State: Principal, Central Office Both Erred in Signal Mtn. Math Teacher Snafu - | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

State: Principal, HCDE Both Erred in Signal Math Teacher Snafu

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By David Carroll

NASHVILLE, TN (WRCB)- The Tennessee Department of Education has completed an audit of the controversy surrounding an unqualified math teacher at Signal Mountain Middle/High School in the 2008-09 school year.  The discovery led to the dismissal of principal Eddie Gravitte, who was since demoted and reassigned as an assistant principal at East Hamilton Middle/High School.

Jonathan Greene, son of Deputy Education Commissioner Robert Greene, was hired as and paid to be an educational assistant in the fall of 2008, but was later proven to have been the primary teacher for four high school math classes.  Students' credits became invalid when it was learned that Greene was not certified to teach.  Hamilton County school officials say they only became aware of the discrepancy when Greene was indicted on drug charges in July 2009.

In one of the more surprising revelations, the audit says that the math classes were reported to the state as being taught by assistant principal Stephen Perdue.  But "Mr. Perdue was given no directive that he was to be teaching the math classes....Mr. Perdue stated he voiced opposition to his name being used as the teacher to the principal (Gravitte), the area superintendent (Don Beard, who has since retired) and to the director in the school district (David Cowan, also since retired)." 

The report also states that a Director in the County Schools' Human Resources Department expressed her concern to another director about the false reporting of Perdue teaching classes.  But the report concludes, "Despite the concerns raised by Mr. Perdue and other staff, it appears the concerns were not effectively communicated to the degree needed to trigger management action.  Apparently there was the belief or perception...that executive level management had approved Jonathan Greene's assignment at the school."

The state concludes that while the principal "has primary responsibility for the inaccurate reporting" of Jonathan Greene's credentials, Hamilton County School District management "may not have had adequate internal controls over the School Approval reporting process."  It says the county should have "practices in place to empower staff to report possible fraud, abuse and unethical behavior."

The audit also finds that Deputy Commissioner Robert Greene should not have contacted Hamilton County school personnel officials to notify them of his son's desire for employment.  The audit finds that no favoritism was shown the younger Greene, but the state "should reemphasize the requirements of our conflict of interest policy."

In a response, Hamilton County Department of Education said, "HCDE has scheduled School Approval training for our school administrators."  As for the classes taken by Signal Mountain students from an unlicensed teacher, county officials said the students either passed the State Test of Competency, took remedial classes for credit, or passed an End of Course test. 


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