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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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seenitB4
118690
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seenitB4 06/09/10 - 10:04 am
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Katm....good luck to you &

Katm....good luck to you & your family...sorry she has to go through this ...now days it's hell if you do help & hell if you don't..btw tell Freddie he's looking good!

Riverman1
113706
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Riverman1 06/09/10 - 10:04 am
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Sstea, I agree they

Sstea, I agree they administrator bringing that up was out of line and it makes me wonder about the entire matter. However, don't be knocking coaches for no reason. They work very hard and are influential role models for the kids.

ssd2010
0
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ssd2010 06/09/10 - 10:09 am
0
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Michael Jackson's song "Beat

Michael Jackson's song "Beat It" can be heard in the background...

The school board says, "They told em' don't you ever come around here, don't wanna see your face, you better disappear. The fire's in their eyes and their words aren't really clear, so BEAT IT."

Ms. Mudrak's supporters are saying, "You have to show them that you're really not scared. You're playing with your life, this ain't no truth or dare. They'll kick you and they'll beat you then they'll you it's fair."

"It doesn't matter who's wrong or right."

So my advice for the Mudrak family is take this to appeal and then "BEAT IT!"

watch-n-pray
0
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watch-n-pray 06/09/10 - 10:09 am
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Little Lamb, thanks for the

Little Lamb, thanks for the clarity that sports and academics are two different things. However the fact still remains, inappropriate is inappropriate and the actions of the administration are often inconsistent.

I hope that all teachers and parents pay close attention to this case.

sstea
1186
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sstea 06/09/10 - 10:12 am
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0
I'm not knocking all coaches

I'm not knocking all coaches some of them are very good teachers but many of them are teachers because they wanted to be a coach and while they make a good coach and are good role models in that respect they shouldn't be classroom teachers. Some of them are horrible teachers. I'm talking from my own personal experiences with some of them.

bone1
0
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bone1 06/09/10 - 10:15 am
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there must be much more to

there must be much more to this story. we'll have to wait until the state BOE hears the appeal to get the full scoop. maybe AC will do something outrageous and work a little harder on this story...

redapples
731
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redapples 06/09/10 - 10:26 am
0
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If you refer to a previous

If you refer to a previous article there are a couple of very detailed posts at the end of the comments by people that actually attended the entire hearing and they report some interesting information.
http://chronicle.augusta.com/latest-news/2010-06-08/teacher-dismissal-he...

bellanlilli
0
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bellanlilli 06/09/10 - 10:29 am
0
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You tell 'em bone1!!! What is

You tell 'em bone1!!! What is an investigative reporter but someone who uncovers the truth for the American public. GET TO WORK... follow the money trail!!! There needs to be some cleaning up around here - BIG TIME. The voters can make a difference come the fall.

Mr. Thackeray
1208
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Mr. Thackeray 06/09/10 - 10:30 am
0
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This is WHY teacher's unions

This is WHY teacher's unions do have value (NO I do not support their political agendas in the least). They can stand up and defend teachers. I hope they are in this case as no teacher can afford attorney's fees. I hope the appeal goes well.

redapples
731
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redapples 06/09/10 - 10:31 am
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As a classroom teacher, I

As a classroom teacher, I find the outcome of this hearing quite unsettling and my thoughts and prayers are with the Mudrak family.

bone1
0
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bone1 06/09/10 - 10:55 am
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i agree, redapples, but

i agree, redapples, but that's why we keep our membership in PAGE. amazing that the best information about this case was provided by posters on this website, NOT by the paid newspaper staff.

gaspringwater
3
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gaspringwater 06/09/10 - 11:01 am
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It's hard to think a 30 year

It's hard to think a 30 year teacher don't know how to administer a test to kids. On the contrary, I'd think she'd be very good at it. Another teacher seems to be the accuser but she can't testify to seeing any wrongdoing, only suspects it. One student testified the dismissed teacher helped with test answers while another student testified the teacher didn't. Reasonable DOUBT but the Columbia county BOE voted for dismissal?

