Hearing continues over Langford teacher's contract

Defense will present reasons for renewal

A hearing on whether to renew the contract of a physical education teacher accused of demeaning students and grading them based on behavior will continue today.

Langford Middle School teacher Larry Woodland is accused of punishing students for their behavior with lower grades, and referring to students as "stupid" and "arrogant," according to board attorney Pete Fletcher.

Superintendent Dana Bedden recommended that Woodland's contract not be renewed for next school year.

Woodland, who has taught for 19 years, is contesting the decision.

Bedden cited an incident in March where Woodland used his cell phone to get his class to behave.

Students believed that Woodland was taking photographs and videos with the phone, but administrators learned that he only pretended to take photos.

"He has created a bad, negative environment for students, staff and parents," Bedden said.

For nearly 12 hours Thursday, board members heard testimony from parents, students and staff that claimed Woodland treated students unfairly, disrespected parents and colleagues and broke the school system's code of ethics.

Virginia Bradshaw, the executive director of middle schools, testified that Woodland believed his reprimands were due to Langford Principal Vicki Reese's desire to have a female P.E. teacher hired this school year. "He (Woodland) did not feel he had been treated fairly all year," Bradshaw testified. "He didn't feel he belonged at Langford."

Bradshaw and Reese both received complaints about Woodland's grading system from parents, Bradshaw said. Once his grade books were reviewed, Bradshaw said Reese could not "make sense" of how he came up with some of the grades.

Administrators asked Woodland to recalculate grades on two occasions, and began receiving complaints about his teaching beginning last fall, Bradshaw said.

The defense will present its case beginning at 8:30 a.m. today in the Richmond County Board of Education headquarters, located at 864 Broad St.

Cross Creek Case

The Georgia Professional Standards Commission decided Thursday to further examine a judge's ruling involving a Cross Creek High School Spanish teacher accused of making inappropriate and suggestive comments to students.

"The commission voted to review the case in a hearing before the entire commission," Gary Walker, the deputy executive secretary for the PSC, wrote in an e-mail.

The complaint against Edwin Perez was filed with the PSC in October 2008 after a student allegation. Thursday's decision followed a May 24 ruling by an administrative hearing judge, who reduced to a reprimand an earlier finding by the PSC that there was cause to consider suspending Perez's teaching certificate for up to a year. The judge forwarded his ruling to the PSC for their consideration.

The PSC will hear more evidence and will rule whether further appeals should be filed. Walker said the next meeting will occur July 8.

-- Preston Sparks, staff writer

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