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Lakeside High teacher's dismissal upheld

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The Columbia County school board voted Tuesday night to uphold the termination of a Lakeside High School teacher accused of helping special needs students cheat on tests.

Lakeside High School special education teacher Margaret Mudrak sits with her attorneys, Freddie Sanders and Zeva Bruckner, at her termination hearing at the Columbia County school board.   Jim Blaylock/Staff
Jim Blaylock/Staff
Lakeside High School special education teacher Margaret Mudrak sits with her attorneys, Freddie Sanders and Zeva Bruckner, at her termination hearing at the Columbia County school board.

Margaret 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.

The board voted 4-0, with board member Roxanne Whitaker absent, after daylong testimony and an hour and a half of deliberations.

Mudrak's attorney, Freddie Sanders, said the decision would be appealed to the state Board of Education.

In testimony earlier Tuesday, one of Mudrak's students, identified on the stand only as "A.H.," said Mudrak guided him toward 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 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.

In rebuttal, Mudrak's attorneys called to the witness stand another student, identified as "A.R.," who said 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 that Mudrak directed her to erase an incorrect answer.

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 Mudrak's, Sprouse said.

Sanders 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 was entitled to a hearing on the charges against her. The school board members serve as judges in such cases.

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corgimom
48080
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corgimom 06/09/10 - 05:49 am
0
0
This is an absolute shame and

This is an absolute shame and disgrace. A 30 year career destroyed over a meaningless test.

justus4
124
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justus4 06/09/10 - 06:09 am
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Now this is the result of No
Unpublished

Now this is the result of No Child Left Behind (NCLB) and guess who: Yep, ol' GW. He was a so-called (R), but look at the mess he left for teachers and their terrible dilemma when conducting these tests. This teacher just got caught, but any intelligent observer knows that this kinda stuff probably happens more often than most would like to think. However, this termination DOES send the right message about cheating and we would hope other teachers got the message. Oh, but expect the state BOE, on appeal, to fabricate something where she ends up back in the classroom (somewhere else) because that many yrs could prove to be valuable.

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 06/09/10 - 06:39 am
0
0
I have yet to figure out what

I have yet to figure out what test this actually was. There is no mention of it being a graduation, benchmark, or any other standardized test. So I am right here in assuming that this woman lost her job over a regular old test that she or some text book designed? I don't supply answers but I have in the past on classroom test or quizzes sparked their memory by reminding them of something that went along with that particular question or I may say that is wrong you may want to recheck that. So am I too assume that because I don't want to see outright failure in my students that I can no longer help them go in the right direction? Now I do not agree with giving anyone answers that defeats the purpose of learning. If this teacher did that then by all means give her a punishment but to lose her job over it says that somewhere down the line some administrator didn't do THEIR job. So who is to blame here? This woman by law has to be evaluated every year with classroom observations and in the past several years sped is no longer resourced but a co-teaching effort. So just how did this woman get away with all this for 30 plus years? Does anyone think she just started doing what she was accused of overnight? There are administrators and co-teachrs to blame just as much as she is. I find it hard to believe that this just happened this year and this year alone so why was this not known about before. I also fail to understand the big deal over retesting. I personnally don't do this practice because I tell my students well in advance about test and quizzes yet I have been asked by PARENTS if their child can have a retest. They still want one even after I tell them that I provided their child with a weeks notice AND a study guide.

ColCo
1147
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ColCo 06/09/10 - 06:45 am
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The board had to dip into

The board had to dip into reserves to balance the budget, 17 teaching positions were eliminated, here is the real reason that Margaret was terminated. http://chronicle.augusta.com/news/education/2010-06-09/columbia-county-s...

KaTM
0
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KaTM 06/09/10 - 06:56 am
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Justus4: As Margaret Mudrak's

Justus4: As Margaret Mudrak's daughter, I want to say to you that I am highly offended that you would ASSUME the board of education thought they were giving a fair trial last night and that you would say that "she just got caught." Shame on you. To Scoobynews: This test was a teacher made test made by ANOTHER teacher. My mom had NEVER seen the test before that day. And yes, you are correct in saying that she was fired over the exact same things you do on a test. That got her fired... you should consider watching your back. The CCBOE is out for blood.