Teachers need to get over their professional independence and unionize for their own protection.

upyours
0
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upyours 06/09/10 - 11:05 am
0
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Because I'm a card carrying

Because I'm a card carrying member of the KISS ARMY and KISS club (keep it simple, stupid), let me wrap this up succinctly while putting a pretty pink bow on it...
C.C.B.O.E. - business as usual.

Little Lamb
53918
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Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 11:10 am
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Mr. Thackeray wrote: . . . no

Mr. Thackeray wrote:

. . . no teacher can afford attorney's fees.

That statement is patently false.

scoobynews
3896
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scoobynews 06/09/10 - 11:12 am
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sstea - I am with you on that

sstea - I am with you on that one!! I have been required to attend instructional classes all year and from what I understood it was required for the whole faculity. Yet I failed to see a single coach at even 80% of the meetings. I understand the practices after school and the seasons but some of these coaches didn't show up to a single meeting. One coach in particular (football) was not present at a single meeting to my knowledge. I am tired of pulling extra duties while these folks who get PAID with stipends don't pull their own weight. Some are just kept around for the sake of the sports.

Little Lamb
53918
Points
Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 11:13 am
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gaspringwater wrote: . . .

gaspringwater wrote:

. . . Reasonable DOUBT but the Columbia county BOE voted for dismissal?

The “reasonable doubt” standard is required only in criminal trials when a person's life, liberty or property is in jeopardy. The BOE is allowed to use the “preponderance of evidence” standard if they wish.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 06/09/10 - 11:20 am
0
0
I hope they pulled this

I hope they pulled this teacher's evaluations and then questioned the AP or Principal that did them. If she had over 30 years worth with all satisfactories then all of a sudden starts getting NIs or US then something is wrong. I had a friend this happened to at Hephzibah. The former principal there made my friend and others lives ...... She made a lot of unprofessional comments about them during meetings and always found fault with their lessons. These were vetern teachers with 20 plus years. She had it out for them and many good teachers left the school in order to not be the next target. What is really funny about the whole thing is after years in her role as the administrator she drove off good teachers yet in the end she was demoted then eventually "retired". Anyone can go get a leadership degree and many do. But it takes a person that is non baised to be a good leader. You have to leave personal feelings at the door.

scoobynews
3896
Points
scoobynews 06/09/10 - 11:22 am
0
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To this teacher's family -

To this teacher's family - just keep lovin your mom like you are! She is going to need all of you.

gaspringwater
3
Points
gaspringwater 06/09/10 - 11:22 am
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Little Lamb - Excuse me but

Little Lamb - Excuse me but there doesn't seem to be a "preponderance of evidence” here. A lack of evidence is more noticeable.

LHSalumniparent
0
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LHSalumniparent 06/09/10 - 12:11 pm
0
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PAGE was contacted and the

PAGE was contacted and the lawyer on their part in this area gave advice to go ahead and resign. Seems the lawyer has interest in working for CCBOE.

Riverman1
113706
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 12:14 pm
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0
These notes the assistant

These notes the assistant principal said the kid brought to class must have been an integral part of the case against the teacher if the Chronicle brought it up. Again, there is nothing wrong with the teacher studying with the student and writing notes.

But where are the notes? The assistant principal said the handwriting looked like the teacher's? That's the flakyiest part of all this. Who said the student was even going to cheat with the notes? Wouldn't a testing proctor be expected to make students put all papers up? Bizarre.

Riverman1
113706
Points
Riverman1 06/09/10 - 12:21 pm
0
0
The slanderous implication

The slanderous implication toward the teacher and the student, without a shred of evidence to back it up, is that the teacher told this kid with the notes to cheat and that this kid was going to cheat.

Again, I generally have respect for the BOE and they may know more about the matter than I do, but on this one aspect of the case, they should not have allowed that statement about the notes to stand with all the inferences it brought. If their ruling took into account that statement from the assistant principal as being instrumental, they were wrong.

Little Lamb
53918
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Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 12:50 pm
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RM, you need to step back and

RM, you need to step back and take a deep breath. Yes, reporter Donnie Fetter reported about Asst. Principal Sprouse's testimony about the crib notes, but nowhere does the article say that this testimony carried any weight in the board's decision. When you call witnesses, you cannot control what they say. Many people throw in extraneous stuff, and some people actually lie in their testimony. It is up to the board members to weigh all the things that are presented to them and then vote their conscience.

