Board upholds teacher dismissal

Tuesday, June 8, 2010 10:27 AM
Last updated 10:25 PM
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Columbia County school officials voted late tonight to uphold the termination of Lakeside High School teacher Margaret Mudrak, accused of helping special needs students cheat on tests.

Lakeside High School special education teacher Margaret Mudrak (left) sits with her attorneys Freddie Sanders and Zeva Bruckner during opening remarks in her termination due process hearing at the Columbia County School Board office.  Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Lakeside High School special education teacher Margaret Mudrak (left) sits with her attorneys Freddie Sanders and Zeva Bruckner during opening remarks in her termination due process hearing at the Columbia County School Board office.

Her attorney said she would appeal the decision to the state board. The vote was 4-0 with board member Roxanne Whitaker absent.

Mudrak "inappropriately" helped as many as four special needs students with a math test, as evidenced by their similar answers on the quiz, said Columbia County School Board attorney Pete Fletcher.

Mudrak also failed to follow mandated plans for special needs students, called the Individual Education Plan, made inappropriate amendments to those plans and provided too much assistance to a student who had failed another test, Fletcher said in his opening statement.

One of Mudrak’s students, identified on the stand only as “A.H.,” testified that Mudrak guided him toward specific answers during testing.

Mudrak went so far as to work through the problem for him and then tell him, “write this on the answer sheet,” said the 16-year-old rising junior.

School officials presented test scores for that test from Mudrak’s special ed students, showing they had a 92 average. Two other regular ed classes taking the same test averaged 84 and 73, they noted.

Mudrak's defense attorneys in rebuttal called to the witness stand another student, identified only as "A.R.," who said on the day of testing that he neither received any help from Mudrak nor saw any other students receive help.

A.R. said he scored 100 on the test.

In earlier testimony, Lakeside High Assistant Principal Melanie Sprouse said Mudrak helped students during the tests by giving "specific points to students that led to answers." Sprouse said one student told her Mudrak directed her to erase an incorrect answer on a test.
After Mudrak pushed for a special needs student to retake a math exam, Sprouse agreed to administer the test in April.
On test day, Sprouse testified, the student arrived with sheets containing information he could not keep during the exam. The handwriting on the sheets looked like that of Mudrak's, Sprouse said.
The veteran teacher's attorney, Freddie Sanders, disputed the charges and said the similarities in students' answers were the natural result of Mudrak's teaching methods.
As far as helping the student receive a retest, Sanders said it was indicative of the 30-year teacher's desire to "help her students to a fault."
On cross examination, Sanders got Sprouse to admit that she witnessed no wrongdoing by Mudrak.

School officials recently recommended firing Mudrak, but as a tenured teacher she is entitled to a hearing to fight the charges against her. The members of the county's school board serve as judges in such cases.

A crowd of supporters were attending today's hearing for Mudrak, who also serves as a boys lacrosse coach for Lakeside.

 

 

 

 

Comments (75)

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disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/08/10 - 11:05 am
0
0

Don't fire her for doing

Don't fire her for doing something wrong. I wonder what would have happened if the mentally ill students were allowed to testify? Would we see that sometimes these kids are so bad off that they don't really grasp what is being said to them? Why aren't the kids allowed as much time as they want? Actually any test should be given without a time limit unless it is a test on life saving.

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 06/08/10 - 12:05 pm
0
0

While Mrs. Mudrack does have

While Mrs. Mudrack does have a slightly abrasive personality, I believe her to be a very well intended person and sincerely hope she didn't cross the line here. I am curious what tests this supposedly happened on? Was it a classroom test? A standardized test? Depending on a child's 504 plan, there could be grey areas around the type of help she is to provide. If she is wrong, so be it but I would hate to see anyone's career ruined if there is any ambiguity.

Dixieman
10350
Points
Dixieman 06/08/10 - 01:54 pm
0
0

I do not want anyone teaching

I do not want anyone teaching my kids who condones, encourages or allows cheating. Kids get a moral education at school (or should) in addition to an academic education. If a teacher sets a bad example by cheating or assisting students in doing so, he or she does not belong in front of a classroom.

bellanlilli
0
Points
bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 01:19 pm
0
0

This is beyond belief. The

This is beyond belief. The single test in question was a classroom test and NO cheating was involved. We are talking conjecture here rather than fact. If the outcome of this kangaroo debacle is negative for Mrs. Mudrak, then I would say WATCH OUT FOR THE AXE TO DROP because as sure as it is day, it will. This is much bigger than one teacher. All the parents of Lakeside students need to wake up. Aren't our students deserving of experienced teachers? I think this is a way to remove experience and go with CHEAP or maybe a way to do away with the program all together (if 'they' get away with it). The "buck" is most certainly the underlying motive here.

