It’s looking more and more like there’s some fire beneath the smoke that has hung over the Dougherty County School System for more than a year.
As the state’s investigation into suspicions of cheating on the Criterion-Referenced Competency Test that was administered in 2009 draws to its conclusion, it appears that somewhere in the neighborhood of 10 principals and four dozen or more teachers could lose their jobs, either from resignations or firings.
The timing of this won’t be the best for the school district. Looking at a worst-case scenario — at least we hope this is the worst case — Dougherty schools would be looking at replacing these 60 positions about the same time that the Thanksgiving or Christmas holidays hit.
It’s to the system’s credit that it is not taking a wait-and-see attitude. On Monday, Superintendent Joshua Murfree, who’s taken some heat for a situation that occurred before he was hired, unveiled an eight-point plan for coping with the potentially disruptive aftermath of the investigators’ work.
“We are moving forward right now,” Murfree said in an interview with The Herald. “We have vision and a plan in place, and if replacements are necessary we will hire competent replacement teachers and administrators. The welfare of our students and educators will be at the forefront.
“We’re suffering a hiccup right now, but we are still moving forward.”
Some have already commented that the problem is much more than a “hiccup,” and it was a poor choice of words. Losing five dozen personnel would have a major impact on the system. But the positive thing here is that the school administration is developing a plan to mitigate what appears to be looming over the horizon.
From the outline, Murfree’s plan starts in the right place — looking to see where the personnel losses could come from, which is critical to ensuring that personnel is shuffled or hired to cover the gaps. The plan includes keeping the community informed of what is happening and determining how to move the system ahead once it’s over.
No one wants to see anyone lose his or her job or credentials, particularly in this harsh economy that just can’t seem to pick up any steam of late. But we also don’t want any teachers or administrators influencing our children — or anyone else’s — the wrong way by teaching them that when faced with a tough job, it’s OK to cheat your way through it.
There have been arguments that No Child Left Behind has failed as a means of evaluating school performance and that it has been instrumental in moving schools away from teaching students lessons to teaching them how to take tests. There’s some truth in that.
It’s also undeniably true, however, that cheating is an unacceptable reaction to facing a difficult or even unfair challenge.
If the students were truly Job One with any teachers and principals who get caught up in this investigation, erasing wrong answers and correcting them to bolster scores never would have occurred in the first place.
And those are the ones who need to be the focus of all this — the students. Getting ahead in life is hard enough without being cheated out of an education. We hope that everyone involved, from the state investigators to the governor to system officials to system personnel to the community, will keep the children and youth in mind.
Regardless of the outcome, the welfare of the students has to be the paramount thing on everyone’s mind.