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Article of Interest - Special Education

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Bridges4Kids LogoFour East St. Louis Principals, Six Others are Demoted Over Special Education Lapse
by Donald E. Franklin, St. Louis Post Dispatch, Friday, Dec. 05 2003
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Four popular East St. Louis principals whose students did not take mandatory special education tests have been demoted on the recommendation of Superintendent Nate Anderson.

The School Board voted 5-1 Friday to discipline the principals, the director of special education and members of her staff at a special board meeting. The demotions were effective Friday.

The disciplined principals are:

Deborah Wright, principal of Lucas Elementary School.

Rowena Lewis, principal of Officer Elementary School.

Darlene Morgan, principal of Miles Davis School.

Terrence Curry, principal of Wyvetter Younge Middle School.

Anderson said the principals would be reassigned immediately to classroom teaching positions. He said the principals would report to School Board offices Monday because specific assignments were not in place.

The board also demoted Mary Bobbitt, director of special education; Ann Chism-Williams, assistant director of the program; and four other special education supervisors.

Anderson recommended that the special education program be reorganized under new leadership and Bobbitt and Chism-Williams be assigned to nonsupervisory positions or the classroom.

The vote follows a hearing earlier this week in which the principals and supervisors were asked by Anderson and board members why more than 100 special education students were not tested last spring. Such testing is required by state and federal regulations under President George W. Bush's "No Child Left  Behind" program.

On Wednesday, Anderson downplayed the severity of the principals' failure to test the students. He said they had missed the deadline for the tests, but "there was no cheating."

George Mitchom, a board member, cast the only vote against Anderson's recommendations. Mitchom said the punishment was too harsh.

"Why punish these people when the state is not completely on track with the president's program?" Mitchom said. "Fairness should be practiced on all levels. To me, this is wrong"

Mitchom said he agreed with some of the principals who contend that the instructions for administering the tests were confusing and contradictory. He said some of the disciplined principals were among the most respected educators in the district.

"I don't think we can afford not to have these people in leadership roles at this particular time in the district," Mitchom said. "They should have been handed less severe punishment."

    

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