Board suspends 2 elementary teachers

Class size repercussions also discussed at public hearing

nalund@bradenton.comAugust 10, 2010 

BRADENTON — Two Manatee County School District teachers, one accused of helping students cheat on a statewide test and another accused of using corporal punishment, were suspended without pay Monday night.

Palmetto Elementary School teacher Carol Braden and Prine Elementary teacher Katherine Harris were suspended and granted administrative hearings.

Harris reportedly fudged report cards and helped her first-grade students cheat on the Stanford Achievement Test in April and May.

District leaders say that on May 3, Braden grabbed a fifth-grade student’s arm and twisted it behind her back after the student made fun of the teacher.

In other matters Monday, the board held a public hearing to discuss hurdles it faces with class size this fall. Voters approved the class size amendment in 2002 and districts across the state must comply with it by October or face monetary penalties of up to $3,000 per student depending on what grade they are in.

Under current law, classes are to be capped at 18 students through third grade; at 22 in grades 4-8; and at 25 for high school classes.

“Just one student can throw the whole district out of compliance,” said district Assistant Superintendent of Finance Jim Drake.

New classes likely will need to be created at the elementary level. Drake told board members. Middle and high school potential impacts include class sections being closed and more students using virtual school.

McGonegal said virtual school would be run by the district or contracted out with a state provider. If a class is full, some students would go to the media center for that class, log on and take the course under supervision, McGonegal said.

McGonegal earlier this year charged principals to maintain electives before worrying about class size.

The district, which serves about 43,000 students, is shelling out $4 million during the 2010-11 school year to hire about 85 more teachers to comply with the law. District leaders said they would have to spend $7.3 million to reach full compliance.

In April, lawmakers agreed to allow voters in November to decide whether to ease class size limits. The proposal requires the maximum number of students assigned to a teacher to be 21 students through third grade; 27 in grades 4-8; and 30 for high school classes.

The Manatee school district supports easing the class-size limits for budgetary and other reasons, McGonegal said. If voters refuse the class size changes this November, the district may be forced to eliminate some elective classes.

A second public hearing on class size is set for Sept. 9.

Also Monday, the board:

n Accepted the recommendation of an administrative judge to deny bus driver Jerome Heaven 2 1/2 months of back pay for not reporting to work after being accused of leering at girls who rode his bus this past school year. Last month the judge found him not guilty of inappropriate misconduct. But he did find Heaven was insubordinate for not reporting to work after being reassigned following the allegation.

n Hired Greg Faller as an assistant principal at Manatee High School. He is the former administrative parent liaison at Lakewood Ranch Elementary.

n Hired Cameron Lazar as an assistant principal at Daughtrey Elementary. He is a former science teacher at Harllee Middle School.

n Hired Greg Sander as an assistant principal at Orange Ridge Bullock Elementary. He most recently worked at Moody Elementary as a teacher.

n Hired Quantas Simmons as an assistant principal at G.D. Rogers Garden Elementary. He most recently was a behavior specialist in the Lee County School District.

n Promoted Shirin Gibson, an assistant principal at Tillman Elementary, to principal of the school. She replaces Diane Nichols, who this year was promoted to director of federal programs and grants.

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