WHITEHALL | Two tenured Whitehall teachers have been suspended with pay, as the district seeks to fire them for their role in causing a security problem with Common Core state tests.
Interim Superintendent William Scott announced Wednesday that the teachers were placed on paid leave effective Tuesday.
The state Education Department has invalidated Whitehall students’ scores for the grades seven and eight English language arts exams because of an unspecified issue with security of the exams.
Scott said Thursday he was not able to specify the allegations against the teachers because he was not involved in the investigation. He does not believe any disciplinary actions will be brought against other employees, he said, unless other allegations are brought up during this process.
Whitehall will continue to pay the salary and benefits of the teachers, whose names were not released, as it pursues a formal process known as 3020-a to fire tenured teachers.
Scott said new legislation took effect on July 1 to expedite the hearings to fire tenured teachers.
“It’s speeded up the process much more than it used to be. Before, it could take two or three years,” he said.
Now, hearings are conducted before a single hearing officer. Also, the teacher must disclose witnesses that will be called in his or her defense, according to the New York State Education Department website.
The district is also paying the salary of former Whitehall Junior-Senior High School Principal Kelly McHugh, who agreed to resign for her role in this incident. As part of a settlement, McHugh will be paid until her resignation takes effect on March 1 and will continue to receive benefits. McHugh’s annual salary is $92,596, so that means she will be paid about $62,000 for nine months of not working.
Scott said, contrary to what school officials believed before, the state Education Department is not going to provide the district with a completed report about the investigation at this point.
“We keep waiting for the report and that’s not something they do,” he said.
Instead, the state is pursuing a parallel disciplinary process called a Part 83.
“Part 83 addresses morality, so it could be any range of interpretation of morality — lying and cheating,” he said. “They’re two separate laws and separately addressed.”
The law (Part 83) states a person’s teaching certificate can be suspended or revoked if there is information indicating the person "has been convicted of a crime, or has committed an act which raises a reasonable question as to the individual’s moral character.”
The matter can then be referred to the State Education Department’s Office of Teaching Initiatives for a professional conduct officer to review. A hearing may also be held on the issue if requested by the teacher or the school district.
The law states that teachers are presumed to lack good moral character if they are convicted on a drug charge, any crime involving the sexual abuse of a minor or student, or a crime conducted on school property while teaching. The teacher is free to rebut that during a hearing.
The teacher has 30 days to appeal any decision of the hearing officer or board.
Scott said he believes a report will be provided when everything is concluded. He said the state has told the district that Whitehall needs to pursue its own charges against these employees. State officials will use then use the local findings in its own report.
OK, so here's what I gather from this story:
Two teachers were accused of cheating on the state tests.
They've been removed from the classroom but are still on the payroll.
There was an investigation by NYSED, which then invalidated the test scores, but NYSED is not going to provide the report of that investigation to the local district.
For some reason, the district "keeps waiting for the report" but that isn't something NYSED will give them.
Gee, that makes sense.
Instead there are "parallel"disciplinary processes, with the local district pursuing expedited 3020a removal for the teachers while the state pursues a Part 83 disciplinary process, which addresses the "moral character" of these teachers.
Despite the state pursuing the Part 83 disciplinary process, the state says the local district must still pursue its own charges against these teachers - thus the parallel 3020a proceedings.
Once the 3020a proceedings are completed, the state will then use that "report" as part of the Part 83 process.
After everything is said and done the interim superintendent says "he believes a report will be provided when everything is concluded."
Gee, I'm so glad that's all clear now.
Franz Kafka, party of one, we have your cell.