It’s time for Cobb school board, super to call off the dogs
May 08, 2013 12:39 AM | 2532 views | 0 0 comments | 15 15 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Cobb educators can breathe a little easier — but only a little — in the wake of last week’s decision by the Cobb County School District to dismiss a long string of charges against Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford. The system had “thrown the book” at Crawford (a 21-year veteran educator), accusing him of incompetency, insubordination and willful neglect of duty for not promptly reporting an alleged off-campus sexual assault involving two seventh graders.

The District’s decision comes on the heels of the news that the Cobb solicitor general’s office had dismissed similar charges against former Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan, who saw her career end under a cloud after 34 years spent educating Cobb’s children. Her alleged mistake was her failure to report that a former teacher had slapped a student’s backside and another student’s face while in the classroom. But the solicitor determined there was insufficient evidence to prove she had “willfully and knowingly” failed to promptly report the information.

Still pending is the case of Tapp Middle School Principal Dr. Jerry Dority (a 28-year school veteran) and counselor Yatta Collins. The two are charged with failing to report that a child was molested and attempted suicide. Both were later fired for failing to report information that Collins heard second-hand and Dority third-hand.

As we have noted in this space before, hearsay evidence is inadmissible in a U.S. court of law — but it is sufficient grounds to fire seasoned teachers and principals in Cobb County.

The hopeful news, slender though it may be, is that some in the system might finally be beginning to see the light, as evidenced by the decision to drop the charges against Crawford. But such a change in heart seems to have come too late for Dority and Collins, two educators that the system’s human resources department threw to the wolves.

School Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn recently told this newspaper that “if policies and procedures need to be changed, then that needs to be what happens. … I feel like that whatever the issues are, they need to be looked at in the immediate future.”

Such comments are a good start. And the decision to drop the charges against Crawford was another good step. But it should have been evident to all of the board and Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa well before now that the system’s integrity and reputation were being blackened by the central office’s overzealous enforcement of the state’s “failure to report” law.

Those prosecutions have not only come close to ruining the careers and reputations of respected Cobb educators, but also wasted the system’s resources. In addition, they now very possibly have put Cobb taxpayers on the hook for the legal fees those unjustly accused by the system have incurred while trying to defend themselves.

Instead of placid deference to the superintendent, the school board needs to assert its authority and tell him to call off the dogs, so to speak.

Cobb’s teachers and principals shouldn’t have to constantly be looking over their shoulders. Their jobs are difficult enough already.

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