Wednesday, October 29, 2014

JCPS fires Louisville Male High School principal David Mike

This from Toni at  WDRB:
Jefferson County Public Schools superintendent Donna Hargens fired Louisville Male High principal David Mike on Tuesday – nearly a year after testing improprieties were first unveiled at the school.

According to a letter given to Mike, the district terminated his contract for "conduct unbecoming of a teacher." According to state law, he is suspended without pay pending final action by the Jefferson County Board of Education to terminate his contract.

The letter said Mike did not create a proper testing environment and that he told a teacher to destroy documents.

"Having considered the seriousness of your conduct outlined in this letter and your prior record and length of service, I have concluded that termination of your employment contract is warranted," Hargens wrote.

According to the letter, Mike has ten days to appeal his firing to the Kentucky Department of Education.

Mike and his attorney William Walsh declined to comment on the matter Tuesday evening.

The move comes a week after WDRB News obtained a copy of the district's investigative file that said it was “inconclusive” as to whether Mike tried to cover up improprieties in how the ACT Compass test was administered at Male High late last year.

However, that same investigation substantiated that Mike failed to "insure the security and integrity of the ACT Compass Assessment," allowed "a testing environment at Male that was not conducive to protecting the integrity" of the test and failed to report and correct the violations.

In addition, the investigation found that Mike asked a teacher to discard student notebooks containing notes of practice test questions rather than turn them over to an ACT investigator.

Now that the investigation is over and a conclusion has been reached, JCPS released a copy of the file to the media under the state's open records law Tuesday. It is the same investigative report – minus the student testing data – that WDRB obtained and reported about on Oct. 23.

Mike had been reassigned to administrative duties in the central office while three assistant principals have handled the day-to-day operations at Male.

Ben Jackey, a spokesman for JCPS, declined to comment on the letter Tuesday. The district will soon begin advertising for a new principal at Male.

The JCPS report, dated Sept. 8, includes a 29-page document containing findings and conclusions with more than 500 pages of support material.

While not absolving Mike of wrongdoing associated with the ACT Compass, JCPS investigators said they were unable to determine whether Mike “impeded the investigative process and compromised the integrity” of the initial inquiry last December by the ACT organization into how the test was handled.

At issue in the JCPS investigation was whether Mike coached students or staff members to lie about cheating that allegedly occurred when the ACT Compass – an assessment taken by seniors that could boost the school's percentage of “college ready” students – when ACT began looking into how the test was administered in December 2013.

After its December 2013 inquiry, ACT noted the shoddy testing environment at Male High and the inappropriate use of its software in a February letter.

But the investigation was re-ignited in May 2014 after Mike had made controversial choices to push a handful of staff members out of the school. Students alleged that cheating was rampant in the ACT Compass computer lab, with even students taking the “live” test getting answers from other students and staff.

Mike admitted, according to the JCPS report, that he told teacher Sarah Portman Graziano to “get rid” of student notebooks used in preparation for the Compass test rather than turn them over to ACT's investigator – an allegation that first came to light in the Kentucky Department of Education's July 3 investigative report.

That happened “after the conclusion” of the initial investigation in December 2013 and before ACT and Kentucky Department of Education officials returned to further investigate Male in May 2014, the Sept. 8 JCPS report noted.

According to Graziano's written statement, which is part of the investigative file, she discovered she had tutoring notebooks from the ACT Compass in a locked cabinet.

“He said that I should wait until the end of the year when no one is around and to put them in a bag (he asked if I carry a bag to school) and close it up. Then I should wait until later in the day when no one is around and take them home with me and dispose of them one (or a few) at a time. I was very uncomfortable, but did not say anything about feeling this way.”

The JCPS report does fault Mike for some things not related to the alleged cover up.

It says Mike violated Kentucky's administrative testing code when he “failed to ensure the security and integrity” of the Compass test. It says his “installing and utilizing” the supposed “practice” ACT software violated the portion of the testing code that prohibits any activities implemented “for the sole purpose of artificially increasing test scores.”

The Sept. 8 investigative report follows a separate July 9 JCPS investigation – reported on Oct. 16 by WDRB News -- which said allegations that Mike bullied and threatened students and teachers were "unsubstantiated."

Mike, along with two other 2013-14 Male staffers, still faces a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of the Kentucky Department of Education's July 3 findings.
The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly Mike's case stands.

You can read David Mike's termination letter here.

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