Teachers’ hearing expected to wrap up

Published 5:00 am Wednesday, August 11, 2004

MONTICELLO – A hearing for two teachers accused of state testingirregularities is expected to conclude Thursday at the centraloffice, Lawrence County School District officials said.

Because the hearing is considered a personnel matter, it hasbeen closed to the public.

The hearing began last month, but there have been only a fewdays of testimony because of scheduling conflicts among the lawyersafter the hearing lasted longer than the two days allotted.

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“We expect to finish this up Thursday,” said Sharon Dungan,federal programs and testing coordinator for the district. “Allthat’s really left are the final arguments.”

Two Rod Paige Middle School teachers are accused of helpingtheir students take the Mississippi Curriculum Test during statetesting in May.

They were not rehired for the 2004-2005 school year, but shouldthey prevail in the hearing the district must rehire them, saidSuperintendent Russell Caudill.

Caudill said he cannot comment on the proceedings or the natureof the alleged irregularities until the hearing is completed.

According to one school official, who preferred to remainanonymous, the teachers are accused of presenting the students withpractice problems to work the day before the tests wereadministered and the students were allowed to take them home tocontinue practicing. Those problems were later determined to be thesame ones presented on the MCT.

James McCafferty, a Jackson attorney representing the teachers,said when the hearing began that he would not discuss the matterbecause it was considered a personnel matter and the proceedingswere, therefore, confidential.

Testimony in the case has been heard from education and districtofficials, students and the accused.

Approximately 12 students, a teacher at RPMS and a Department ofEducation official, Christopher Kaase of the student assessmentdivision, testified June 30 about their knowledge of the incidentor state testing procedures.

The next day a hearing officer heard testimony from Dungan; TonyDavis, who was principal at RPMS when the alleged incident occurredand now serves as the director of alternative programs; and TammyFairburn, assistant principal of RPMS at the time who now serves asprincipal of the school.

Caudill and the accused teachers testified July 28.

Once the hearing is concluded, Caudill said, the transcripts ofthe proceedings and the hearing officer’s recommendations will beevaluated by the Lawrence County board of trustees, who will makethe final decision based on that information.

Although the school board meets Tuesday, no decision is expectedat that meeting, Dungan said.

“It will take some time to prepare the transcripts and for theboard to review them,” she said.

The MCT is directly connected with the accreditation level of aschool through the State Accountability Model for the federal NoChild Left Behind Act. The tests are administered to all studentsin grades 2 through 8 in reading, language and math, Dungansaid.

There is no direct benefit to teachers for their students topass the test because Mississippi does not have a merit-pay system.However, administrators do get the results of the test, and thescores can be part of the evaluation of a teacher’sperformance.