Among the final items listed on today’s agenda for the Dougherty County School Board is one that is important to the system moving forward: “... letters of non renewal sent to all employees accused of CRCT cheating, ...”
What makes this item critical is that if the superintendent fails to send the letters of non-renewal by May 15, the school system will lose any right to discipline any of the remaining 44 teachers accused of being involved in cheating on the 2009 Criterion Referenced Competency Tests.
And that would leave a dark cloud hanging over the school system that might never dissipate.
May 15 is the deadline for notifying a certified school employee that he or she will not be retained in the coming school year. The Georgia Board of Education has ruled that if a school system renews a teacher’s contract, it cannot then discipline that teacher for transgressions the teacher committed the before the renewal.
“The case law seems to be clear that if you know of an infraction of the law or policy in any one contract year and do not discipline a certified employee accordingly, you accept the infraction and cannot discipline them in the next contract year,” Dougherty School Board Attorney Tommy Coleman said.
The Georgia Bureau of Investigation probe headed up by former state attorney general Mike Bowers implicated in 49 teachers and principals to one degree or another in the cheating scandal. In late December 2011, investigators turned in a 293-page report to Gov. Nathan Deal outlining cheating in 2009 on CRCT tests in 11 of 16 DCSS elementary. Five of the 49 have retired or left the system, which means questions remain about the remaining 44.
Being accused of wrongdoing does not necessarily mean that a person actually has done anything wrong, and the school system has set up a tribunal system to examine each accused employee’s case. With the Dougherty County District Attorney’s Office just now sending some of the cases to the school system, those certainly won’t be completed in the three weeks left before the contract deadline.
The only prudent course of action is for the superintendent to send the letters of non-renewal to the employees in question and then let the process take its course. Teachers absolved of wrongdoing could be hired back by the system at a later date and the students would be protected from any teachers found to be guilty of cheating.
To fail to act would render the tribunals meaningless since any findings arrived at would be moot points. And that would be a failure to everyone.