Tuesday, December 09, 2014

Two dozen witnesses subpoenaed in David Mike's appeal hearing

This from Toni at WDRB:
More than two dozen witnesses have been subpoenaed and are expected to testify in former Louisville Male High School principal David Mike's tribunal hearing this week.

The witnesses include Jefferson County Public Schools Superintendent Donna Hargens, as well as other current and former district employees and Male High School graduates, according to prehearing compliance motions filed on Friday. The hearing will take place at 9 a.m. Tuesday at the Jefferson County Board of Education.

Attorneys for both JCPS and Mike told WDRB News Friday they have no plans to settle the case before the hearing. Dec. 10 and 12 are also reserved for the case if the extra time is needed. The proceedings will be conducted in public at Mike's request.

Under state law, any certified public school employee who is terminated, suspended without pay or publicly reprimanded has the right to appeal the superintendent's decision to a tribunal. The panel consists of an active or retired teacher, an administrator and a lay person -- none of whom reside in the county involved in the dispute.

Mike was fired by Hargens in October for conducting unbecoming of a teacher. He received his termination letter nearly a year after testing improprieties were first alleged at Male High School.

The letter stated Mike did not create a proper testing environment and that he told a teacher to destroy documents involving how the ACT Compass test was administered at Male in the fall of 2013.
Susan Durant of the Kentucky Attorney General's office will serve as the hearing officer in Mike's case.

In addition, Betty Pace, a school administrator from Winchester; Jill Kaiser, a teacher from Lexington and Beverly Standifer, a lay person from Frankfort, will serve on the tribunal, according to a letter sent to attorneys from the Kentucky Department of Education this week.

Aside from the witness lists, the two sides also filed exhibits for the case on Friday, which include Mike's termination letter from the district, along with accompanying exhibits.

Byron Leet, the attorney representing JCPS, is also including a two-page anonymous letter from a former student that refers to the district's investigation of Mike, but was not included in his Oct. 28 termination letter. Leet told WDRB News he has identified the Male High graduate and she has been subpoenaed to appear, if needed.

As of 4 pm Friday, William Walsh, the attorney representing Mike, had not yet filed his exhibit list. He told WDRB News earlier in the day he was planning on using the same exhibits.

A recent WDRB investigation that looked at the results of tribunals over the past ten years found that fired educators in Kentucky have a good chance at getting their jobs back.

More than 70 percent of the terminations that went to tribunals in Kentucky from 2005 through 2010 were partially or completely reversed, according to data requested by and shared with the state's Interim Joint Committee on Education in November 2011.

A WDRB News analysis of 103 tribunal cases (including those involving suspension without pay and public reprimand) from 2011 through Nov. 26, 2014, shows that about half of the cases – 52– were settled before the hearing took place.

Of the 51 remaining cases, 12 were partially or completely reversed, 8 were withdrawn by the teacher and 19 are still pending. Only in 12 instances was the superintendent's decision completely upheld by the tribunal.

During a tribunal hearing, both sides subpoena witnesses to testify and who are subject to cross-examination by the other side. Each side also introduces exhibits to prove their case.

The tribunal panel then has five days to render a decision with a majority vote. The decision is binding and may be appealed to circuit court by either party.

Two other Male High staffers involved in the testing scandal, guidance counselor Rhonda Branch and former teacher Debbie Greenberg, are also under investigation by the district.

Greenberg retired from JCPS on July 1, while Branch remains employed but has been reassigned to central office duty pending the outcome of the district's separate investigation.

District officials said Friday there has been no determination of final action in Branch's investigation, therefore, a copy of the investigative report requested by WDRB News under the state's open records law is still preliminary.

Mike, Greenberg and Branch still face a proceeding before the Kentucky Educational Standards Board as a result of a Kentucky Department of Education investigation.

The board, which controls teacher certifications, acts mostly in secret when handling disciplinary cases, so it's hard to determine where exactly the cases against the three educators stand.

Mike made $141,000 annually as principal of Male High School.

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