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.

 

 

 

 

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Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 09:37 pm
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I have been keeping this one

I have been keeping this one under the radar for the most part, at the request of the teacher's lawyers...but based on what I know, if Mrs. M gets canned on this evidence, the CC BOE is gonna have a real mess on their hands. This case stinks to high heaven...and there is nothing but a political vendetta playing out against her. The elected officials may not get this off their shoe IF they step in it.

bmtopalis
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bmtopalis 06/08/10 - 09:56 pm
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I agree, KatieLou... I hope

I agree, KatieLou... I hope she sues the living daylights out of them as well... They should apoligize publicly and clear her name from this terrible situation. I hope and pray the end result is that the corruption in that school district is exposed. A thorough investigation is needed.

schoolparent
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schoolparent 06/08/10 - 09:56 pm
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What is going on with

What is going on with CCBOE??? Recently a teacher was attacked by a student and the BOE denied the attack occurred until parents became involved and now it seems as if a teacher is being unfairly treated and again parents are having to become involved.Things just don't look right at the Hereford Farm location.

KatieLou thank you for the heads up

716
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Barry Paschal 06/08/10 - 09:58 pm
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KatieLou, et al: It's

KatieLou, et al: It's important to point out that just about anywhere OUTSIDE the school system, this firing would have taken place quietly without the right to any sort of hearing. Mrs. Mudrak, by having access to the "fair dismissal" process, is getting latitude that virtually none of us would have if our jobs were threatened. Keep that in mind before branding her as some sort of "victim."

Austin Rhodes
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 10:03 pm
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Barry...I don't know about

Barry...I don't know about her being a "victim" of anything other than a flimsey case, and a principal with a well known bee in his bonnet concerning special ed teachers. This woman has a whole lot of support...but I know that doesn't mean much, because so did OJ. Do you have any insight in this case, or are you just watching as an "uninvested spectator"? Just curious...because what I have heard about all this is disturbing.

bmtopalis
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bmtopalis 06/08/10 - 10:10 pm
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Barry, the right to having

Barry, the right to having access to a "Fair Dismissal" comes along with her 30 years of hard work and dedication as a teacher. Regardless of the venue, if any person (no matter who it may be) was treated as UNJUST as Mrs. Mudrak, it would be PUBLIC NEWS. The public media needs to inform the citizens of unjust doing by any political organization. And a little FYI.... Mrs. Mudrak is a VICTIM here. Austin Rhodes, I agree. It is nothing but a political vendetta!!!

Austin Rhodes
2855
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 10:16 pm
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Barry is 100% correct in that

Barry is 100% correct in that MOST of us work at the whim of our supervisors, Georgia teachers do have a forum to appeal what they believe is an unfair termination. That said, if you don't think the education administrators in this area (some counties more than others) don't have a convoluted system of who they throw Hell at, then you ain't paying attention.

bellanlilli
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 10:19 pm
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Barry, In the business world

Barry, In the business world we have rights. If my manager harrassed me the way Carney has done Mrs. Mudrak, I would bring a law suit against not just the manager but the entire company. So too -- I really hope this guy Carney goes down in flames along with his henge gal Sprouse. And, I think it is time to vote in a whole new school board.

Austin Rhodes
2855
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 10:22 pm
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Unanimous vote.

Unanimous vote. Preponderance of the presented evidence. 4-0 with Rox. Whitaker absent. Mike Sleeper says "Hardest vote I have ever taken"...

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 06/08/10 - 10:25 pm
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4 - 0 vote will be a hard

4 - 0 vote will be a hard appeal to win in the state board.

Austin Rhodes
2855
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 10:28 pm
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I have a feeling this

I have a feeling this decision is gonna hang around for a while...like a fat man's gas in a crowded elevator.

KatieLou
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KatieLou 06/08/10 - 10:31 pm
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Obviously, most of us haven't

Obviously, most of us haven't had access as yet to the evidence in this case, but when it comes to a person with her professional longevity, her intent is of crucial importance. We just don't have enough well-qualified special education teachers to be tossing one of them aside because she made a bad judgment call on something so unrelated to reality as standardized testing of special needs students.

KatieLou
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KatieLou 06/08/10 - 10:34 pm
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And aren't there more than

And aren't there more than four people on the CC school board? 4-0 might be hard to overcome on appeal unless it's clear that this should not have demanded dismissal.

bellanlilli
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 10:37 pm
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This is disgusting,

This is disgusting, disheartening and totally unacceptable.

bmtopalis
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bmtopalis 06/08/10 - 10:40 pm
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This is completely

This is completely disgraceful!!! It's unbelievable and unacceptable. It's disgusting and outrageous...

blukookiemawnster
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blukookiemawnster 06/08/10 - 10:42 pm
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This is absolutely

This is absolutely ridiculous. I have known Margaret Mudrak for over 6 years. She is one of the most hard working and honest people I have ever known. She lives for her students and her family. Stay strong, Mrs. Margaret. You have people who are willing to fight for you until the truth comes out.