Dixieman
21454
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Dixieman 06/09/10 - 10:04 am
0
0
George W. Bush got this lady

George W. Bush got this lady fired? Really?? This lady had a lawyer who presumably objected and argued on her behalf. 4-0 is pretty conclusive.
Hmmm...lots of thoughtful, objective comments here. Think I'll go to another board before I am body-slammed, or put on my halter top and go out by the pool (see later posts to explain this cryptic reference).

lifelongresidient
1
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lifelongresidient 06/09/10 - 07:29 am
0
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dixie i agree, GW is not the

dixie i agree, GW is not the blame on this one, MATH IS MATH, 2+2=4, everytime so don't blame this on any past or current president. it this is bush's fault then under no child left behind what type of math was she teaching? as opposed to what she should have been teaching. doesn't the state dept of education review and approve all school curriculum?????

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 06/09/10 - 07:31 am
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KaTM - I am so sorry for what

KaTM - I am so sorry for what happened to your mother. As someone said on a similar story what is the point in even testing some of these kids?? I have had special ed students FAIL every last subject but were promoted based on the fact they were protected by the special education label. So what on earth is the purpose of testing them?? It is extremely frustrating telling the other students that you are going to fail for the year if you don't pass the required classes then they sit back and watch another student lay his head on a desk day after day or not bring a pencil or paper to class all year pass right along with them. The system is flawed and needs to be fixed.

forwhatitsworth
0
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forwhatitsworth 06/09/10 - 07:35 am
0
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Columbia County BOE set a

Columbia County BOE set a scary precedent last night. They fired a teacher for charges (Proven or not) for which every teacher in the county could be fired. We heard the board lawyer over and over read the statement that "asking leading questions, modifying a test(throwing out questions),paraphrasing questions, or giving prompts or clues on a test" (Classroom) constitutes a firing offense! Paperwork not perfect, even though many teachers had problems with this NEW requirement is insubordination and is a firing offense. Fighting for a student to be able to have more time to retest is also in subordination (even if it is in that students IEP.) Will ColCo Schools have many vacancies next year? Or was this just another witch hunt of a good teacher who irritated a principal?

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 06/09/10 - 07:40 am
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lifelong - the state BOE

lifelong - the state BOE revised the standards a few years ago and nothing they did makes much sense. Everything that was fun and interesting to the kids in my subject area was removed. What was left behind was a bunch of stuff that is not found in any of the text books that the county waste so much money on and all lesson have to be made up from scratch by the teacher - right down to the handouts and powerpoints. Schools are nothing like they were 20 or 30 years ago. Now you have to put on an entertainment show just to get these kids to learn. Gone are the days of reading a book or finding out things on your own with the teacher as a guide to help you on your way.

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 06/09/10 - 07:47 am
0
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"We heard the board lawyer

"We heard the board lawyer over and over read the statement that "asking leading questions, modifying a test(throwing out questions),paraphrasing questions, or giving prompts or clues on a test" (Classroom) constitutes a firing offense!"

I guess I need to go read the handbook again because all of this is NEWS to me. Modifying a test is often recommended by the SPED teachers. I was told to give them less questions as part of their IEP. So what are we suppose to follow??? I plan on asking a LOT of questions at the start of the next school year so that I have clarification on this whole matter. I am not giving anyone an excuse to question my testing practices.

bellanlilli
0
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bellanlilli 06/09/10 - 07:56 am
0
0
I agree with ColCo -- this is

I agree with ColCo -- this is not something you can throw under a rug and put everything in a neat box with the title of GW on top. This is far more sinister and the voters of the county need to rid themselves of this school board. They stick together no matter right or wrong. Just remember everyone's neck is in a noose so expect to see more 'cuts' like this.

