Chris West, the attorney for teachers Tara Mallard and Tiffany Randall, reads through the charge letter Friday morning at the teacher's tribunal hearing.
ALBANY ALBANY — An administrative tribunal has recommended that two Dougherty County School System teachers accused of cheating in a state investigation of the administering of CRCTs in 2009 be docked 40 contract days of pay, but may return to their classrooms.
Click here to see video from the hearing.
Tara Mallard, who taught at Martin Luther King Elementary, and Tiffany Randle, who taught at Northside Elementary, each agreed to stipulate that testing infractions occurred and to a 60-day unpaid suspensions, but the tribunal instead will suggest 40 unpaid contract days to the school board.
The Dougherty BOE can accept the tribunal's recommendation or come up with a resolution of its own.
The school system asserted the two educators' testing infractions amounted to each teacher looking over the shoulders of students and urging them "to take another look" at their questions when the teachers noticed a wrong answer, DCSS attorney Flin Coleman said.
Coleman said Mallard and Randle nudged students in the right direction by telling them to recheck their answers on the standardized test when she saw an incorrect answer.
The motivation, he said, was to avoid getting another "needs improvements" rating in test scores after Mallard's principal (Carolyn Scott) threatened her job if she didn't get the scores up.
Scott, who was also named in the governor's investigative report, retired from the school system before her case could be heard by a tribunal.
Chris West, the attorney for both teachers, asked the tribunal to consider both teachers' lengthy unblemished careers and Randle's designation as the 2005 District teacher of the year.
During the meeting, Randle was served a subpoena to appear as a witness during the tribunal hearing of Angela Shumate, the Northside Principal.
The teachers did get some tough questions from former Wheeler County administrator Jack Willis, who questioned what kind of message the teacher's conduct would send to both the students and community.
"What message are we sending the students who will be in the classroom with these teachers? What message are we sending their parents? ... That we don't think their children can perform on these tests? What message are we sending the community who's footing the bill for all of this?" Willis asked.
West pointed to the teacher's previous years of untarnished service and said that the incidents were done in a misguided attempt to help the students.
"If you look at the teachers' careers you'll see a lengthy career where they have worked to help students," West said. "I think what happened here was that the teachers thought that by urging the students to recheck their answers that they were helping them in the short term, but I think what they realize now is that they may have inadvertently hurt them in the long-term."
The end of Friday's hearing leaves five educators waiting to go before tribunals. Coleman said afterward no more deals would be cut.
"This is the last time we will all leave here smiling," said Coleman.
Three educators face tribunals next week. Former Northside Principal Angela Shumate will face the panel on Aug. 21; Turner Elementary teacher Nikki Lyons is scheduled for an Aug. 22 hearing; and former Morningside Principal Jose Roquemore is set for Aug. 23.
Teachers Adrienne Savage of West Town and Sylvester Road's Beverly Knighton-Harris will have hearings a week later.
Terry Lewis contributed to this report.