Board of Education to tackle staff discipline policy
by Hannah Morgan
December 10, 2013 12:10 AM | 3796 views | 11 11 comments | 14 14 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Randy Scamihorn
Randy Scamihorn
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If all goes as planned Wednesday, School Board Chairman Randy Scamihorn said Cobb school teachers will no longer be fired for accusations made against them unless they have been proven guilty.

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.

Unjust dismissals

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

Comments
(11)
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Carol D3
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December 11, 2013
GUILTY UNTIL PROVEN INNOCENT IS MY MOTTO. ATTEND ONE OF MY MEETINGS AND WATCH ME BUTCHER THE ENGLISH LANGUAGE. I LOVE little ricky.
BLinda McKleskey
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December 10, 2013
Will this new policy apply to the Transportation Dept? That dept needs an overhaul starting at the top.
Bus Driver
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December 10, 2013
If you work in Transportation here are a couple things to consider- show up for work and do your job! if you do that- no worries!. if you want to slack off and not work, then you need to go away! I am tired of working next to people that complain and say management is the issue. YOU are the issue!
Martha Cambell
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December 11, 2013
Grisham created a layer of bureaucracy called field coordinators that was not necessary. Cherokee and Fulton exist without this layer. You have despicable people in charge {FC} of college grads and they show their ignorance on a daily basis. Great people have been lost because of this layer. Wake up little ricky.
Grand Jury
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December 12, 2013
"It must be noted that the drivers and mechanics work in an environment of intimidation and 'virtual fear' of losing their jobs - it is palpable and we heard and saw it time and time again," jurors wrote. "It is high time that the School Board and all levels of management below them hear and understand this. To allow this atmosphere to continue unabated is the grossest form of mismanagement."

about time
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December 10, 2013
there are principals in west cobb that are as guilty as Tracy doe. Maybe the school board should check the different principals track record and see how many employees they have gotten rid of in the last five or six years. I have seen many good teachers let go who were excellent teachers, but the principals did not like them so she would get her spies to go look for things that they did do wrong and then the principal would use it against them. the trouble is that the principal does not know what a good teacher is. she just wants ones that will suck up to her and do what she wants them to do. It is time to evaluate some of the principals.
former ccsd
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December 10, 2013
I agree...they should look at the principals too. Timber Ridge was a school with very little turnover until about the second or third year Doe was there. Once she felt comfortable in her position, she went after innocent people with a vengeance - teachers, food service, paras, custodians, anyone she decided she didn't like for whatever reason. Got rid of at least 7 or 8 people within a two year time frame. Long term employees with never any previous disciplinary actions against them and with great annual evaluations. It's a shame what they let these principals get away with. Their reputation is already in the toilet and when some of the many lawsuits pending against Doe come to court, they will regret the day they promoted her.
anonymous
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December 10, 2013
how many of these teachers used all of their sick pay each year?
About time!
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December 10, 2013
Better late than never! It's about the time the BOE finally stepped in to change the "hang em all" culture in CCSD HR. Congratulations to the Board for trying to do the right thing!
former ccsd
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December 10, 2013
Too bad they didn't think about enforcing these policies before Tracie Doe did all the damage to peoples lives she did at Timber Ridge. No one at that school did anything so bad that they should have lost their jobs after years and years of service to CCSD, yet she had the power to have them terminated or force them to resign for nothing but vindictive reasons. And now that tyrant is at the county level. Unbelievable. I'm sure she will be on her best behavior for awhile, but boy, when she starts feelings comfortable there, watch out. Maybe these "new" policies will keep her in check.
Oh boy
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December 10, 2013
the trouble is that I think that way of thinking is coming right down front the top leader in the CCSd because it is so rampant throughout the CCSD.
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