Albany High Principal Angela Shumate, far right, her attorney, Charles Cox, and his assistant, Sherry Hodges, listen to testimony during Shumate's CRCT cheating hearing Tuesday. A three-person tribunal recommended that Schumate be reissued a new contract by the Dougherty County School Board for the 2012-13 school year.
ALBANY, Ga. — A state tribunal on Tuesday said the Dougherty County School System “failed to meet the required preponderance of evidence” of alleged CRCT cheating and grade changes by Albany High Principal Angela Shumate, unanimously recommending her contract for the 2012-13 school year be renewed.
Shumate was accused by a governor’s investigating team in a 2009 CRCT cheating probe that roiled the local school system. At the time, she was principal at Northside Elementary School.
While the outcome was a victory for Shumate, it’s still up to the DCSS School Board to accept the tribunal’s recommendation and offer her a contract.
“I am so excited, and God gets all the glory,” Shumate said after the tribunal’s announcement. “It will be so nice to have my life back. I enjoy working with children, and I am ready to get back to my students, faculty and staff.
“I would like to thank my supporters for all their words of encouragement during this difficult period.”
In December, Shumate was named in the final CRCT cheating report and was transferred to the system’s EPS (Exceptional Student’s Program), where she remained until her contract was non-renewed in June.
“We listened to the testimony and reviewed the evidence and did not find the required preponderance,” tribunal Chairman Gary Walker said when asked how the panel reached its decision. “The system’s attorney (Flin Coleman) did a good job of presenting his case, but the evidence was weak.”
Coleman, while disappointed in the outcome, agreed with Walker’s assessment of the evidence.
“Yeah, I’d go with that and would second his opinion of the evidence,” Coleman said. “I didn’t just make up the case. Some of the information we got from the GBI and the special investigators just didn’t match up. You see the result.”
Shumate’s attorney, Charles Cox of Macon, said he was pleased with the tribunal’s decision.
“We are certainly delighted with the results,” Cox said. “We think it was the right decision based on the evidence presented. This decision is what should have occurred, and we hope that the Board of Education will follow through with the tribunal’s recommendation.”
Coleman presented five witnesses for the system, while Cox countered with two witnesses and Shumate, who was the final person to take the stand.
Coleman hammered Shumate hard, implying she pressured teachers to make suggestions to students taking the CRCT tests.
Jane Hill was a proctor at Northside during testing in 2009 and testified that Shumate urged teachers to “do everything they could do to help her babies do the best they can do on the CRCT.”
Hill stressed that she saw nothing suggestive in Shumate’s pep talk, but added, “I can see how some people could interpret that statement differently than I did.”
Coleman also accused Shumate of changing teachers’ grades, a charge supported by former Northside teacher Tia Ford, who said the principal changed at least two students’ grades from a 54 and a 47 to 60s.
Ford said she confronted Shumate about the changes and was informed that “she (Shumate) didn’t need my permission to change grades.”
Shumate said she could not recall that meeting with Ford and denied ever changing teachers’ grades.
As the CRCT saga winds down, just four of the original 49 people named in the report have yet to have their cases resolved. That will change within the week.
This morning, Turner’s Nikki Lyons will appear before the tribunal; Jose Roquemore’s hearing is Thursday; Adrienne Savage’s is next Monday, and Beverly Knighton-Harris’ case will wrap things up a day later.