Sharon Pate: 1, Melody Johnson: 0
In another setback for Fort Worth schools’ superintendent Melody Johnson, the Texas Education Agency this week cleared former Diamond Hill Elementary School math teacher Sharon Pate of the district’s charge that last spring she had changed the school’s Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills test scores to reflect higher results for her students.
Johnson had recommended to the board in July that Pate be fired following a district internal investigation that she claimed pointed to Pate’s guilt. However, after appeals from her representative Larry Shaw, the head of the United Educators Association, and a number of teachers from her school who supported her, the board voted to delay action until the TEA investigation was complete.
TEA cleared her this week and Pate has been completely vindicated, said Shaw, who represented her through what he called an ordeal in which she was “under much pain.”
“This is huge,” said trustee Ann Sutherland when she heard the news. Sutherland had urged the board not to fire the teacher and she too feels vindicated. “The evidence just wasn’t there,” she said.
Teachers who spoke on Pate’s behalf last July said they believed the cheating there had been going on for years and that others had more access to the tests than Pate did, and more to gain from manipulating the results. The school’s principal resigned following the disclosure for undisclosed reasons.
Pate has been with the district for 17 years and is considered one of its outstanding math teachers. “When the administration did not get the Board to go alone with them, they assigned her as a math coach at another school,” Shaw said. “And even according to the administration, she is doing a great job,” he said. She will continue there for the rest of the year or be assigned to a new school, he said.
“In my opinion,” Shaw said, “the administration should always wait until the [TEA] investigation is complete before trying to hang employees.” (See this week’s feature story “Whistle, Stopped.”)