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Tribunal recommends discipline for teacher

ALBANY, Ga. — A tribunal has recommended that Beverly Knighton-Harris, a first-grade teacher at Sylvester Road Elementary School during the 2009 Dougherty County School System CRCT cheating scandal, receive 40 school days without pay.

The recommended penalty will now be considered by the Dougherty County School Board. Knighton-Harris was one of 24 teachers and administrators who Superintendent Joshua Murfree had suggested in early May not have their contracts renewed.

She joins six other DCSS teachers who were handed similar punishment, but allowed to keep their jobs. The pay will be deducted over the course of the 2012-13 school year.

“I have mixed emotions (about the panel’s decision),” Knighton-Harris said. “I still have my job, but 40 days pay is 40 days pay. I appreciate the tribunal’s decision, but this is still bittersweet.”

The tribunal was composed of former Valdosta Schools Superintendent Sam Hall; former Mitchell County School Superintendent Charles Striplin and Former Houston County Principal Ed Dyson, the tribunal chairman.

The panel’s decision surprised some observers who though it would recommend either renewal or the follow the DCSS’s decision to nonrenew Knighton-Harris’ contract.

“I can’t tell you that any one person on the tribunal swayed the decision,” Dyson said. “I know my reason, but I’d rather not say what it is. I do think the decision was fair.”

Knighton-Harris attorney Howard Stiller was not entirely happy with the outcome.

“I am a little disappointed that they did not recommend to reinstate her without restrictions,” Stiller said. “Still, I consider this to be a small victory for my client.”

Like the six teachers before her who agreed to the 40 days without pay, Knighton-Harris was offered the same deal at the same time, but had rejected it.

I am comfortable with the tribunal’s decision. I think it is the fair thing to do,” DCSS attorney Flin Coleman said.

During the hearing, Coleman played a one hour, 20 minute audio of Georgia Bureau of Investigation Special Agent Kristine Smalley’s 2011 interview of Knighton-Harris.

Coleman said the tape showed Knighton-Harris used facial expressions and voice inflection to indicate wrong answers on the CRCT test. Coleman also pointed out that her class had a school-high 49 wrong to right erasures during a reading portion of the test — including 10 by one student.

Knighton-Harris denied she had ever helped students with wrong to right changes.

“What got me was the the high number (of wrong to right erasures),” Knighton-Harris said. “But I never pointed at a child’s test while making a facial expression. And if I had voice inflection it wasn’t intentional. I’m too much of a professional to allow that to happen.

“I followed every instruction in the testing manual.”

The conclusion of Knighton-Harris’ case leaves just one teacher remaining to face the tribunal. Westtown Elementary’s Adrienne Savage, who is accused of giving answers to students, is set to appear before the panel at 9 this morning.

DCSS attorney Tommy Coleman said last month that all the case files of teachers and administrators named in the December report to Gov. Nathan Deal would be forwarded to Georgia Professional Standards Commission for review.

Comments

waltspecht 1 year, 12 months ago

This is all going like some folks expected it to. Folks apparently did what was claimed, just they were being to harshly punished. I wonder if the Teacher Certification folks will take the same, or similar views of this conduct. I have about given up on it ever going to Court.

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straightface 1 year, 12 months ago

So where is the money going that they are taking from these teachers? and what is the purpose of the 40 days without pay? is it maybe perhaps for the tribunal panel pay? or raises for the downtown staff?

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straightface 1 year, 12 months ago

Come on Terry.. get us some answers!!!!

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 12 months ago

Read the full story when it is posted.

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dingleberry 1 year, 12 months ago

The whole thing has been a bad joke on the taxpayers and those who think things should be done right. So let's face it: DCSS is a big jobs program run by the majority to their liking--payback so it seems.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 12 months ago

Carnage continues unabated against Justice As We Know It.

Moral of this Travesty:

  1. Cheat and confess (tell the truth) = punishment
  2. Cheat and blame others = slap on the wrist
  3. Cheat and deny (lie) = skating party

Obviously those who retired, resigned, or were fired wish they could go back now and deny everything for they would have a VIP Reservation at the Skating Party.

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Cartman 1 year, 12 months ago

Meanwhile back at the ranch, Dougherty District 2 County Commissioner John Hayes can't figure out why MCLB parents would want their kids to be educated anywhere other than at a Dougherty County public school.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 12 months ago

Also, the CRCT report said, regarding Knighton-Harris's explanation about facial expressions and voice inflections: "We find this explanation absurd, but an admission of wrongdoing." Let us not forget.

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lynn227 1 year, 11 months ago

It might have served you better to show up at the tribunal hearing. You would have had more than a sound bite from a flawed report. However, like so many have said in the past, there never was any interest in the 'complete' story. God forbid the GBI should ever put any conclusion about you in a report when you maintain you haven't done anything. I promise you, I'm going to be the first to believe the GBI over you, regardless of how improbable their explanation. FYI, unless a child is dumb as a nail, there is no reason to erase if you're supposedly telling them the answer.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 12 months ago

I would like to say this. Having spent the past year of my life caught up in this CRCT mess, trust me when I say this whole situation is a very nuanced and very complicated animal. It's not a simple issue of "they are all guilty" or "this is a witch hunt." The truth lies somewhere in between

Having read and listened to a mountain of evidence presented by the GBI and special investigators, there is no doubt that some innocent people were caught up in what could be considered an overly zealous state probe. Yet some guilty folks also walked free, smiling all the way back to their former jobs.

That's the way these things often work. Not all 49 folks were going to be fired, nor were all 49 going to skate.

The real question now is where do we go from here? Is Albany capable of making things right? If you asked me that question right now, I'd say "I don't know."

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lynn227 1 year, 11 months ago

Those who were innocent, they've been lost in all this. Because they were named in a GBI report ( We all know if they named someone it had to be true, right?), their names and reputations have been tainted for life. Because it's put out there, it will always be in the back of the public's mind, "They must have done something wrong." No matter how hard they might have fought or how many deals they might have rejected...they have been villified. It doesn't matter if they had no idea how those tests were tampered with, the public only cares that they were tagged. Let's all try saying, "Oops!" to make that alright.

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Margie 1 year, 12 months ago

Terry.Lewis, I have to agree with you. I certainly think that some cheating occured, but I don't believe that all 49 people, including some of those that retired early or quit were all guilty. In a scandal such as this, there are always some innocent people that are cuaght up in the mess, and of course have to suffer the consequences as a result. Unless someone actually admittted to cheating, then "hear" say nor interviews from the GBI nor State team are enough evidence to prove that soemone is guilty. So it seems, so many were in agreement to just put these people on the"bus" so to speak, based on this so-called investigation. This case is a whole lot different from that of the "school lunch" issue, wherein there is a form that has to be completed and signed. Unless there is actual a video, how could all be proven guilty. This has been a nightmare for the DCSC and Dougherty County. If people could afford to send their children elsewhere they would. As far as the CRTC, it should have never existed. Students shouldn't have to pass such a test in any school, just to get promoted. Promotion should be based on actual performance in the classroom and testst based on what has been taught. Cheating is not an excuse, but the so-called , "No Child Left Behind" has left more kids behind than moving them forward for bigger and better. Where do we go from here? Perhaps the new board member, and hopefullty fresh, innovative, young people will began to embrace the chairs with new ideas and committment to do the right thing for our children and with our tax monies. I think that the government should endorse a plan for taxpayers, people who pay school taxes to receive vochers to send their kids to private schools. It just might change things in a lot of states with regards to public education. Why not? I am a property owner and paying school taxes in a system that we don't use and don't care to use at this point. I am praying for a revived and new school board administration.....soon. But, teachers are to be appreciated as a whole, and I am one who support teachers.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Margie, please list for us specific things that were wrong with "No Child Left Behind". Please make a list and take as much time and space as you need. Here is a gimme that you can use as #1 on your list. 1. It was George Bush's idea. 2. ..................

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 11 months ago

I think it was a politically motivated and over exaggerated "witch hunt" that backfired when the real evidence was presented at tribunal. When the smoke clears only a handful of teachers did anything wrong. So, expect more of the same....Teachers don't deserve this type of negative press/false accusations without strong evidence.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

By the time the smoke clears, around 22 people will no longer be with the DCSS and there have been changes to testing protocols. There was cheating. no doubt, but there is also a world of difference in a teacher patting little johnny on his back and saying "be sure to check your work," and "are your sure about No. 3?"

This is where the gray area laid - and there was a lot of gray.

This system has much wrong with it. Nepotism and cronyism run rampant and it often overshadows the good things that are going on. The only certainty at the moment is that this particular nightmare is almost over.

