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PREVIOUS COVERAGE | Manatee teacher accused of helping students cheat

MANATEE — A Prine Elementary teacher is accused of helping her first-grade class cheat on the Stanford Achievement Test and dishonestly grading students this past spring.

Katherine Harris, who has worked in the Manatee County School District since 2005, could lose her job as a result. According to an administrative complaint filed by school district attorney Scott Martin, Harris positioned students to sit side-by-side with their desks touching and placed high-functioning students next to low-functioning students as they took the Stanford Achievement Test in April.

Harris also allegedly told some students to re-do portions of the test if their answers were wrong and told students where they could find the answers to the problems they were working on.

Her actions were reported to school officials by two teacher’s aides who proctored for Harris during the test given April 12-14. One aide proctored on April 12-13, then asked to be removed as Harris’ proctor for undisclosed reasons, the complaint states. Another aide then proctored on April 14.

The complaint says Harris also fudged some of her students’ report cards, giving them higher grades than they deserved. When confronted by school officials, she reportedly admitted the students should have received lower grades.

Harris, who lives in Bradenton, could not be reached for comment Tuesday.

But her attorney, Kendra Presswood, said Harris disputes the allegations against her and has requested an administrative hearing.

“She adamantly denies doing anything remotely that they’re accusing her of,” Presswood said.

Presswood also said she questions why the teacher’s aides were not investigated.

“If they’re proctoring, they’re also responsible for making sure kids are responsible during this supposed incident,” Presswood said Tuesday.

For now, schools Superintendent Tim McGonegal wants Harris fired.

During its regular meeting on Monday, the school board will decide whether to fire Harris or grant her an administrative hearing and suspend her without pay.

Prine is located at 3801 Southern Parkway in Bradenton.

Natalie Neysa Alund, reporter, can be reached at (941)745-7095.