In light of a recent report that raises questions about whether there was a concerted effort by the school district to skirt Florida’s class-size law, Lake County School Board Member Kyleen
Fischer wants to review
Superintendent Susan Moxley’s contract.
“In all that we discussed this evening, there are issues that I want to meet with the attorney and those issues are contractual issues with the superintendent,” she said at Monday night’s School Board meeting. “And I did want to bring that out in the open to the public.”
During a review of Lake County’s compliance with the class-size law, 136 teachers told auditors Carr, Riggs & Ingram that they were asked to sign or submit inaccurate class-size documents. The report further alludes to what it calls “general statements from the District office” that “may have put perceived pressure on staff to meet CSR requirements.”
But despite those findings, the report characterizes the underreporting of class sizes in Lake County as “misunderstandings and misinterpretation of the rules” and does not identify which district officials may have been involved in pressuring schools to fudge their numbers.
Moxley spoke Monday night about her support for the report.
“I have heard this has been swept under the carpet and that is absolutely not true,” she said.
Further, she added: “Whether the individual agrees with the results or not, we have a report. It was professional and independently conducted, making sure everyone had an avenue providing information with anonymity to increase participation. I must stand behind the findings of this report.”
Moxley asserted there would be accountability.
“I will hold people accountable and address any performance concerns through the evaluation process as appropriate,” she said, adding she will bring back for the board’s approval the implementation of an ethics hotline where district staff can report anonymous complaints which will go to the director of the internal audit.
She added the 136 teachers who were asked to sign inaccurate reports continued to weigh on her.
Moxley’s contract is up for
renewal in 2015.
Since the last board review of the superintendent in November, Board Member Tod Howard said he has had concerns.
“I have concerns about leadership within the district,” he said.
Meanwhile, Board Member Bill Mathias said, “I believe the board, in evaluating the superintendent, should exercise due diligence and in the form that is already subscribed and the timeline that is already subscribed.”
At Monday’s meeting, board members, with the exception of Fischer, voted to support the report. As previously reported, most School Board members again did not offer a strong reaction to the report.
Fischer said she was disappointed in the report and could not support it.
“The questions are still there,” she said. “The distrust is still there.”
Fischer said the report “only points to generalities and does not give us much to go on.”
Meanwhile, Mathias said when the review was commissioned it was never intended to find specific fault.
“Its intent was to find what procedures were done incorrectly and to address those deficiencies and correct them,” he said in a phone interview Tuesday.
At the meeting, Board Member Rosanne Brandeburg said the review “looked at the issue without finding fault with any individuals.”
As part of the review, surveys were sent to teachers, administrators and data processing staff. Out of 2,818 surveys, 1,517 responses were returned.
According to the surveys, 206 teachers — 15 percent of respondents — said they have had students placed in their classrooms who were assigned to other classes.
In addition, 23 percent of administrators surveyed said they knew that students were in classrooms while assigned to other classes.
The review, presented at a recent School Board meeting, pointed to lack of training and the vague Florida statute regarding class-size compliance as major contributors to the problem district wide.
Moxley previously said no one in her office knowingly coerced school principals to lie about their class sizes to skirt state rules.
Moxley called for the review after finding that six principals broke the law by inaccurately reporting their class sizes to the state.
By Florida law, public schools are not permitted to exceed certain class-size limits: 18 students per class in pre-kindergarten through grade 3, 22 per class in grades 4 through 8 and 25 in grades 9 through 12. Schools that violate those limits are subject to fines.