they may have crippled hundreds of youngsters, many of whom state officials found failed to pass the state tests once they reached middle school.

Such failure has devastating effects on children, not to mention the questioning the youngsters have undergone from teachers and state Education Department officials seeking to uncover the cheating that has been rumored for years.

Few people could believe that children from such resource-scarce backgrounds could achieve such high test scores that well-outranked state norms. 

We at the Free Press also heard those rumors and investigated. We also sent a reporter to the school for a day, which resulted in articles detailing multiple extra efforts by teachers and a large contingent of community volunteers to bolster student achievement and success at Carver.

Following the articles’ publication, we wanted to believe that students, no matter their backgrounds and the obstacles they face, can do well. But we also wondered why Carver’s efforts garnering success and high praise weren’t used as a template for replication at Richmond’s other underachieving schools.

Now we know why. 

We also question why the long-running and deeply held suspicions weren’t investigated by previous school administrations and the School Board. Richmond has had three superintendents since 2009.

The state investigation shows just how desperate the Carver principal — and perhaps the RPS administration — were to clinch a win that they ignored the cost. Carver students became the unwitting victims of the personal and political agendas of the adults involved. 

One major immediate question is how can the damage to former and current students at Carver be mitigated? Because of this appalling situation, any legitimate success by a Carver student — and other RPS students — may be given the side eye by people questioning if it is real or fake. While that’s not fair, it’s understandable given today’s headlines.