A Columbus school district scandal that has simmered for more than two years finally boiled up a felony charge.
The man sometimes called the Columbus City School “Data Czar” faced a judge on Thursday.
He's the man who was behind curtain and today he stood before a judge on a felony charge. Steve Tankovich was the mastermind behind a Columbus City Schools data rigging scandal.
It was a scandal ratcheted up by Ohio's State Auditor. He found the district changed thousands of enrollment dates and test scores, all in effort to make the district's poor performance numbers look better.
Today, Tankovitch admitted setting up the system. He entered a no contest plea to a charge related to falsifying records.
In court on Thursday, Prosecutor Ron O'Brien said, “I think it's important this architect, if you will, that allowed this data to be manipulated accept responsibility and appear in court, and that's what Mr. Tankovitch did this morning.”
But Tankovitch's attorney says his client “did not have a nefarious thought” and was just trying to even the playing field. He says other districts do similar things without trouble and adds Tankovitich's system would have been okay, except school principals abuse it.
Tankovitch says they have a financial incentive to cheat. "Any time that you go to a market-based system where principals and teachers get incentives and higher pay based on their scoring, those are the manipulations that are going to occur.”
Still, Tankovitch does admit that he could have done more to keep principals from cheating.
Now the question is: who else will be held responsible?
The prosecutor declined to say whether Gene Harris is on the list. She was Tankovitch's boss and he says she knew all about the operation.
Prosecutor Ron O'Brien says that he expects at least two more people to face charges in the coming weeks.
Tankovitch has agreed to help O'Brien because of the plea deal.