Little Lamb
53941
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Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 07:57 am
0
0
4 - 0 vote will be a hard

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

themaninthemirror
0
Points
themaninthemirror 06/09/10 - 08:22 am
0
0
If the same four students

If the same four students missed the same four questions and had the same answers and also had the same answers on the ones they got right, there might be a little merit in this case. But, what if all the students had scored 100% on the test? I think the she was forced out. After thirty years as a teacher shouldn't she be able to receive retirement benefits? Terrible way to retire, but it may not be worth the trouble to fight it , other than to clear her name.

belle
325
Points
belle 06/09/10 - 08:25 am
0
0
I am frightened to admit it
Unpublished

I am frightened to admit it but....I understand Justus' point. No, this incident is in no way GW's fault but the massive amount of standardized testing that our children are subjected to is ridiculous and GW DID do that. My children have spent MUCH more time being educated on the skills of test taking than they have the material itself. It is truly sad.

KaTM
0
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KaTM 06/09/10 - 08:27 am
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0
Little Lamb: It may be hard

Little Lamb: It may be hard but we as a family will not give up. This decision has DESTROYED my mother. Scoobynews: Thank you for addressing my comments earlier and I would suggest to you that in every testing situation from here on out that you arm yourself with another teacher in the room or a tape recorder so that you have evidence proving that you did nothing wrong. My mom didn't have that evidence. If she did, we would not be in this situation and she would have been immediately cleared.

That suggestion is for ALL teachers. Go out and get yourself a good voice recorder or do something, ANYTHING, to protect yourselves.

And a comment to the general population: Again, I want to thank all of you in support for my mom and I especially want to thank the brave teachers and one student who testified for us. We want you to know that if the board tries any retribution for your actions in that "court room" that we will be there by your side defending you like you did with us. Additionally, I want you all to remember that what you are saying here is signed anonymously and with that privileged gives you free reign to say whatever you want. But remember, this is my family you are talking about. This is my mother who spent the last 30 years dedicating her life to her students. This is my little brother who now has to leave all his friends. This is my father who has to watch my mother cry herself to sleep at night. Just remember what you are saying and how if affects MY family...

watch-n-pray
0
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watch-n-pray 06/09/10 - 08:35 am
0
0
Wasn't this the same school

Wasn't this the same school that had to be FORCED to suspended the football coach for a couple of games for cheating? Help me understand you cheat at sports you get a slap on the wrist, you inappropriately help special needs students the push to have you fired? And I also understand that you can wear short shorts and halter tops with nothing being said, but if your shirt is too long you get reprimanded. I hope the new principal is more consistent with the CCBOE code of conduct and policies.

seenitB4
118873
Points
seenitB4 06/09/10 - 08:37 am
0
0
How crazy we are

How crazy we are today...special ed kids taking the same test as others???? I wouldn't be a teacher today if the pay was $150,000 a year. We have lost our mind with testing-testing-testing...public schools "ain't" what they used to be.

ripjones
2
Points
ripjones 06/09/10 - 08:52 am
0
0
KaTM - First and foremost,

KaTM - First and foremost, I'm sorry for what happened to your Mom. Justus - there is actually a minute molecule of truth to what you said. 'No Child Left Behind' is flawed, but you can't lay the blame on GW. The heart was in the right place, it's just that the baby turned out to be pretty ugly. While the unionized schools need to be "tested", there is undue pressure to make AYP, when the problem is not really the schools, but parental involvement to ready the children to be ready to learn. Unfortunately, 'No Child Left Behind' was written with little to no input from true educators. The hope was that the law would be improved, but I don't think a lot of work has been done thus far. I say all of the above to say this -- this trial and action, doesn't pass my, or several other's smell test. Scooby - you hang in there -- my wife is in the trenches right beside you. I need to do some more nosing around.

Little Lamb
53941
Points
Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 09:03 am
0
0
KaTM has a good suggestion.

KaTM has a good suggestion. There are enough employees and volunteers in our school systems that we should institute a policy that every high-stakes test be administered by two persons. In my opinion, neither of those two persons administering the test should have prepared the test, or should be a teacher of the persons taking the test, or a parent of a person taking the test. In other words, the proctors of the tests should have no stake in the outcome of the test takers or of the test itself.

Little Lamb
53941
Points
Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 09:06 am
0
0
To watch-n-pray; sports and

To watch-n-pray; sports and academics are two different things, so the punshiment for cheating should be different.