Martinez
154
Points
Martinez 06/08/10 - 01:32 pm
0
0

I do not believe the admin at

I do not believe the admin at Lakeside are looking to rid the school of experienced teachers. I think it is more likely that this particular teacher was not as agreeable or likable as others and thus the admin is using this opportunity to resolve it. Writing study notes for a student to prepare for the test is certainly not illegal and in some cases is recommended depending on the child's learning disability. Now if she did tell students to erase wrong answers, that is a problem.

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 02:32 pm
0
0

The prosecuting attorney

The prosecuting attorney needs to prove intent on this one.

When dealing with special needs children and forcing them to take tests that are ridiculous for them, there are always tons of judgment calls on how much and what kind of help can be given, even with good IEPs in place.

So many of these tests don't measure what a special needs student knows on a particular subject but, instead, simply how well they read or handle filling in a blinding number of tiny circles on an answer sheet. A kid who can easily handle algebra concepts might never be able to memorize the multiplication tables. Do we want to test only reading ability, or visual-spacial discrimination, or multiplication, or do we want to find out what a kid actually knows?

If they don't like her method, is there some reason they can't instruct Mudrak to do things differently instead of destroying her career? If she refuses, then that would be the time to fire her.

I've dealt with special education in public schools, and I can't tell you how "hit or miss" it is. If someone is good at it and actually makes a positive difference for students, s/he is a treasure and should be offered every incentive to stay. This kind of thing just makes people nervous.

redapples
443
Points
redapples 06/08/10 - 02:44 pm
0
0

We need more facts AC

We need more facts AC reporter. Give us more details. How did this situation first come to light? Was this GHSGT testing? How many students corroborate the story? Are the students testifying? If not, isn't this just a lot of hearsay and circumstantial evidence? Students are notorious for being dramatic and exaggerating situations, but when pressed, such as testifying, the truth may not be as it once seemed. Afterall, this is high school.

onecatfish
5
Points
onecatfish 06/08/10 - 03:18 pm
0
0

katielou There is no

Unpublished

katielou
There is no prosecuting attorney in this case. This is not a court of law.

Just My Opinion
4637
Points
Just My Opinion 06/08/10 - 03:24 pm
0
0

Don't forget folks, Mike

Don't forget folks, Mike Sleeper is involved in this and he IS a witch-hunter when it comes to teachers. The man must've had a bad experience in school, that's all I can say. I'm surprised his name isn't all over this article because he loves publicity so much. Maybe he's trying to back off this thing so his name isn't connected again?

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 03:32 pm
0
0

Whatever, onecatfish. Don't

Whatever, onecatfish. Don't you have something worthwhile to add?

oh man
0
Points
oh man 06/08/10 - 04:19 pm
0
0

when did it become a crime

when did it become a crime for a teacher to give a little extra help on a classroom test by way of asking another question and or saying or you really sure that is what you want to be on the answer sheet. Teachers who care are being riden straight out of the school system for those who play the game. We have seen over the years lakeside is more about playing hte game than actually doing anything right. The list of problems within the admin of that school is astounding yet they are prosecuting this teacher for actually caring about special needs children. What a world we live in when its ok to cheat in football; allow students who live in other districts to play; promote alcohol in the sports program yet this teacher is going through this for helping; HELPING special needs.

bellanlilli
0
Points
bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 05:30 pm
0
0

This is maddening AC reporter

This is maddening AC reporter -- give us an update. What happened in court today.

Riverman1
70308
Points
Riverman1 06/08/10 - 05:42 pm
0
0

Onecatfish said, "There is no

Onecatfish said, "There is no prosecuting attorney in this case. This is not a court of law."

Could have fooled me. School system attorney acting for them and trying to have her firing upheld. BOE members acting as "judges."

No one likes cheating, but the kicker in this whole matter is that they were special needs kids where the rules allow you to help them on tests. The degree of help can be debated, but the very fact it's allowed opens the door to subjective interpretations of what is proper.

