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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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Little Lamb
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Little Lamb 06/12/10 - 02:45 pm
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SmallTownGal wrote: Im a

SmallTownGal wrote:

Im a Special Ed teacher. By some disabilitiy's nature, these students can't retain information as other students do, but need accommendations and modifications on test. Some of these modifications include giving them verbal cues to help them assess the information taught. We do that all the time using matching tests and word banks for fill in the blank, just to name a few ways. We may even ask them to remember back to when we discussed or reviewed a particular question on the tests. In essesce, we dont give them the answer, but help them to access the answer because we want them to succeed.

I understand that teachers want their students to succeed, but the type of coaching during the "assessment" (we used to call it the "test") that you describe is not good. I say that the person conducting the assessment should have no stake in the outcome of the assessment. That is, bring in honest brokers to administer the tests. In the case of special ed students, bring in trained proctors who can assist in accordance the the approved IEP, but who have not been teaching the students. We must begin to separate instruction from testing (or assessment or whatever the current buzzterm is at the time).

DoggieMom
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DoggieMom 06/15/10 - 12:04 am
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I find this ironic that

I find this ironic that "cheating" by a teacher is a problem. We pulled out two girls from LHS in 2005, as they were very active in a cheating ring, and the cheating at LHS was rampant.

I home schooled these two foster children, and discovered they didn't even know their multiplication tables, as high school students!! Why did they need to learn them....they were cheating their way through!! I had to push and push Mr. Carney to investigate, or take any actions. He did not even want to pursue it, but to satisfy me, handed the whole mess off to an assistant principal. My solution was to pull the kids out, and start our home school adventure!

Then, the next year when our kids were no longer at the school, there was the whole "sex on the softball field" issues, bus issues (similar sexual issues), and constant problems at LHS, including the whole debate team fiasco. My question: Why is Mr. Carney still there, and why is his last act as the principal is to being allowed to fire a teacher who has worked faithfully under him for 10 years???
I think the attention is misdirected, and should be looked into as an administration failure. If this teacher was doing this all along, and it was so wrong, then why was she allowed to stay in her job? Because it wasn't wrong....but ironically, the school district and the state in general need to cut long term employees, as they cost more money, and replace them with fresh, young, inexperienced new graduates, who will waste a few years of your child's life learning their way around the classroom.

Our kids have all had face book, and if they post anything negative then we comment to them, either on the page, or privately, and they then have the ability to delete as much or as little as they want to.

This student making the allegations could have quite easily deleted all of his negative comments, or even a whole months worth of comments, and there is NOT a page showing your last "sign in date", contrary to the school's report. If he had deleted clear back to June 1st, then nothing after June 1st would show on his wall.

If the "tech" guy from LHS isn't smart enough to know how this works, then he really shouldn't be in this position. The only way you can prove someone had posted something, and then later deleted it, is if you have had the foresight to copy the page, and save it on a word document. If my kids or their friends brag about doing something illegal, that is the only way I can prove they stated what they had done....copy it and keep a copy as proof.
If no one did that in this case, I highly doubt that even the Face Book company could recreate those pages. If the "fake page" had the same 70 friends, it was NOT a fake page. It takes weeks, months, years to accumulate more than a few dozen friends, unless the kid is in a contest with friends, and in that case, they try to get people to sign up and be a friend, whether they know them or not.

The point is, if the student's page had 70 friends, and the "fake page" had the same number of friends, they were the same page. There will not be a second page found as no one knowingly signs up for some one's friend more than once. Have the Face Book expert at the AC confirm this. I've learned a lot as a parent of teens, and I've also learned that if they're in trouble, THEY WILL LIE, all kids will lie, that's just a fact. If a teacher has taught for as many years as this teacher has, with good reviews, I highly doubt she would lie, or that she would even have pursued this hearing if she had truly done anything wrong.

And that other teacher accusing her, and then destroying the other student's tests when there is an investigation in progress, means she tampered with evidence, and she didn' want the other tests to come to light.

I smell a rat, the only question, who is it, and who will have to guts to look for the truth, and then publish the truth when it finally comes to light???

Good Luck, Mrs. Mudrak. I hope you can separate yourself from this travesty of justice, and live your life in peace, knowing you did nothing wrong. My heart goes out to you, and as a stranger just reading this story, it is obvious that there is more to the story, and I just hope it becomes public knowledge, and clears your name.

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