There isn’t much I can add to the well-deserved shellacking of the Cobb County school system on the by the editors of the MDJ on the editorial page this past Thursday for the system’s shoddy treatment of former Kell High School Principal Trudie Donovan.
Donovan, a 34-year veteran of the school system was charged with failure to report “in a timely fashion,” as required by state law a teacher who allegedly had slapped two students. She abruptly “retired” in June 2012 under a cloud of suspicion.
Now, the Cobb Solicitor’s Office has announced that it will drop the charges against Donovan due to “a lack of evidence.” Assistant Solicitor General Latonia Hines wrote, “After an extensive investigation, the state is unable to pursue this charge due to a lack of facts or supporting evidence to prove beyond a reasonable doubt that the defendant violated the ‘willfully and knowingly’ portion of (the mandatory reporting law).”
Everybody from the Cobb County school board to Superintendent Dr. Michael Hinojosa to the faceless bureaucrats behind the keel-hauling of Ms. Donovan owes her a public apology.
This isn’t the first time the CCSD has rushed to judgment. Equally disturbing is the case of elementary teacher Gregory Leontovich, who was fired by the Cobb school board in 2005 on charges he sexually assaulted a 7-year old girl, despite the fact that her teacher swore the girl had not left her classroom on the day the assault supposedly took place and that a hospital exam confirmed no signs of an assault. It took Mr. Leontovich three years to clear his name in Cobb County Superior Court, not to mention 26 days in jail.
And let’s not forget Tapp Middle School Principal Jerry Dority, counselor Yatta Collins, and Awtrey Middle School Principal Jeff Crawford being hung out to dry by the CSDD as described in the MDJ editorial.
Suffice it to say that it is not the teachers who are the villains here. It is a school system that presumes one is guilty until proven innocent. I can’t believe that somewhere along their paths to the education mountaintop at least one of the faceless bureaucrats didn’t take a course in political science and learn how our democratic system is supposed to function.
As the MDJ editorial so rightly put it, “Police officers who shoot someone in the line of duty typically are put on desk duty with pay until the matter is resolved. Cobb educators, however, are presumed guilty unless they can somehow prove their innocence.”
Equally guilty are our legislators, who seem more interested in promoting their educational self-interests (read: private schools) than in supporting public school teachers who bust their butts daily trying to educate our young people in spite of a myriad of complex rules and regulations coming at them from every government entity with an oar in the education water.
Perhaps I missed something but I have not heard a peep out of one single legislator over this shameful episode. Remember, a state law is the root cause of the problem. Don’t be shocked, however, if our intrepid public servants make no effort to change the law next session. For whatever reason, public school teachers don’t seem to be very high on their agenda these days.
The worst part of this whole mess is the lack of loyalty shown to Cobb County educators by the Cobb school board, the superintendent and the bureaucrats in the central office. Cobb school teachers can certainly identify with that great Okeefenokee philosopher Pogo the Possum who opined, “We have met the enemy and it is us.”
I appreciate the fact that the Cobb school board and school system officials are wringing their hands over the financial decisions facing them in the upcoming year. That is important stuff to be sure, but nowhere near as important as assuring teachers and administrators that somebody has their back. First things first.
I have four public school teachers in my family — none in Cobb County. In addition to dealing with the myriad social issues that don’t stop at the school house door and apathetic parents, bureaucratic red tape, politically-motivated school boards, make-work central offices and unsupportive legislators, they and the rest of their colleagues around the state shouldn’t have to live in fear that the slightest accusation, no matter how spurious, will cost them their jobs, their reputation and the meager money they get paid in order to defend themselves.
So, back to my original question: What has happened to common sense? If you are looking for it, look some place other than the Cobb County school system. It doesn’t live there anymore.
You can reach Dick Yarbrough at firstname.lastname@example.org or P.O. Box 725373, Atlanta, Georgia 31139.