Dougherty County Board of Education members, from left, Carol Tharin, Milton Griffin, Darrel Ealum and Chairman James Bush speak during a called meeting Wednesday where the BOE accepted the resignation of two principals, fired two teachers and reassigned three principals and 13 teachers in the first fallout from the DCSS CRCT cheating investigation.
ALBANY — The Dougherty County Board of Education at a special called meeting Wednesday fired two teachers and accepted the resignations of two principals while reassigning 13 teachers and three other principals in the first terminations and reassignments resulting from the state’s 2009 CRCT cheating investigation.
The BOE accepted the resignations of Jackson Heights Elementary Principal LaZoria Brown and West Town Elementary Principal Alene Pringle and terminated teachers Vernell Lowther and Angela Scott, both of Jackson Heights.
Three other principals — Carolyn Scott of M.L. King Elementary, Jose Roquemore of Dougherty High and Angela Schumate of Albany High — were temporarily reassigned to the DCSS Exceptional Students Program while their status is determined.
Roquemore is accused of cheating while at Morningside Elementary and Schumate while at Northside Elementary.
In all, 49 DCSS principals, administrators and teachers were named in the governor’s report.
The two fired teachers were among 18 who confessed to wrongdoing during the four-monthlong probe by state investigators.
Three teachers — Rita Akiyode (Jackson Heights), Lisa Bardge (Alice Coachman) and Tanza Sutton (Jackson Heights) — are no longer with the DCSS. The remaining 13 teachers who confessed, Gloria Mosley (West Town), Robert Bowman (Jackson Heights), Faye Ashley (Jackson Heights), Tiffany Randle (Northside), Jennifer Smith (MLK), Tara Mallard (MLK), Lavonda Jolivette (Turner), Fatima Jackson (Turner), Nikki Lyons (Turner), Trina Faulkner (Alice Coachman), Deborah Anderson (Alice Coachman), Alberta Wallace (Sherwood) and Beverly Knighton-Harris (Sylvester Road) were temporarily assigned to the DCSS Isabella Complex until their cases are resolved.
DCSS Superintendent Joshua Murfree said he plans to meet with all 13 teachers individually beginning today.
The reassigned teachers will be replaced by EIP (Early Intervention Program) teachers in their home schools
“You have to remember that of the 1,247 teachers in the Dougherty County School System, less than 3 percent are accused of wrongdoing,” Murfree said. “But cheating is cheating, and it will not be tolerated. Now we have to wait for the evidence from the (CRCT) investigators. We don’t want to incriminate anyone based on a report and evidence we don’t have.”
The School Board met at 5:15 p.m. and went immediately into executive session. The board remained there for more than two hours before finally emerging at 7:30 p.m.
When they finally voted, board members unanimously approved the acceptance of resignations, the terminations and temporary reassignments.
“We spent a lot of time in discussions with our lawyer (Tommy Coleman),” BOE Chairman James Bush said. “There were some on the board who wanted immediate terminations. Basically, we were told by Mr. Coleman that was not legal.”
The two teachers who were fired were at-will employees and not under contract. The 13 who were reassigned are under contract and entitled to hearings before administrative tribunals before possible termination
“I think we did all we could legally do tonight,” board member David Maschke said. “I am hopeful we will pursue additional people who are culpable. We really need to look at this as an opportunity to also follow up on other issues that have plagued the school system but have not been acknowledged.”
Fellow board member Darrel Ealum agreed.
“I feel like we took all the appropriate action we could take tonight, in view of the fact that we don’t have the evidence we need,” Ealum said. “The Atlanta School System is having a conflict right now between the investigators and the district attorney’s office.
“We don’t want that to happen here.”
The investigation into the exams administered to first- through eighth-graders in Atlanta and Dougherty County began in August 2010 at the direction of then-Gov. Sonny Perdue. At issue was the number of erasures on 2009 CRCT exams in which wrong answers were corrected.
State officials were concerned that at some of the schools there were too many of those corrections and eventually focused on Atlanta and Dougherty County.
The findings of state investigations into Atlanta’s school districts were announced in July of last year. Among other things, the governor’s report found cheating in 44 of the 56 Atlanta schools examined and said that 178 teachers and principals in the schools had been involved in the cheating or should have known it was going on.
A preliminary probe in February of last year flagged the 56 Atlanta schools. Dougherty County had the state’s second-highest number flagged with 14.