Suspended DCSS teacher to return to work soon

ALBANY, Ga. -- On Oct. 1, Rhonda Ryans received a notice from the Dougherty County School System that she had been suspended from her duties as a teacher.

On Feb. 21, her case received some closure. This was the date that officials with the school system and legal counsel involved came to a settlement resulting her re-assignment to another school.

"I believe that working together with (Dougherty County School System Superintendent) Dr. (Joshua) Murfree, and (Tommy) Coleman, the school system's counsel, the matter has been resolved to the parties' satisfaction, so that Ms. Ryans can return to what she loves doing, and that is teaching students," Howard Stiller, Ryans' attorney, said in a statement to The Albany Herald.

Ryans, a physical education teacher who had been working at Lamar Reese Elementary School, was suspended in connection to allegations that school officials said were serious enough for her presence to "cause a disruption for the students and personnel of the school."

The causes stated in the suspension letter were "insubordination," "willful neglect of duties in maintaining order with assigned students," "failure to plan and provide instruction as per Georgia Performance Standards" and "any other good and sufficient cause."

This primarily came from Ryans wearing a backpack during the school day, and also a disagreement with school administrators on how she was instructing a Tinikling dance -- which resulted in a verbal and written reprimand on Sept. 24.

Ten days before that, she had been given a Professional Development Plan outlining the ways she was expected to improve. This took place two weeks before she received the suspension letter.

In a previous interview with The Herald, Stiller contended that his client was being treated too harshly and that her problems might have been stemming mainly from not being a member of the staff's popular crowd.

Before Feb. 21, multiple attempts had been made to conduct the hearings. The hearings before the Dougherty County Board of Education were originally scheduled for Oct. 11 and were postponed until Nov. 18 after Stiller had requested a continuance. At that time, the School Board was unable to commit enough time to sit through the hearings.

There was at least one more attempt to bring the board members together before the settlement came through.

"It took a great deal of time to get the scheduling (sorted out)," Coleman said. "We learned from that."

As of Thursday afternoon, Ryans' new assignment had not yet been determined. The law states, Coleman said, that school boards place everybody -- which is typically done at the recommendation of the superintendent.