Share story

A janitor at Seattle’s Beacon Hill International School said Thursday that at least nine people could have accessed student-testing materials that were recently tossed out due to suspicious alterations.

Beacon Hill documents filed with Seattle Public Schools listed just five people with access to the room where testing booklets were stored, even though a state testing leader said schools typically limit that number to just one or two staffers.

Christopher Hopper, the janitor, said in an email that at least four additional people also could have entered the room because they also had master keys.

Hopper referred further questions to Mike McBee, a representative of Hopper’s union, who said there was a “ridiculous amount of master keys that are being handed out like candy in that building.” Hopper arrived at the school a year ago and raised concerns with the principal about the number of master keys, McBee said.

“Basically he was told, ‘It’s not your problem — go away,’ ” said McBee, who was with the school’s two janitors when they were interviewed last week by the investigator that the district hired to look into what happened with the state exams.

While school district records and a district spokeswoman said the test booklets were kept in a janitor’s closet, McBee described the storage room as a shared area adjacent to some offices. The nine people with access included the principal, vice principal, the head teacher, the house administrator, a family support worker, the financial secretary, the head secretary and the janitors, McBee said.

Three other staffers usually worked in the area that could access the room, but McBee said they may have had to turn in their keys while the tests were being stored.

State officials announced this week that they were invalidating test results at Beacon Hill because exam booklets had a suspiciously high number of erasures, with many multiple-choice and fill-in-the-blank responses changed to the correct answers. District officials are still investigating and have said the erasures were so egregious that the case was baffling.

McBee said the two janitors in the building were interviewed about the case last week. He said they had no involvement in altering the tests and would have no incentive to do so. He also questioned the district’s investigation, saying the independent investigator handling the matter initially refused to ask the janitors how many staff members had master keys — and only posed the question after pressure from McBee.

“It’s typical of the school district to not hold administrators accountable,” McBee said.

The investigator, Curman Sebree, did not return a call seeking comment. The principal’s office has referred calls to a district spokeswoman. The spokeswoman, Stacy Howard, said the district doesn’t have any information on whether nine people had access to the room and will wait until the investigation is done before commenting on those issues.

Auditors within the school district recently raised concerns about test security, noting that state standardized tests are often kept within school buildings for weeks, putting the district at risk of a cheating scandal.

Howard has said the district is now looking to keep state testing materials within a locked storage unit that would be kept in a secure room, and only one person would have the key to the locker. That proposal would need funding.

Mike Baker: 206-464-2729 or Leah Todd: