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Posted at 04:00 AM ET, 02/15/2012

Principal forced out in Dallas and D.C. says she is innocent

A principal who was forced out of a Dallas school for “unethical” behavior and then hired and subsequently fired by D.C. school officials has now issued a statement (see below for text) saying she was unfairly accused in Dallas and should be allowed to work in the District.

Roslyn Carter had run an elementary school in Dallas until last summer, when she was accused of directing third grade teachers not to teach science, music and social studies, to falsify grades in those subjects and to focus on math and reading in preparation for standardized testing.

She was hired recently by D.C. Public Schools to run Garfield Elementary School starting next fall, but she was quickly fired when her history in Dallas became public earlier this month.

Her detailed statement offers a timeline of events that is very different from the one presented by Dallas investigators in her termination letter, offering alternate explanations for every accusation against her.

She says that she challenged the recommendation for her termination and that a subsequent review by an administrative court led to the withdrawal of the termination recommendation and the removal from her employment record of any reference to the incident. She left Dallas on her own accord, it says.

D.C. schools spokeswoman Melissa Salmanowitz said earlier this month that Carter was a mid-year hire and that officials were unaware of her history when they hired her. Now D.C. officials are using the Carter episode “as an opportunity to strengthen and improve our hiring process as a whole.”

Salmanowitz has not yet responded to questions about whether anyone in the D.C. system knew Carter before she was hired and why the system did not know of her history. Though Carter says her Dallas employment record no longer mentions what happened, the events were publicized in Dallas papers and on this blog last November.

The termination letter was given to Carter in Dallas after an investigation was launched by the Dallas Independent School District based on anonymous tips. The language of that letter was brutal, accusing her of “unethical” and “unlawful” behavior. You can read it in full here but here’s a summation of the charges, followed by the full statement in Carter’s defense sent by Carter’s attorney, Jesse Hoffman.

From the termination letter:

More specifically, the recommendation to terminate your employment is being made for the following specific reasons and conduct, all of which individually and collectively violate ... District policies:

1. You directed and caused false school records to be created relating to teachers of record, grades of students for subjects not taught, and grades from teachers for students they did not teach. Specifically, you violated District policy by directing that the state and District approved curriculum for science, music and social studies not be taught so as to allow more time for teaching mathematics and reading in preparation for the TAKS [Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills]. Namely, throughout the year you instructed the music, science and social studies teachers to teach mathematics instead of music, science and social studies and directed these teachers to submit grades for those subjects. Your conduct directly denied students access to state mandated instruction in enrichment subjects/curriculum.

2. To facilitate the above referenced policy violations you directed teachers to share their gradespeed logon passwords with other teachers and instructed the teachers to enter grades for students for which they were not the teacher of record and or teaching.

3. You abused your supervisory authority, violated the terms of the your contract [sic] and violated educator ethics by directing and facilitating the falsification of student attendance and grade records and directing your teachers to violate District and state mandated curriculum requirements by pulling students out of enrichment classes/subjects and requiring them to receive mathematics tutoring.

4. You required a teacher to use his planning period to tutor students in mathematics.

5. You required a grade weights scale contrary to that set out in District policy.

6. In order to conceal your unethical and unlawful conduct you discouraged teachers from reporting potential district policy violations to the Office of Professional Responsibility.

7. In sum, your conduct is inconsistent with the continuance of your employee relationship with the District and constitutes good cause.

And here is the full statement of Carter’s sent by her attorney:

The DC Public School System has terminated its newly hired principal of Garfield Elementary, Roslyn Carter, because she failed to voluntarily disclose anonymous complaints circulated about her another school district. Carter, who steadfastly proclaims her innocence from these allegations, states that the DC School System should not have terminated her for failing to spread an upsetting and unsubstantiated rumor; a rumor from which she moved 1,300 miles to escape.

Prior to being hired at Garfield Elementary, Roslyn Carter served as an educator and a principal for nearly twelve years with the Dallas Independent School District in Dallas, Texas. While there she received high professional marks and earned a reputation for having transformed an underperforming Title I Elementary School into an “Exemplary” rated campus.

However, during the 2010-2011 school year, several complaints were filed anonymously with the School District raising a slew of allegations including falsification of grades and barring core subjects from being taught in third grade. A District investigator interviewed several teachers regarding these allegations and ultimately recommended termination and criminal charges. Police conducted their own investigation and refused to pursue the requested charges.

