Former Bibb County schools Superintendent Sharon Patterson’s teaching license should be suspended for two years for failing to report educator misconduct in the school system, a state ethics committee recommended Wednesday.
Sylvia McGee, the school system’s acting superintendent, was recommended for a one-year license suspension.
Assistant Superintendent Mack Bullard should lose his teaching license for 90 days, the panel recommended. Another Bibb County central office employee in the human resources department was recommended for a 20-day license suspension.
“It’s a severe sanction,” said Gary Walker, director of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission’s ethics division.
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Six PSC board members reviewed cases of educator misconduct and made recommendations Wednesday. The full 18-member commission is scheduled to meet at 9 a.m. today to vote on whether to accept the committee’s recommendations.
Walker said if the recommendations are approved, the license suspensions are immediate.
School board President Gary Bechtel said if that is the case, the board will have to make personnel decisions today at its called 6 p.m. board meeting. That could mean finding another interim superintendent as well as two other central office staffers.
According to PSC regulations, “An individual whose certificate has been suspended may not serve as a volunteer or be employed as an educator, paraprofessional, aide, or substitute teacher or in any other position during the period of his or her suspension. The educator’s certificate is automatically reinstated at the end of the suspension, provided it did not expire during the suspension period. If the certificate expires during the suspension period, the educator must meet the current renewal requirements at the end of the suspension.”
Patterson, although retired, would not be allowed to work in any job that requires a teaching certificate.
Patterson, McGee and Bullard can appeal the finding to the state attorney general’s office. The cases could be settled or move forward to an administrative law judge.
Contacted Wednesday afternoon, McGee said she needed to “digest” the decision. Shortly afterward, she sent a comment through e-mail.
“The PSC has not notified us of its findings, recommendations, or final decision,” the e-mail said. “Until the decision is made and we have a chance to review the information, it would be premature to provide any statements.”
She said she would appeal the decision, though.
Patterson did not return calls, and Bullard could not be reached through the school system’s spokesman.
Bechtel and fellow school board member Lynn Farmer filed an ethics complaint Sept. 24 against the three school system administrators, who were notified of the probe Nov. 30.
The complaint alleged that Patterson, McGee and Bullard investigated two principals for misconduct, but did not turn over the information to the standards commission. A Northeast High School principal admitted having an affair with a subordinate. An Appling Middle School principal allegedly choked a student. Those principals eventually resigned.
A Telegraph inquiry into Southwest High principal Tyrone Bacon’s suspension for allegedly mishandling federal money in 2008 also was not reported to the PSC. Cases involving other Bibb County employees investigated by the central office were also reviewed.
Rose Powell, one of the commission members, said during Wednesday’s discussion, “We have never had this level of failure to report.”
The panel recommendations were made based on a determination that Bibb County’s central office, including the superintendent, knowingly did not report misconduct of its employees.
Kevin Shumake, the lead PSC investigator, said the deputy superintendent also “was knowledgeable of nonreporting. She was a regular attendee in meetings.”
Bibb’s central office held meetings to discuss violations and punishment of employees.
Bullard, the committee said, was given a lighter sanction because he was present in seven of nine central office review committees and had knowledge of failing to report educators in at least two cases.
More information will be released today about the fourth Bibb employee recommended for a suspended teaching license, Walker said.
This year, Patterson negotiated a settlement with the school board to end her contract 17 months early. McGee was appointed as acting superintendent. Bullard is still working as assistant superintendent of school operations.
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.