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.