Editorials

Handled appropriately?

The Wichita school district appears to have appropriately handled some testing improprieties at one of its elementary schools. It’s unclear if the same can be said about its handling of a teacher who allegedly waited too long to report suspected child abuse.

Superintendent John Allison announced last week that “protocol wasn’t followed” when 18 students at Enterprise Elementary School had their tests improperly reactivated earlier this spring. The students were allowed to retake the tests, according to Alicia Thompson, the district’s superintendent for elementary schools, which is a violation of state rules.

“There were no direct efforts by adults to manipulate scores,” Thompson wrote in letters to parents of Enterprise students.

As a result of the impropriety, Pam Stead, principal at Enterprise, is retiring. Christy Winn, the school’s testing coordinator, is being reassigned to another school.

Any violation of testing rules is unacceptable. But the district seems to have thoroughly investigated the matter, and the violations appear to be isolated and don’t call into question the more than 113,000 state exams the district administers each year . It’s also encouraging that the irregularities were flagged by the district’s internal controls.

Meanwhile, it’s still unclear what happened with Donna Ford, a kindergarten teacher at Cleaveland Traditional Magnet Elementary. Ford wrote a letter to the Kansas State Board of Education last month saying that she agreed to resign and surrender her teaching license as “a result of allegations that I delayed reporting alleged sexual abuse for a period of two weeks.”

The state board voted to accept the settlement and revoke her license. But after questions arose about whether the matter was handled appropriately, Ford decided to petition the state board to reinstate her license, which it did last week.

The school district isn’t talking about the matter, noting that it is a personnel issue. As a result, there’s limited information about what exactly occurred.

Teachers are required by law to report suspected child abuse to proper authorities. Waiting two weeks to file a report – even if Ford had computer problems, as has been reported – is unacceptable.

But it is unclear why the district didn’t have the matter reviewed by a group such as the Professional Practices Commission, which investigates cases of alleged professional misconduct and makes recommendations to the state board.

Not following protocol is what got Enterprise in trouble. In Ford’s case, it created confusion and questions.

For the editorial board, Phillip Brownlee

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