After hearing from a dozen witnesses, including a two-hour testimony from Superintendent Donna Hargens, Jefferson County Public Schools rested its case Wednesday on why it terminated former Louisville Male High principal David Mike following a testing controversy at the high-scoring school.
Meanwhile, Mike started his witness list off Wednesday with testimony from a retired JCPS assistant superintendent who knew Mike's work as a principal to help other schools in the district.
Mike is appealing his firing to a three-person tribunal, which is conducting the hearing at Jefferson County Public Schools headquarters, 3332 Newburg Road. The tribunal will continue at 8 a.m. Friday, and is expected to include four more witnesses, including Mike himself, as well as closing arguments for both sides.
The morning started with Male High assistant principal Todd Barber, who said he was the person who called ACT investigators back to the school in spring 2014 for a follow-up after more allegations surfaced.
Barber was peppered with questions by William Walsh, Mike's attorney, who questioned whether Barber was upset about being overstaffed by Mike that same spring. During cross-examination, Barber twice referenced testimony from the previous day; witnesses are not supposed to listen to testimony or follow along through media reports or social media. Barber, when asked, said he had spoken with some of the other witnesses after their testimony.
Barber was followed by JCPS investigator Jeanine Riley, then by assistant superintendent Paige Hartstern, who both described a testing environment at Male High that was chaotic and not conducive to test-taking. Neither said they saw evidence that Mike helped students cheat, and both said that after Mike's decision to overstaff, the atmosphere at the school was tense.
Meanwhile Wednesday, JCPS released an investigative report into Male High counselor Rhonda Branch, who had been the subject of some of the testing impropriety allegations. The investigation found that Branch failed to ensure the security and integrity of the ACT Compass test, among other findings.
A JCPS spokesman said Branch has to take three hours of Administrative Code Training as recommended by the Kentucky Department of Education, as well as ethics training. Branch will be reassigned to another school "as her superiors feel that it is best for the learning and counseling environment" at Male to have her moved, the spokesman said.
Walsh tried to press Hargens about Branch's discipline during the tribunal Wednesday, but Hargens said she had never seen Branch's investigation and could not comment. However, Hargens said that, to her knowledge, no other JCPS employee has been disciplined for testing improprieties at Male to date.
Hargens said her decision to terminate Mike did not come lightly. But she said that "testing is one of the most important functions we do. That is has the highest sense of integrity ... is very important."
Mike was hired at Male in 2013. He was under scrutiny for about a year following allegations about testing improprieties, cheating and attempts to cover up problems.RELATED: Ex-Male principal hears witness against him
JCPS's investigation found Mike had failed to ensure the security and integrity of the ACT Compass Test, didn't provide appropriate training to all staff, and didn't correct and report violations. Hargens also said the investigation found that Mike had "inappropriate" interactions with people when investigators came looking into the allegations. He was fired in October for "conduct unbecoming a teacher."
After hearing both sides, the tribunal will have up to five days to render a decision or defer action. The three-member panel made up of people from outside the county has the power to amend, rescind or uphold the school district's decision to terminate him.