Proud American
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Proud American 06/08/10 - 10:47 pm
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I witnessed a witch hunt this

I witnessed a witch hunt this morning! I watched Margaret Mudrak's hearing today and CANNOT believe that this school board could fire Mrs. Mudrak on the flimsy case that they presented today. Her record spoke for itself........not one single blemish on it for 30 years with 10 of those years being spent right there at Lakeside. Makes no sense to me whatsoever! You can bet that I WILL remember this one on election day and I hope that everyone else does too!

ColCo
712
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ColCo 06/08/10 - 10:49 pm
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I heard a good portion of the

I heard a good portion of the evidence today and it was flimsy at best. The board voted to fire her because Nagle and Carney wanted it. I'm not sure that a real jury will agree with their decision.

bellanlilli
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 10:55 pm
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Austin, You state there was a

Austin, You state there was a "preponderance of the presented evidence" and Sleeper said this was hard to vote on. I disagree and feel the evidence was anything but weighty -- that is just inaccurate. Maybe Sleeper said this because this board would rather stick together than do the right thing.

KaTM
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KaTM 06/08/10 - 10:57 pm
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I want to personally thank

I want to personally thank those of you who attended the hearing today and I want to personally thank those of you who are supporting Margaret Mudrak. You see, I know Margaret Mudrak personally. I have been there for every step of this case and I have watched her deal with the vast emotions associated with all the wrong she has faced during this trial. I can say all this with absolute certainty because I am Margaret Mudrak's daughter and I can tell you all that her family and her friends support her 110% and we will NEVER stop fighting until the wrong has been corrected. An injustice was committed today and I hope everyone involved in this case knows and understands that my mom is a great person, teacher, mother, and friend. She did not deserve this and we will NOT LET IT GO! I support Margaret Mudrak, my mother and my friend, do you?

bellanlilli
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 11:00 pm
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ABSOLUTELY... WE SUPPORT

ABSOLUTELY... WE SUPPORT MARGARET MUDRAK now and always. Thanks KaTM.

716
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Barry Paschal 06/08/10 - 11:02 pm
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Actually, bmtopolis, the

Actually, bmtopolis, the right to a fair dismissal hearing comes to any teacher who stays in the system for just THREE years. And, to repeat, most people in the real world would not have been afforded the right to a hearing to decide if we could keep our jobs; we simply would have been told to pack up our belongings and leave. Additionally, we wouldn't have the right to then appeal the firing decision to another body (in this case, the state board of education). We'd be able to fight for unemployment benefits, and not much else. And remember, too; Roy Barnes, when he was governor, abolished the fair-dismissal process. Sonny Perdue reinstated it. Otherwise, Mrs. Mudrak would have been escorted from the building, and that would have been the end of it.

Austin Rhodes
2855
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Austin Rhodes 06/08/10 - 11:05 pm
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...and Barnes was dismissed

...and Barnes was dismissed without a hearing as his reward!

716
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Barry Paschal 06/08/10 - 11:07 pm
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Yes, he was - thereby

Yes, he was - thereby ratifying the value in which teachers hold fair dismissal hearings. Live by the sword, die by the sword - but don't complain about having access to the sword when everyone else doesn't even get a butter knife.

bellanlilli
0
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 11:07 pm
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Actually, Barry Paschal if

Actually, Barry Paschal if you think this was a "fair-dismissal process" then I think you have 'rocks in your head' (as the saying goes)! Sorry, but this mess sounds anything but fair to me.

716
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Barry Paschal 06/08/10 - 11:15 pm
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Sorry for your

Sorry for your misunderstanding, bellanlilli, but the formal name for the process is "fair dismissal." What was held today was a "fair dismissal" hearing, afforded as a right to "tenured" teachers when they are terminated. The phrase isn't my opinion; it's just what the process is called.

bellanlilli
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bellanlilli 06/08/10 - 11:12 pm
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Fair enough.

Fair enough.

KatieLou
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KatieLou 06/08/10 - 11:14 pm
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Still, it works well even as

Still, it works well even as a double entendre.

And I don't think Barnes got the message.

Little Lamb
45398
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Little Lamb 06/08/10 - 11:25 pm
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Barnes will be hard to beat

Barnes will be hard to beat in November. That is scary and sad.

gaspringwater
3
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gaspringwater 06/08/10 - 11:27 pm
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Sounds like the voters of

Sounds like the voters of Columbia county needs to clean up the BOE. It's doubtful they're serving the children's best interest. Politics as usual I guess!

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