FIRST ON 3: State eases penalties on suspended Signal teachers - WRCBtv.com | Chattanooga News, Weather & Sports

FIRST ON 3: State eases penalties on suspended Signal teachers

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NASHVILLE (WRCB)-  The Tennessee State Board of Education has revised its recommendation to suspend five Signal Mountain High School educators for one year.  The proposed penalties will be reduced,  according to General Counsel Dannelle Walker.  Ms. Walker told Eyewitness News that Hamilton County school district officials met with state officials last Friday, providing additional information that has resulted in a less stringent penalty for each of the educators.

The five are guidance counselors Dr. Leann Welch, Dr. Anne Cushing and Leslie Sharpe, assistant principal Jason McKinney and teacher Steven Redman.  All were suspended for ten days by Hamilton County Superintendent Rick Smith after reports surfaced that they had violated school policy on alcohol use during a senior class cruise to the Bahamas in early March.  Welch and Cushing received additional suspensions, through the end of the school year, after officials learned they had also violated alcohol policy on the school campus.

Earlier this month, state officials flagged the teaching licenses of the five educators, recommending a one-year suspension for each.  Two of the educators, Sharpe and Redman, had asked for an appeal hearing.

However, as a result of the meeting, state officials agreed to reduce the suspension recommendation to six months for Welch and Cushing.  If there are no appeals, and the State Board approves, the suspensions would begin retroactively from the time of the infractions in March.  Also, Sharpe, Redman and McKinney will only receive a letter of reprimand, with no suspension time.

 Ms. Walker said that Superintendent Smith, School Board attorney Scott Bennett and Assistant Superintendent for Human Resources Stacy Stewart made the trip to Nashville on Friday to offer the additional information.

 Ms. Walker said the state has no involvement in Smith's suspension of Signal Mountain principal Dr. Tom McCullough, who was suspended for the remainder of the school year last week.  Smith cited McCullough's "lack of regard for procedures and policy" in the aftermath of the cruise incident.

McCullough is considering an appeal.  The five educators, two adult staffers acting as chaperones, and eighteen students were suspended as a result of the alcohol-related rule violations on the Bahamas cruise.

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