Georgia ethics agency recommends punishments in Westside principal contract case

ATLANTA -- Georgia’s teacher ethics watchdog agency recommended punishments Thursday in connection with the award of a public contract worth nearly $200,000 by a Bibb County school principal to a former school system employee.

But it’s not clear how far the Professional Standards Commission found the deal went over the line, as the sanction will be kept secret until Westside High School Principal Laura Perkins has a chance to respond to the agency’s unanimous vote.

Perkins’ attorney, Brad Wilson, said he was shocked.

“If they came back with any sanction other than a full expungement of the record, we will be filing an appeal,” he said.

Indeed, the finding was the opposite of the Bibb County school system’s decision in a separate investigation of the same case. The system eventually dropped accusations against Perkins of failing to follow grant administration rules and of favoritism in giving the award to former schools IT professional Julie Christopher’s company.

The PSC would not comment on details of the case.

“It is still an open investigation. The only time we release records is when a case is closed,” said Paul Shaw, the PSC’s director of educator ethics, explaining the secrecy. “It’s mainly a personnel matter.”

The PSC could only confirm that the case was on its Thursday agenda. The committee passed sanctions in many cases statewide, throwing out just two. Bibb’s case was not one of the two thrown out.

The state commission can reprimand educators, suspend their licenses for days or years or revoke their licenses altogether. Perkins has several licenses. Any sanctions apply statewide.

On June 23, 2011, Perkins signed a $196,800 contract with ThisGen EdTech Solutions to administer a Blended Learning Opportunities Grant. The company had been created the same day the contract was signed, and the founder was Christopher.

On Aug. 10, school Superintendent Romain Dallemand recommended Perkins’ firing.

After an investigation by the school system, the accusations against her were dropped, and she was reinstated as Westside’s principal for the 2011-12 school year. As part of the settlement, Dallemand and Perkins agreed not to talk about the case, and the agreement also prohibited Perkins from suing the school system. Perkins retired at the end of the year.

The PSC will notify Perkins of the sanction in the coming days. She has 30 days after receiving the letter to agree to the sanctions or appeal.

Any appeal could be settled through a negotiated consent agreement or a date in front of an administrative court judge, subject to full PSC approval.

Information from Telegraph archives was used in this report.