Embattled Hartland Principal in Middle of MEAP Test Investigation
School superintendent defends how Tracey Sahouri handled exams and questions the motives of anonymous tipster.
The actions of Creekside Elementary School Principal Tracey Sahouri are at the center of a state Department of Education MEAP test probe, Hartland Patch has learned.
The state — which ordered alternative tests citing a breach of security it announced Friday — is focusing on how Sahouri was preparing the tests for distribution and how she secured them under procedures that district officials didn't think were a problem, according to Hartland Superintendent Janet Sifferman.
Sahouri had unwrapped the tests, to be given next week, to make sure there were enough and to organize them by class, according to Sifferman. In addition, she kept the tests locked in her office, she said.
MDE determined those actions breached security because tests are not be be unwrapped until the night before the exam and the tests needed to be under a second lock, according to Sifferman.
But Sifferman defended Sahouri, saying it's her understanding the state's assessment guide doesn't detail those requirements and they are stricter than district officials previously thought. At the same time, Sifferman said she has no problem with the alternative exams and updating procedures because the district wants to ensure the integrity of this and future tests.
"We didn't cheat on the MEAP and I don't believe cheating occurred on the MEAP. I am feeling confident we did not deliberately leak out information," said Sifferman in an interview with Hartland Patch on Friday.
"I feel the tests were secure and they were not compromised. The state does not agree on that. … If anything she's probably guilty of being too organized."
MDE's spokesman wasn't available for further comment Friday after he released a statement that the new tests were necessary. The investigation began Tuesday after an anonymous tip and a final report isn't expect for a couple of weeks, Sifferman said.
An email to Sahouri — who is currently fighting a ticket in which police say she knowingly allowed underage drinking at her home over the summer — was not immediately returned. Neither were a call and email to her former attorney who was representing her in the court case.
Sifferman said the district will now review all its current test administering procedures. She said principals all have their own methods for handling the exams in order to tailor to the needs of their buildings.
In addition, Sifferman said the timing of the tip — after the district decided to allow Sahouri to continue to work while the case against her is pending over some objections in the community — raises a question whether she was singled out.
"It leads one to wonder that, doesn't it?" she said. "It is kind of a coincidence."
The district kept Sahouri on the job after its own investigation found the allegations not credible enough to take any action until the case is resolved or more evidence comes to light. Sahouri was ticketed after police say she knew underage drinking was happening during her child's July 9 graduation party at their Argentine Township home, but her attorney says she didn't break the law because authorities were called once the illegal behavior was discovered.
The next court date is Oct. 26 with a possible Nov. 17 trial.
Editor's note: The article was updated Tuesday, Oct. 11, to reflect that Sahouri has a new attorney.