4 educators under probe by state PSC
by Jon Gillooly
February 07, 2014 04:00 AM | 11029 views | 15 15 comments | 26 26 recommendations | email to a friend | print
Angela Huff
Angela Huff
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MARIETTA — Four educators named in a former Cobb School District investigator’s letter to Superintendent Michael Hinojosa are under investigation by the Georgia Professional Standards Commission.

But one name is conspicuous by its absence: that of Hinojosa’s chief of staff, Angela Huff.

The school district filed complaints with the Professional Standards Commission against former Kell High School principal Trudie Donovan, former Lindley Middle School principal Sandra Ervin, former Tapp Middle School Principal Jerry Dority and Doug Lipscomb, Wheeler High School’s head basketball coach, said John Grant, the PSC’s chief investigator.

The Professional Standards Commission is the organization that issues and revokes a teaching license. Its 18 members are appointed by the governor.

“The commission found that evidence against all four warranted an investigation,” said Grant, who declined to give the nature of the evidence.

Mary Finlayson served as the school district’s chief investigator but was fired in May 2013 because, according to her lawyer, she blew the whistle on “deeply troubling and likely illegal conduct.”

Finlayson said Michael Shanahan, the school district’s human resources director, shut down an active investigation into allegations a teacher was being pulled out of class in 2011 to work on doctoral dissertations for her school’s principal, Sandra Ervin, and Ervin’s boss, then-assistant superintendent Angela Huff.

Yet, while the school district filed a complaint with the PSC against Ervin, it did not file one against

Huff, Grant said.

The MDJ asked Jay Dillon, school district spokesman, why it didn’t file a complaint against Huff when she was accused of the same misconduct as Ervin.

“The school district cannot comment on specific personnel issues,” Dillon said.

The cases of Donovan and Dority involve accusations of failure to report allegations of student abuse, while Lipscomb was accused of failing to report a student suspected of marijuana use, according to Finlayson’s letter to Hinojosa.

Donovan, Dority, Lipscomb sanctioned

Grant, the PSC investigator, said his office’s investigation into Ervin remains unfinished, while the ones on Donovan, Dority and Lipscomb are complete.

The findings on the three were brought to the commission, which voted to levy sanctions. Grant would not say what those sanctions are.

He did say Donovan, Dority and Lipscomb have all appealed the commission’s decision to the Office of State Administrative Hearings where an administrative law judge will make a ruling.

“The educator has said, ‘I contest this sanction and I’m asking for a hearing,’” Grant said.

Representing the PSC at the hearing is Georgia Attorney General Sam Olens. Olens’ spokeswoman, Lauren Kane, said the hearings for Donovan, Dority and Lipscomb have yet to be scheduled.

To obtain her requirement for the degree of doctor of philosophy, Huff submitted a dissertation proposal, titled a “Principal’s Perceptions of Readiness for their Evolving Role in Today’s Schools,” to The University of Southern Mississippi.

The MDJ asked Jim Coll, the university’s spokesman, if any red flags were noticed during the review of Huff’s doctoral work. Coll was also asked under what circumstances is a doctoral student allowed to have help in the preparation of a dissertation.

“The university expects students to write their own dissertations; however, limited assistance in the form of reviewing, editing or presentation development is not uncommon,” he said.

In her letter to Hinojosa, Finlayson writes that her office in March 2012 was investigating Ervin, the Lindley principal, who later resigned in lieu of termination.

“During that investigation, allegations were made Sandra Ervin was using a full time allotted teacher that was being paid to teach in a classroom, to instead work on Ms. Ervin’s doctoral dissertation and powerpoint presentation during the teacher’s workday in the office,” Finlayson said. “We confirmed that this did take place through interviews and computer records.”

Finlayson goes on to say that during the course of the investigation she discovered Ervin’s boss, Huff, had been doing the same thing. Yet, when she recommended to the district’s human resources director, Shanahan, that more investigation was needed and that she was obligated to turn the matter over to the PSC, Shanahan “directed me that this matter was over and would not be investigated.”

“He did not pursue this investigation and covered it up after directing me to not pursue the matter any further,” Finlayson wrote in the letter.

What Shanahan did do was fire Finlayson in May 2013.

Cobb Board of Education Chairwoman Kathleen Angelucci said she expects Hinojosa, who announced his resignation this week, to brief the board on the matter at Wednesday’s school board meeting.

Before that, the board will have a special meeting from 2 to 4 p.m. Saturday to decide how to respond to Hinojosa’s announcement that his last day will be May 31.