I do think there is another question here. Should these kids be tested? What's the purpose? Couldn't other methods of evaluation be used?

bellanlilli
0
Points
bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 05:44 pm
0
0

Just learned through the

Just learned through the grapevine that the session is still going from early this morning.

AEinstein
5
Points
AEinstein 06/08/10 - 05:46 pm
0
0

Dissman - these are not

Dissman - these are not mentally ill students. They have learning differences and they are protected by the Americans with Disabilities Act, just as anyone with a physical disability is. Educational tests are given to determine if these students meet the parameters for accommodations. If they do, then they may receive accommodations such as longer testing time, computer software that reads to them if there is a reading disability, allowing a student to audio tape class, someone else taking notes for them, etc. These students would not be in a regular high school classroom if they "couldn't understand what was being said to them."

Part of the problem here is that our public school system is set up to punish or reward school administrators based on test scores of students -thanks to No Child Left Behind and other brilliant progressive education programs. Students with learning differences are given accommodations to help them along in the system, never addressing or trying to correct the underlying learning problem. These teachers that work with these students have a very difficult challenge. They are dealing with students who are not only a teaching challenge because of the learning differences, but who are also anxious and/or depressed because they are not performing at the rate of their classmates. This causes behavioral issues in addition to the normal high school behavioral issues that the teacher must also deal with.

Lakeside is getting a new chief administrator and hopefully, this new one will be better than the last. Unfortunately for those of us in Columbia County, the previous administrator has moved to the board office to continue his shenanigans. He tried to have the State remove this teacher from her position a few years ago, but the State found no fault. This is his last chance before he leaves Lakeside completely and it appears that he is still grasping at straws.

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 05:48 pm
0
0

ON TARGET, Riverman, with

ON TARGET, Riverman, with every point.

redapples
443
Points
redapples 06/08/10 - 06:26 pm
0
0

Thank you, "bell". I am

Thank you, "bell". I am anxiously waiting for the results, too!

corgimom
19141
Points
corgimom 06/08/10 - 07:27 pm
0
0

If a child needs special

If a child needs special education, it's because for whatever reason, they cannot handle a mainstream classroom setting. Behavioral, physical, mental- it doesn't matter.

So why would anyone think that they could handle a standardized test?

If they could do them without extra, specific help, why would they need a special education teacher in the first place?

disssman
6
Points
disssman 06/08/10 - 07:48 pm
0
0

I think the real question for

I think the real question for both Richmond and Columbia school systems is "why is the teacher of a class allowed to oversee any testing of the subject matter. I would suggect that a non-biased teacher (one already in another class probably administering their class a test also) be appointed as test proctor. That way there is no question of the teacher providing changes to answers or answering test questions. Lets face it, she probably has a potential financial stake in the outcome if all students excell. I would think that is logically how raises are awarded, but I could be wrong. How do teachers get raises anyway? Anyone know?

schoolparent
114
Points
schoolparent 06/08/10 - 08:13 pm
0
0

Riverman, I agree that it

Riverman, I agree that it looks more like a trial than a hearing and it does seem that there would be another way to evaluate these children.
I do not understand why some people are being sequestered for a hearing,is that a standard practice and if so why isn't Charles Nagle being sequestered.Can someone explain this?

Just My Opinion
4637
Points
Just My Opinion 06/08/10 - 08:25 pm
0
0

Well, I might be wrong, but I

Well, I might be wrong, but I think that the longer this goes on, the better it bodes for this teacher's case. If the Board's attorney had better "evidence", then I think it'd be open and shut. But, apparently, the teacher's attorney has been able to counter every accusation brought against her. I'm still waiting for a quote in tomorrow's paper by Mike Sleeper!

corgimom
19141
Points
corgimom 06/08/10 - 08:51 pm
0
0

"And, onecatfish, if Corgi

"And, onecatfish, if Corgi disagrees with you, she will distort your point and then mock it --and you-- for being stupid."

Katie, post up here where I have called you stupid. You can't, because I haven't. And post where I've mocked you. You can't do that, either. Because I didn't.

I think it's hysterically funny that you think that I have a patron at the AC- considering I live 165 miles away from Augusta- and is indicative as to your thought patterns and maturity level.

However, how you feel about yourself is entirely up to you, and is your responsibility- not mine.

