Jovon Robinson: Memphis City Schools Counselor Refuses to Give Details

By Brandon Miller

After several weeks of silence and the story of Auburn running back Jovon Robinson being rules ineligible blowing over, more details were released Thursday by the Commercial Appeal. The details raised some eyebrows and opened some eyes.

Valerie Starks-Sykes was in her eighth year as counselor in the Memphis City Schools system when she admittedly changed grades of students. However, on Aug. 8, she would not say whose grades or why she changed the them.

“Labor Relations met with Ms. Sykes this morning per my recommendation of an immediate suspension,” William White of Memphis City Schools wrote at 10:18 a.m. on Aug. 9 to Mark Hicks of the NCAA. “Rather than be suspended, Ms. Sykes chose to resign. She continued to be silent regarding a rationale for the changes, and she still would not provide names of anyone else involved.”

In the 101 pages of emails that were released to the Commercial Appeal Wednesday, there are details and clarifications provide. It is documented a student-athlete’s grades were changed by a member of the staff who has resigned. It goes on the school system was tipped off by the NCAA three days earlier and acknowledged there are at least five individuals that will be interviewed in connection to the changed transcript.

In an Aug. 10 email to White, Wooddale principal Michael Kyle provide a brief summary of what he said he knew. On May 18, while checking grades for errors, a teacher for a student (whose name was not given) said a grade had been changed from a 70 to a 76. The teacher “changed the grade back to a 70 and that was the grade on the transcript that was released,” he wrote.

One month later, Kyle said, Auburn called “asking about a different transcript that was sent,” presumably for Robinson. Kyle viewed the transcript and it still reflected a 70, so he ran an audit to see who changed it.

Responding to questions from Kyle on June 20, the teacher said he believed that he entered the 70 on May 4, then discovered on May 17 that it had been changed to a 76. He said he changed it back to a 70 that day.

In Memphis City Schools, a D grade is between 70 and 74, and a C is 75 to 84.

The NCAA is keeping a close eye on the situation as the school systems continues its investigation into the personnel of Wooddale High.

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