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bubbavet 1 year, 11 months ago

Sorry Terry. It wasn't gray. It was "ALL BLACK"

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lynn227 1 year, 11 months ago

This won't be over or a long time. DCSS has to answer for allowing people who said they physically altered a test, to stay in the classroom. They have to answer for housing twelve people in confinement at Isabella, while people who picked answer choices for students were allowed to stay in the classroom. They have to answer for teachers who confessed to making children change their answers over and over again, then clearing those same people, magically, of wrongdoing. They have to answer for the expense of interviewing parents and students, then disregarding what those people had to say about the teacher in question. They will have to answer for 49 people being named in that report and their punishment of some, including those who were innocent, while letting many of the extreme cases stay in the classroom. They will answer for allowing teachers who roamed from room to room, to evaluate a child's testing work; then rewarding those teachers by keeping them in the classroom. No...it's far from over

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

More Math Experts needed in the Legal Arena.

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Terry.Lewis 1 year, 11 months ago

"Standard deviation" rarely arose.

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

Terry, that is a significant revelation. What people fail to understand is that Standard Deviation of the Erasure Analysis is THE PRIMARY EVIDENCE OF CHEATING. Standard deviations of flagged classrooms ranged from 4 to 50. A Standard Deviation of 4 or 5 in a classroom meant that mathematical probability THAT CHEATING DID OCCUR was 99.99999% !@!@!

And if as I have been guessing, the "legal eagles" did not present it, then they were criminally negligent and did not make a good faith effort to understand THE PRIMARY EVIDENCE OF WRONGDOING.

Very, very disappointing.

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lynn227 1 year, 11 months ago

Standard deviation doesn't address, "Who?" That's the problem. There could be a number of reasons for deviation from the norm, including cheating by students. If you have one child erase 10+ times, you have to wonder if little Johnnie was eye-balling someone else's paper. In some instances, as with West Town, it could have happened at the administration level. Again, that is lost in the need to get someone...anyone.

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director1217 1 year, 11 months ago

Most of the teachers in Dougherty County told their students to recheck their work, the sad part about it only those teachers admitted to it. For their admittance they were punished. But I can truly tell you that there will be be a lot of teachers NOT doing anything but taking up the tests and a lot more "I don't care what they do on a test I'm not losing my job" type of testing from now on. Even though the teachers were told to do this only a few were honest enough to tell. Even though they were told that if they told the truth all would be well, they were the ones who were humiliated. People called for their head over a test. They said that these students lives were destroyed because of the teacher telling them to recheck their work, these teachers are losing thousands of dollars for saying yes I told him to reread his story. It is unfair that teachers have to teach in an environment where they are given impossible standards for students that are below grade level and behavior problems in a classroom with 28-32 kids, have an hour and a half to teach these student two subjects, no para, and the public expect of these students to perform as well as the students in Lincoln. Not possible.

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director1217 1 year, 11 months ago

Oh yeah, the principals, the ones that make $100,000 got off without any penalty. The didn't have to pay one dime.........go figure!

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Sister_Ruby 1 year, 11 months ago

The worst problem with how all this has turned out is not the criminally negligent lawyers, not that those who confessed were basically the only ones punished (what a life lesson that is for the kids), not that the cost of all this has proven to be a grand waste of money based on the outcome..............for me the worst problem is that people like coach, B_r, bsrn, hotdog, lynn227, etc etc THINK THEY WERE RIGHT ALL ALONG AND THAT THEY HAVE NOW BEEN BASICALLY VINDICATED BY THE OUTCOME AND THAT IT WAS A WITCH HUNT AND EXCERCISE OF HIDDEN AGENDA, etc etc.

I know it was none of those things, I know that the erasures were not accidental, not due to simply telling kids to "check your work" (how ludicrous!) but it feels like I'm the ONLY ONE who does know that.

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lynn227 1 year, 11 months ago

Yes, but you don't want to consider the other option. It was an orchestrated effort from the top down through the many mini cliques in the DCSS. That is what I have been saying. I never said it was accidental. You chose to attribute that to me. I have been screaming long and hard that the foxes were allowed to escape.

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bubbasmithredneck 1 year, 11 months ago

Awwww...Boo Hoo....poor Sister Ruby....(in the words of the late great corch)...."do you need a tissue?" hahahaha......I think its great. Not because teachers are allowed to come back to work, but that justice is served by a tribunal who observed the real "evidence". All that funky math can be twisted to make anybody look guilty or innocent. Just depends on who's looking at it....It was a "politically-motivated witch-hunt" that back-fired....Mostly "smoke",and less "fire".....all a big waste of tax money and time. Those teachers were scared to death at those GBI interrogations and failed those polygraphs because they are not real criminals. Real criminals know how beat those tests. Teachers are basically law abiding people who stay out of trouble, so when you scare the hell outta them like that.....what do you expect? This whole "newspaper teacher bashing" crap got outta hand without true evidence and now a lot of these teachers are "walking"........thats why its funny to me......JUSTICE IS SERVED!!! Congratulations Teachers!!!

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