Riverman1
113706
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Riverman1 06/09/10 - 01:03 pm
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LL, come on, you said

LL, come on, you said yourself up the thread: "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."

Your statement was patently false. It meant nothing for the student to bring the notes to the test. It is expected that the proctor wouldn't let him use them. When I was in school I had notes and studied until the minute I went into the room or until the instructor said put your notes up.

Obviously, the assistant principal's testimony carried weight with you. That's mainly what I was pointing out...that the statement should have not meant anything and, in fact, the BOE should have made it plain that it didn't and any inferences were out of line.

Again, I'll support the BOE decision because they may know things I don't know, but I'll also point out this gross mistake...as you should.

Little Lamb
53918
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Little Lamb 06/09/10 - 01:03 pm
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You got me there, RM.

You got me there, RM.

KaTM
0
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KaTM 06/09/10 - 01:05 pm
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Riverman1: The board obvious

Riverman1: The board obvious didn't know more about this case or they would have sided with Ms. Mudrak. To explain about the notes the student brought to the test and without getting into the student or his IEP because that would violate the student's right to privacy. Ms. Mudrak wrote out SOME of his notes according to guidelines in his IEP. On the day of that test, he never saw Ms. Mudrak. He went straight to Sprouse's office with his notes that he used for studying purposes as outlined by his IEP. Sprouse snatched them up and later confronted Ms. Mudrak saying the student brought in notes in her hand writing. Ms. Mudrak responded, "So? He had notes... okay?" Sprouse was trying to set her up from the beginning. The student did not take the test with the notes, he was simply using them to study from BEFORE the test was administered. I don't know about you, but when I was in school, the practice of studying before a test was perfectly acceptable. I guess Sprouse needed something to push her agenda forward. To Scoobynews: Thanks for the constant supportive comments but to clarify on Ms. Mudrak's evaluations, she has never received a bad evaluation in her entire 27 years of teaching. In fact, AFTER these allegations were noted officially (in the charge letter) she STILL received a perfect evaluation from the assistant principle of special education, it's important to note that the assistant principle who gave the evaluation was on their witness list. How interesting right?

Riverman1
113706
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Riverman1 06/09/10 - 01:12 pm
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LL, I always respect your

LL, I always respect your logic and intelligence. That's why you believing the statement was important is crucial. If you would, others would...the BOE would.

Riverman1
113706
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Riverman1 06/09/10 - 01:30 pm
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Thanks, KaTM. That is

Thanks, KaTM. That is enlightening.

I realize the BOE can have a mindset that blindly supports administration. A former BOE member told me that he once wanted to mildly criticise Tommy Price (on his evaluation, I think it was) because of a short coming the school system had experienced.

He said the other BOE members (mainly the same ones there now) said they didn't want to make Price mad. He told them he didn't want to fire Price or anything, but simply wanted to point out the shortcoming. They didn't want ANYTHING but stellar ratings on Price's eval for fear of "making him mad."

KaTM
0
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KaTM 06/09/10 - 01:30 pm
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Riverman1: Doesn't that just

Riverman1: Doesn't that just boil your blood? The school board members are elected officials who are supposed to do what is best for it's schools and it's members. That includes it's teachers. So I'm sorry if the board members are afraid of Nagle and because of their fear they destroyed the career of a valuable and well liked teacher. Good for them! (sarcasm should be obvious) Furthermore, I invite you and anyone else interested in the truth to ask me or anyone else directly involved in the case for more information. I'm happy to explain any questions you may have.

bone1
0
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bone1 06/09/10 - 01:41 pm
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KaTM: i can't help but get

KaTM: i can't help but get the feeling that this alleged set up has more to it than the math teacher's allegations of cheating. terminating a teacher is never easy and i find it difficult to swallow that there isn't more lead up than this. any ideas? as far as the school board goes, i'll just say that any group with mike sleeper's membership is bound to have some serious issues.

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