Now, you know, you DO have the option of ignoring my posts. But if it makes you feel better to call me mean, hey, works for me. I graduated from middle school 40 years ago, so I can handle it.

You just can't make this stuff up, you know?

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 08:56 pm
0
0

Ahhhhhhhhhh.... Well, anyway,

Ahhhhhhhhhh....

Well, anyway, some special ed students are able to take and complete standardized tests if the accommodations and modifications on their IEPs are implemented. Some of these include helping them deal with scantron answer sheets, like pointing out where they have gone off track in matching the answer being chosen with the correct question number, or being given as much time as they need to finish, or having the questions read to them and their answers written down for them.

It's all being done for the sake of federal funding and for no other reason. The tests are a waste of time and energy for almost all of these students, but NCLB is not what anyone with a brain would call a reasonable plan for educating children.

schoolparent
114
Points
schoolparent 06/08/10 - 08:56 pm
0
0

I don't understand why my

I don't understand why my previous comment was removed.Is it common practice to sequester people for a hearing?Why are some people being sequestered but not Charles Nagle?

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 09:09 pm
0
0

Corgi, babe, just re-read

Corgi, babe, just re-read your last comment if you really need an example of how insulting you regularly are with other commenters. "Thought patterns", "maturity level", insinuating my tongue-in-cheek stating of the obvious (to whit: "...you're also mean") is on a par with "middle school" are not meant to be insulting? Oh, yeah. I'm sure everyone would see it just that way.

I think you have a pretty good idea by now of the level of my "thought processes", and perhaps you find it challenging, hence the constant attack mode.

@Just My Opinion: I agree with your assessment.

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 09:11 pm
0
0

Schoolparent, Sean Moores is

Schoolparent, Sean Moores is not the only "moderator" who reviews comments, and the one who's on duty this evening is not particularly skilled or discerning, IMO.

bellanlilli
0
Points
bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 09:12 pm
0
0

I do not understand why

I do not understand why anyone would be "sequestered" if this is not a trial. They claim it is a hearing. Does this mean they are put in one room to confer with each other on what to say and not to say (coordinating their answers????). And, I thought someone said the Principal (i.e. Carney) will be on the Board in the Fall. So what?..., are all these people in cohoots together?

bmtopalis
0
Points
bmtopalis 06/08/10 - 09:20 pm
0
0

I'd like to give all of you a

I'd like to give all of you a little background on "Mrs. Mudrak" and where she comes from. I've known "Margaret Mudrak" most of her life. She is my cousin, and I am damn proud of it! Margaret happens to come from an EXCEPTIONAL FAMILY who's COMMITMENT TO EDUCATION goes ABOVE AND BEYOND. How dare any of you to make such accusations about a woman who has dedicated most of her adult life to teaching children. Margaret has put her heart and soul into her life-long ambition as a teacher. It is very obvious that there is "corruption" going on in this school district. The Augusta Chronicle should scrutinize the principal and the assistant principal for possible "foul play". The question is: Why now? After 30 somewhat years, which is over 3 decades of dedicated scholastic leadership -- all of a sudden Margaret is getting accused of cheating? I don't think so. Sounds like a bunch of crap to me. There is definitely more to this story, and my poor cousin is caught in the middle of a political scandal. The school board should be ashamed of themselves for their "greed" and biased opinions. Not to mention... Margaret's students adore her. They look up to her. Do her students have to go through the anguish, pain and suffering because their "favorite teacher" might not be there anymore? These children need her, they are used to her ways and her excellent methods of teaching. The parents of these children should demand that the allegations that have been brought against Mrs. Mudrak be DISMISSED. Margaret, stay strong and focused. Our family is prepared to fight until the truth about what really goes on in this school district is revealed. We love you!!!

ColCo
460
Points
ColCo 06/08/10 - 09:22 pm
0
0

Local tv, radio and newspaper

Local tv, radio and newspaper covered this proceeding from start to finish. It will be interesting to see, hear and read their take on the evidence, which was flimsy at best.

KatieLou
0
Points
KatieLou 06/08/10 - 09:36 pm
0
0

I hope she sues the living

I hope she sues the living daylights out of these people for putting her through this. I'd hate to see the citizens of Columbia Co. footing the bill for that, but perhaps she would settle for a token amount and a public apology.

Call Elaine Shinn at RCBOE Central Office about how to deal with shenanigans and corruption in a CSRA school system.

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