Mississippi school principal Lowanda Tyler-Jones, above, had an explanation for the dramatic improvement in the grades of pupils in the Clarksdale Municipal School District: prayer and holy water.
When an investigation was launched into possible cheating, Walt Drane, Mississippi Department of Education’s Executive Director of Student Assessment and Accountability said:
She indicated to me during an interview that she anointed the desks, the pencils, the doorways and also the students’ heads with holy water.
But, according to this report, the truth was that Tyler-Jones had instructed teachers to coach students and change their responses during testing.
As a result, the state Department of Education Commission voted unanimously last week to ban Tyler-Jones from teaching in Mississippi or hold a school administrative licence for at least 20 years.
The commission rejected Tyler-Jones’ claim of divine intervention, finding instead that Tyler-Jones had been responsible for the dramatic increase in test scores at Heidelberg Elementary School.
Education officials said the punishment is a record suspension.
Said attorney Tommie Cardin:
This sends a strong message that cheating will not be tolerated in any form or fashion and that the interests of our children should be first and foremost in every educator’s mind.
Testimony by three witnesses painted Tyler-Jones as obsessed with succeeding regardless of the consequences.
Tyler-Jones’ case concludes the last of three civil charges MDE had brought against individuals involved in the cheating scandal. Special Assistant Attorney General Raina Anderson Lee, counsel for MDE, would not say whether Thursday’s hearing marked the end of the department’s investigation into the incident.
Tyler-Jones will have 10 days to appeal to the state Board of Education.
Lisa M Ross, Tyler-Jones’ attorney, said Tyler-Jones does plan to appeal and indicated that going to civil court was possible. Ross said that in the past she objected to the fairness of the proceedings because commissioners while presiding over the hearings had lunch with MDE attorneys and MDE experts, which she argued created a bias.
She wants to go to a court with real judges who will apply the law without respect of persons. Judges who care about fairness with their attorneys and their experts.
Ross further alleged that Tyler-Jones was racially discriminated against, arguing that the punishments were only given to African-Americans, despite Caucasian teachers testifying in previous hearings that they had also cheated on the test.
Ross said her client maintains her innocence.
She has maintained from day one that she never encouraged anyone to cheat. And that no one ever told her anyone engaged in cheating. Today does not end this matter.
Hat tip: BarrieJohn