In a follow-up to action taken in response to TCTA’s testimony at its previous board meeting, SBEC scheduled a meeting on Oct. 15, 2015, of its newly established Educator Discipline Committee, upon which SBEC and TCTA member Suzanne Garcia McCall serves, to review educator disciplinary hearings and procedures, and to provide, by working with staff and stakeholders, a structure and philosophy regarding how educator disciplinary cases are handled.
The board chose this route instead of establishing a permanent subcommittee of the board to review selected agreed orders and to make recommendations to the full board for resolution of these cases as planned at its August meeting after TCTA contacted key board members and offered testimony at that meeting that each of these cases involved unique fact situations that necessitated individualized resolutions, and that a move in this direction would be tantamount to micromanagement by the board. In testimony here before the board, TCTA’s Julie Leahy further pointed out that establishing a subcommittee to review agreed orders would result in less incentive for educators to enter into agreements with staff, more expensive formal hearings, inefficiency, and diversion of resources away from other certification matters.
The board’s decision to instead form a new committee with a different charge was a major step forward by SBEC in transitioning back to TEA staff the final authority to enter into settlement agreements with educators.
In testimony before the Educator Discipline Committee on Oct. 15, 2015, TCTA advocated that the board return settlement authority to TEA staff as soon as possible. TCTA pointed out that the overwhelming majority of teachers will never be the subject of a disciplinary complaint. However, all teachers have an interest in seeing educators who seek to harm children removed from the profession as soon as possible. In conjunction with that interest, teachers want to ensure that the complaint and investigative process is fair, unbiased and just.
Following TCTA’s testimony, the committee spent a considerable amount of time examining the process by which complaints are received, investigated and evaluated. At the conclusion of the meeting, the committee issued a series of directives to staff, detailing the board’s expectations for the type of sanctions it wants staff to negotiate on its behalf when conducting settlement negotiations. The committee also set out a timeline for further action, which includes a stakeholder meeting and revision of the disciplinary rules.
TCTA followed up the committee meeting with testimony before the full board on Oct. 16, thanking the committee for its efforts. As a point of clarification, TCTA testified that one of the recommendations, that testing violations should be given a sanction of no less than a suspension, should be modified so that it applies only to serious testing violations. The test administration manual and TEA’s rules draw a distinction between procedural testing violations (such as failure to actively monitor a test administration) and serious testing violations (such as providing direct assistance to a student). The board noted that this issue should be included for discussion at the upcoming stakeholder meeting.