Two of the Bibb County school system’s top leaders and its former superintendent have notified Georgia’s educator oversight agency that they want a hearing to contest recommendations that their teaching certificates be suspended.
Another employee in the system’s central office has yet to respond, but she says she, too, will appeal.
May 13, the Professional Standards Commission, an 18-member panel appointed by the governor to hear complaints against educators accused of misconduct — voted that there was sufficient probable cause to recommend the sanctions against former Superintendent Sharon Patterson, acting Superintendent Sylvia McGee, Assistant Superintendent Mack Bullard, and Human Resources Director Myra Abrams. The recommendations ranged from a two-year suspension for Patterson to a 20-day suspension for Abrams.
“McGee, Bullard and Patterson have all appealed,” said Gary Walker, director of the commission’s ethics division. “We have not yet received one from Abrams.”
Abrams, contacted Friday, said, “I’m going ahead and appeal. I’m still working on the details.”
The educators had 30 days to either accept the recommended sanctions, making the certificate suspensions immediate, or ask for an administrative hearing. Their certificates remain intact.
Since the educators asked for hearings, their cases will now go to the state Attorney General’s Office, which represents the PSC.
In September, two Bibb County school board members filed an ethics complaint against Patterson, McGee and Bullard, contending that they had failed to report employee misconduct.
A former Bibb County middle school principal was accused of choking a student, and he resigned because of the incident.
A former high school principal admitted having an affair with a subordinate, which wasn’t reported to the state ethics commission. He also resigned.
Another high school principal was accused of misusing federal funds, and that allegation was not reported to the state. His contract was not renewed.
Patterson has maintained that she did nothing wrong. McGee and Bullard’s attorney has said his clients deny that they have violated any standard of the code of ethics for educators.
Abrams was added to the case after she failed to send two different educators’ complaints to the state within the 90-day required window.
Russ Willard, a spokesman for Attorney General Thurbert Baker, said his office has yet to receive the Bibb County cases, but generally the office moves quickly on the cases once they arrive.
“We attempt to get them turned around as quickly as possible, depending on the complexity of the case,” he said.
If a settlement isn’t reached, the Bibb case will be heard by an administrative law judge at the Office of State Administrative Hearings.
“Normally, when we send the case file over, it’s a reasonably quick turnaround. We’re talking about a couple of months,” Willard said.
A hearing would run much like a trial, allowing the educators to present witnesses and evidence, according to the PSC.
The judge can issue any finding — the same as the PSC’s, a lighter one or, in rare circumstances, one that’s more harsh. Or the judge can clear the educators.
The judge’s finding then goes back to the PSC to accept or not and make a final decision. If at that point the educators still contest the finding, they can file a petition in Fulton County Superior Court.
This year, Patterson and the Bibb County school board negotiated to buy out the remaining part of her contract .
McGee, who was placed in charge by the board, said this past week that she plans to retire as soon as a new superintendent is hired and has settled in. The school board has launched a national search and hopes to hire a new leader by Sept. 1.
“My plan is when we get a new leader in place, I will transition out,” McGee said.
AdvancED, the umbrella agency that issued the Bibb system’s accreditation in 2008, continues to monitor the school system and school board members.
“We are monitoring and always looking,” said Jay Wansley, associate director of the Georgia office of the Southern Association of Colleges and Schools. “Every day (the Bibb ethics case) lingers, it creates doubt” in the community.
Bibb school board President Gary Bechtel, who helped file the original complaint, said the community needs closure.
“That is a fair assessment,” Bechtel said. “That is something in a lot of people’s minds, but the fact that we have chosen Sept. 1 and have an active search would signal to those monitoring us that we have things under control.”
To contact writer Julie Hubbard, call 744-4331.