Stanley Wrinkle, who retired from Cobb Schools in 1994 after serving as an assistant superintendent for 18 years, has been working tirelessly over the last year to help get former Green Acres Elementary School teacher Greg Leontovich at least an interview with the school district.
The district fired Leontovich in 2005 after he was falsely accused of molesting a 6-year-old girl at the Smyrna school.
Wrinkle has said all along that the district should revisit its policies and consider what actions like the ones they took with Leontovich can do to someone’s professional reputation.
“I am extremely grateful that the board is considering this rule change and particularly to those board members who have led the way in this matter,” he said.
Among the proposed revisions to the discipline policy suggested by board member Kathleen Angelucci on
Wednesday are that employees are presumed innocent until they are found guilty, that termination of an employee should only be used as a last resort, that the use of polygraph examinations can only be used in rare circumstances and that employees may not be subject to retaliation for exercise of their due process rights related to any investigations or disciplinary matters.
Wrinkle said Angelucci’s recommended changes also reiterate the board policy that “District employees shall be treated fairly and with dignity, in a clear, consistent and professional manner,” which he called outstanding.
Angelucci said Thursday she has been working on the changes for about two months with Board Chair Randy Scamihorn.
“Other board members have been very interested in seeing a cultural change. … I am hoping they will be supportive of it in its entirety,” Angelucci said.
Angelucci said the revisions are in part because of recent actions taken by the district, such as when Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan resigned abruptly after she was accused of failure to report child abuse, “but overwhelmingly, because it is the right thing to do,” Angelucci said. The charges against Donovan were later dropped by the state.
The hope is for an overall change with fair and complete due process as the goal, she said.
“Restoration of an employee’s reputation if they are cleared of unethical conduct by the district is an important one for me.”
Cobb Superintendent Michael Hinojosa, who welcomes the feedback, asked that board members and the public submit their changes or additions by email to his executive director of policy, Darryl York, by Aug. 9.
“We always take input from everybody, but in the end, policy language has to be pretty precise,” he said. “The lawyers have to look at that, there’s all kinds of things that we have to follow like federal laws. I do appreciate everyone having the approach to try and work together on this.”
John Adams with the teacher advocacy group EducatorsFirst said he and his organization are in full support of Angelucci’s recommendations.
“This would dramatically increase the way employees are treated and should also increase employee morale,” he said. “It’s a balanced approach and reasonable and it will treat people more fairly.”
Marietta attorney Justin O’Dell, who represents a middle school principal who was wrongfully accused by the district in spring, reviewed the changes as well and agreed that they’re a positive step in the right direction.
Failure to report allegations against his client and Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford were dismissed in early May by the district.
“It is always important to recognize the need for swift investigation and discipline of wrongdoers, particularly when it comes to children,” O’Dell said. “However, that need must be balanced against the rights of due process and integrity in the proceedings. I am proud of the school board for looking at the issue and recognizing the need for change.”
Crawford, a 21-year educator with 14 years of experience as an administrator, was accused of incompetency, insubordination and willful neglect of duties for failure to report a female student’s allegation of rape.
The school district also faulted Crawford for not returning to school Jan. 18 following a meeting regarding the accusations.