Ms. Carter also formally challenged the investigator’s recommendation, triggering further review by an administrative court. The District’s attorneys then interviewed witnesses from the prior investigation and promptly withdrew the termination recommendation and expunged any references to it from Ms. Carter’s employment record. Carter was not comfortable remaining in Dallas after that, so she sought employment at Garfield Elementary in DC.

According to Carter, the allegations at DISD can be most aptly described as a perversion of actual events, intentionally distorted by an anonymous complainant.

To add context, it is important to note that Field Elementary School began the 2010-2011 school year with four teachers assigned to third grade. These teachers met before the school year to discuss teaching formats, and they decided that two of them would teach Reading and Social Studies and the remaining two would teach Math and Science. In order to maximize their time, they also opted to “integrate” their assigned subjects throughout the year.

In other words, the Reading/Social Studies teachers would use non-fiction books about Social Studies topics to teach both Reading and Social Studies at the same time. This system was utilized through September when third grade lost one of its teachers in a process called “leveling.” Carter was eventually able to replace this teacher, but for a few weeks, the third grade had to be adapted to a three teacher rotation. This set the landscape that would later be twisted to jeopardize Roslyn Carter’s career.

Grades in DISD [Dallas Independent School District] are recorded on a computer program called “Gradespeed.” However, the Gradespeed administrator was on maternity leave at this time, and her replacement failed to update the teaching assignments on her system. Gradespeed only permits teachers access to subjects they are assigned to teach, so this caused problems when it came time for the Third Grade teachers to enter their grades.

Gradespeed should have been re-configured to reflect the assignments from the beginning of the year, but since it still reflected the assignment from the three teacher split, the Math/Science teachers were still assigned Social Studies and the Reading/Social Studies teachers were locked out from entering Social Studies grades. This confused the Math/Science teacher who thought it meant he was supposed to continue entering Social Studies grades. The real Reading/Social Studies teachers were locked out of their subject, but rather than tell Carter, they acquiesced as another teacher appeared to be doing their jobs for them.

Eventually the Math/Science teacher brought this to Carter’s attention and she instructed him to delete the improper grades and told the Reading/Social Studies teachers to input their properly supported grades. Of course they had stopped recording those grades by then, so the Reading/Social Studies teachers were asked to go back and audit their students’ work to assess each assignment for a Social Studies grade. This is a significant task, and Carter suspects that resentment over this mandate was at the core of the anonymous allegations against her.

These events appear to have become the basis for the recommendation to terminate Ms. Carter. According to the investigator’s report, he concluded that Carter had ordered teachers to falsify grades and to enter grades for topics they had not taught. Those findings were based primarily on statements from the third grade Reading/Social Studies teachers who offered a limited version of the above story, and then voluntarily produced an email from Carter that seemed to support the conclusion that Carter had ordered teachers to falsify grades.

In the email, Carter is instructing a third grade teacher to delete Social Studies grades and two other teachers to enter new Social Studies grades. Of course this email relates to the incorrect grades that Carter asked her teachers to fix, but devoid of context, the email appeared to be a flagrant instruction to tamper with records.

The conclusions about an unbalanced curriculum sprung in large part from a misunderstanding of the third grade’s “integrated” curriculum. While neither third grade Reading/Social Studies teacher claimed to have ignored a topic, both insinuated that they devoted less time than they should have to Social Studies. Of course the integrated teaching style was instituted at the request of these same teachers, and they had already begun the year by successfully integrating both of their assigned subjects equally and without issue.

In any event, the witnesses relied on by the District’s investigator all offered roughly the same deposition testimony to attorneys; they either had no personal knowledge of wrongdoing by Carter, or they had mischaracterized perfectly acceptable behavior as wrongdoing. These allegations never resulted in criminal charges or even a formal termination, but the experience alone was enough to destroy the career of an accomplished Dallas based educator.

Roslyn Carter says she has tried to forget this experience and move on in DC, but defeating the allegations at home was not enough to end the nightmare; she must now voluntarily repeat them during job interviews or face termination for failing to do so. Carter is still pleading with the DC School System to retain her at Garfield Elementary, but it is still unclear whether her efforts will finally rid her of a rumor which has now followed her over 1,300 miles to Washington DC.

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By  |  04:00 AM ET, 02/15/2012

 
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