Also, short shorts and halter tops have nothing to do with Ms. Mudrak's hearing. Such distractions weaken your arguments.

Riverman1
113802
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 09:14 am
0
0
I don't know all the facts,

I don't know all the facts, the history of the teacher, personality and the interactions with the school administrators. I'll have to take the word of the BOE who served as the jury. But I do sincerely hope they were not bending over backwards so they wouldn't offend the Superintendent and principals.

As far as the student who showed up with notes where she had been helping him study, I have no idea why that was presented as something wrong.

Riverman1
113802
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 09:16 am
0
0
Just for the sake of

Just for the sake of discussion, do special needs kids get selected for magnet schools Davidson and AR Johnson in Richmond Cty?

Little Lamb
53941
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Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 09:29 am
0
0
Riverman1 wrote: As far as

Riverman1 wrote:

As far as the student who showed up with notes where she had been helping him study, I have no idea why that was presented as something wrong.

Well, RM, showing up at an exam with crib notes prepared by your teacher is not kosher. Thankfully the proctor took the notes away, but had the proctor not been alert, the student could have snuck the crib notes in and been able to use the "open-book" method to take a closed-book test.

Riverman1
113802
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 09:45 am
0
0
LL, so she helped him study

LL, so she helped him study and made notes for him and that is the same as her telling him to take the notes to the test? That's jumping to conclusions, bigtime. Was any evidence presented that the student said she told him to take the notes to the test?....NO!!!

Again, I don't know all the facts in this case and I'll abide by the judgement of the BOE members, but if I had been the Asst. Principal, I wouldn't have even brought that aspect up without corroboration.

oh man
0
Points
oh man 06/09/10 - 09:51 am
0
0
oh lakeside is so full of it;

oh lakeside is so full of it; lakeside has consistently held up for cheating on behalf of the athletes. A cheerleading coach who will do anything to make sure the cheerleaders stay eligible. A football coach who cheated and has assisted students in his class. this type of activity has always gone on at every school. The teacher assisted the special needs kids in a way that alot of others have done but these kids are not the elite; they aren't the pretty girls and boys with the boys willing to shell out for athletics. Lakeside changes results for items such as homecoming court and pageants in order to get their favs or as in homecoming wiht ms. sprouse get a cross population of the students. CCBOE needs punish across the board for inappropriate behavior at lakeside.

Riverman1
113802
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 09:53 am
0
0
It's a stretch that anyone

It's a stretch that anyone would reason that Mudrak believed Sprouse wouldn't even glance at the student taking the test and see him using notes.

AEinstein
5
Points
AEinstein 06/09/10 - 09:54 am
0
0
this was a done deal before

this was a done deal before the hearing was held. Nagle brought the charges based on what the former Lakeside principal said, the part I am familiar with, not one word true. the ccboe had to vote as a unit either 4-0 or 0-4 so that they are seen as being all in agreement with the outcome and not divided. If the vote had been in favor of Ms. Mudrack, it would have been a vote of no confidence for their own superintendent, and they were not going to allow that to happen. Ms. Mudrack will only get a fair hearing outside of Columbia County, and I hope she pursues this to the next level. Hopefully, the State will find the same as they did a few years ago when this principal tried the same tactics. That is that there was no fault on the part of Ms. Mudrack.

Riverman1
113802
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 10:02 am
0
0
Oh man, can you be more

Oh man, can you be more specific about this: "A football coach who cheated and has assisted students in his class."

If you are saying assisted students improperly on tests or something, that's never been brought up that I know of. A football coach was helping students in class against the rules? Who? If it's not true, it shouldn't be said.

sstea
1186
Points
sstea 06/09/10 - 10:01 am
0
0
Just because the student took

Just because the student took notes with him to take a test does not mean he was instructed by the teacher to do so...they were probably meant to study from before the test. It appears as though the school was looking for a way to get rid of this teacher. If that is the case how shameful especially since Lakeside and other Columbia County high schools put up with some pretty sorry teachers just because they are "valuable" coaches in the after school athletic programs.

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