Comments
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momcomment
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February 09, 2014
There is also the active recruiting of players by the Walton Basketball coach. I heard he got caught and at least one of his recruits was not allowed to play. Then this boy, ends up at a private boarding school in Indiana. Kid was on free lunch at another Cobb School.
Time for changes
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February 07, 2014
As a teacher in CCSD, I am embarrassed and disgusted. The county has been playing these games for a long time. I pray Angelucci will clean house and open an investigation. I am saddened that Scamihorn thinks the board should stay out of the situation. The board should step in when illegal things are happening, and it is disgusting that Angela Huff was promoted after she used county money to pull a teacher out of class to do her work. This county is an embarrassment, and we need to stop the craziness. Let Hinojosa go today, fire Huff, and clear out the county office. Done!
Mike In Smyrna
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February 07, 2014
I do not have a child in the school system. I do pay the school tax. From the articles that I read in the MDJ and from the comments that are posted, the BoE is in a state of disarray. Why not have the DA impanel a special grand jury and release the findings to the public. Let the chips fall where they may.
Cobb Educated
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February 07, 2014
I know of several teachers who have left the CCSD and gone to other counties. Also, I know of several KSU graduates who did not want to work for the CCSD when they graduated. The reputation of administrators at Glover St. and many principals within Cobb is well known among teachers. And when you have lived in this county all your life as I have, you have talked to many people and read and seen lots of things. The news for the CCSD has been more bad than good for several years now. There is NO excuse for that.

Hinojosa's departure is the perfect time to restore the CCSD to its respected status. Stop with the favoritism, intimidation, politics and wasteful spending. We have already come too close to being in the same category as the Clayton & DeKalb county school districts.
A Cobb parent
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February 07, 2014
I urge everyone to attend the meeting Wednesday to let the board know how you feel about this situation. Hinojosa made more than the president of the United States. Put that in perspective. Now he resigns right after the snow debacle and just before these articles went to press. Interesting? Oh and the board thought there was an investigation going on into these allegations. Really? Thats hilarious. Come on....
Get Doe Too
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February 07, 2014
I think kall area supers should be tossed or investigated. With all of these accussations coming out at the same time, it is looking very peculiar. With Hinny on his way out, now is a perfect time for people to speak up without repercussion. Someone look at Doe while you are at it. If she is willing to cover up McEachern's illegal recruiting, there is no telling what else she is hiding. Why is it so hard for these people to tell the truth??? We have got to find people that actually have some integrity. This is absolutely ridiculous.These people are getting paid well, so why are they so corrupt?
Califgirl
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February 07, 2014
She needs to be dismissed as well. The Superintendent is probably protecting her because he was the one who extended her job before he announced his retirement. More cover up on the part of the administration and to our School Board - Go Get them!
It's Time
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February 07, 2014
Cobb County Schools can be the excellent school that we know it to be if we just simply clean house. Let's rid ourselves of these good old boys/girls, asst. area superintendents and save much funds. It is ttime for a change and now that Hinojosa is leaving, what better time?
Just Wait
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February 07, 2014
Don't know if it is their jurisdiction, but they should also investigate Mary Finlayson.
Been Around
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February 08, 2014
Yes they should. She used personnel records for her own personal gain too -involving her children. Very unethical woman!
One more Mary victim
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February 10, 2014
I would love to see her investigated for unethical and illegal practices. I was one of her many victims and lost alot because of her, she needs face the music as well. I truly want to see all of her victims gather together for a class action lawsuit.
Cobb Teacher
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February 07, 2014
Working for Mrs. Ervin and her entire administration staff was a nightmare! Daily bullying, forcing teachers to work extremely long hours. The environment was very toxic. I am waiting on the day that Alan Lavizzo name to come up for his role in this! He played a major role in the enforcement of punishment upon the staff if they did not follow Ervins rules and break many laws! One that I remember well was when they would ask the teachers to take up money from students to fund their game playing, and God knows what else without making any records of this money what so ever. There were people that were in Ervins circle such as Coach Simmons, that she would allow to make money transactions with students such as paying gambling debts to students parents on a regular basis via football sheet. Please do not overlook that daily candy store on wheels, and you better allow him to disrupt your learning environment or Lavizzo was coming down with the whip. Students were allowed to have sex in the building unreported to district personal. Teachers were forced to work through their lunch periods and planning without any break throughout the day unless you were in her circle. Wow how Karma comes around so quick! Sure she is not walking around now forcing people to call her Ms MacBeautiful anymore. Even though Lavizzo was investigated for sexual misconduct prior to his placement at Lindley, he never changed once he arrived. He made me sick on my stomach daily with his sexual misconduct!
Former Cobb Teacher
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February 07, 2014
I worked for Ms. Ervin for one year and felt the same way. Definitely a bully and disrespectful to parents as well. I remember once, we were all getting ready to walk out for the day since it was 2:45 and she calls a staff meeting at 2:44 and said it would last until 4:00. Anyone who didn't stay would be written up. It was a horrible environment to work in which is one reason I don't work in Cobb anymore. I moved from Riverside to Harmony Leland. Did not have the cream of the crop when it came to authority. I would be surprised if SACS doesn't come in now and investigate.
Cobb Teacher
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February 07, 2014
For YEARS I have commented on this board about Angela Huff and how she cheat and bullies staff members. She needs to GO. NOW.
Wife/CobbCtyTeacher
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February 07, 2014
I have heard many stories of how Ms. Ervin misused her authority and how she felt as though she was above all in what she did. A very demeaning person with too much power and not enough intellect to determine that power does not equate to a superior being. I for one do not revel in the downfall of anyone. However, I am sure there are others who are delighted to read this article.
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