Scamihorn and board member Kathleen Angelucci have worked for almost a year on revising the district’s policy on staff discipline, making much-needed adjustments to better protect teachers and principals, Scamihorn said.
At a meeting Wednesday, the school board is expected to adopt amendments to the current policy, which some believe does not protect educators as well as it should, considering them “guilty until proven innocent” whenever they are accused of something by a student or fellow teacher.
Within the last two years, the district has fired two employees for charges that were eventually dismissed in court.
Trudie Donovan, former principal at Kell High School, abruptly resigned in June 2012 after 34 years with Cobb County Schools and was in jail weeks later on charges of failing to report child abuse. That month, Kell teacher James Chadwick Brigham was accused of slapping a female student’s buttocks, and another student’s face and was arrested on charges of sexual battery and simple battery.
Donovan’s charges were later dismissed. According to county court documents, the MDJ reported a state court could not find sufficient evidence to prosecute Donovan.
In September 2005, former Green Acres Elementary School teacher Greg Leontovich was falsely accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl.
He was charged with aggravated child molestation and aggravated sexual battery, spent 26 days in the Cobb County Jail, and a month later was fired from the district based on these allegations.
In March 2008, a Cobb County Superior Court Judge Frank Cox dismissed Leontovich’s aggravated child molestation charge and a jury found him not guilty of the aggravated sexual battery charge.
Since then, Leontovich has worked part-time supervising student teachers at Kennesaw State University and Georgia State University, and has been unable to get an interview for a job in the district, the MDJ reported.
Last June, former Assistant Superintendent Stanley Wrinkle was prevented from speaking before the board in defense of Leontovich, but was promised by Scamihorn that changes would be made to the dismissal policy of the district’s employees.
“We felt that in the past 10 years, there were numerous incidents and issues that warranted the board’s attention,” Scamihorn said.
Changes small, but needed
Some of the changes Scamihorn and Angelucci have made to the policy will make it harder for teachers to be dismissed before the completion of their trials.
“We felt like the old version was not comprehensive enough to cover all circumstances that an employee may encounter,” Scamihorn said.
One such change, written at the top of the policy, states that all district employees will remain innocent until proven guilty.
“District employees shall be presumed innocent and treated fairly and with dignity, in a clear, consistent and professional manner,” it states.
Board members have also added that employees can no longer be recommended for disciplinary action without being warned of any concerns and given a chance to respond to them.
“Except in rare cases or cases involving serious offenses, employees should be progressively disciplined prior to termination,” the revised draft reads.
If employees are called to a disciplinary conference, they will now be allowed to bring representation with them and be given a list of the administration’s concerns, as well as the names of the anticipated attendees before the conference.
“No employee may be subject to retaliatory action for the exercise of their applicable due process rights,” the amended policy reads.
Action by board
Employee regulations are normally written by the superintendent, but in this case, the board has taken the issue into its own hands to revise the regulation, Scamihorn said.
“I’m sympathetic to anybody that finds themselves in circumstances they wish they weren’t in,” Scamihorn said.
He did not want to comment on the terminations of Donovan or Leontovich, but said that he was almost certain the board would not object to any of the proposed changes at its meeting Wednesday.
If the board approves the changes to the policy, Scamihorn predicted they will go into effect within the next few days.
IF YOU GO ...
What: Cobb County School Board Meeting
When: Wednesday, Dec. 11
Where: 514 Glover St., Marietta