Notices: PED accuses Shiprock High principal, former resource coordinator of cheating
SHIPROCK — A spokesman for the Central Consolidated School District denies allegations made by the New Mexico Public Education Department that accuse two high school educators of grade fixing.
The state education department sent notices in May to Shiprock High School Principal Rick Edwards and Staci Gallaher, then the high school's resource coordinator, notifying them that officials had enough evidence to revoke or suspend their teaching licenses.
The documents were provided to The Daily Times by former Shiprock High business teacher Barbara Hayes, who obtained them through a public records request.
The notices listed violations of grade fixing at Shiprock High School that allegedly started in the 2012-2013 school year and continued until this year as the state education department conducted its investigation.
The education department accuses the educators of several actions, including overriding a teacher's grade to pass students, retaliating against employees for reporting cheating and allowing students to skip tests and assignments without a teacher's permission.
Edwards and Gallaher, who is now the principal of Career Prep High School in Shiprock, did not respond to requests for comment on Thursday.
CCSD spokesman James Preminger said in an email that before the education department's investigation, CCSD officials conducted their own investigation into allegations of cheating.
"CCSD's investigation did not find any wrongdoing by either principal," he said. "In light of its investigation, CCSD felt it should support its employees through the PED process."
Hayes spoke about the education department's investigation during the CCSD school board work session Thursday evening here. She handed out copies of several documents to the board and then spoke about going to the state education department more than two years ago with documents alleging grade fixing. She said she resigned "under duress" in June 2013 and felt she needed to "blow the whistle" on the situation.
Hayes also called for Edwards, Gallaher and CCSD Human Resources Director George Schumpelt to resign.
"For three years, our kids didn't get a fair education," she said. "They were pushed through the system like cattle at an auction."
CCSD board members did not respond to Hayes' comments during the meeting.
Late last month, Edwards and Gallaher — along with CCSD and state education department officials — agreed to the terms of two-year suspended sentences, which require the district to implement several anti-cheating protocols.
Preminger said the district believes the agreement is a "win-win" because it enforces the highest academic standards and practices.
"There has not been any finding that cheating occurred by Mr. Edwards or Ms. Gallaher," Preminger said in the email. "In an effort to move forward, the parties agreed to a resolution, which specifically states there is no admission of wrongdoing by any of the parties.
The notices sent to Edwards and Gallaher in the spring laid out eight violations against Gallaher and five violations against Edwards.
The state education department accuses Gallaher of "engaging in a pattern of conduct involving cheating" by changing the weight of grades in Powerschool, the district's online school data system, and directing teachers to change senior students' zero grades to 50 points.
The PED also states Gallaher changed documents in Odyssey, the district's credit recovery system at the time, to allow students to "skip" exams and entire units assigned by their teachers.
The state education department accuses Edwards of firing a teacher who brought up allegations of cheating based on inconsistencies the teacher found in students' work. He is also accused of falsely representing information to the state education department's investigators regarding the district's investigation into cheating.
The two educators, CCSD Deputy Superintendent Pandora Mike and state education department officials reached an agreement Aug. 26 that states Edwards and Gallaher "deny they violated anything and deny any wrongdoing and 'assert various defenses' regarding the allegations."
The document states the district asked to participate in the agreement "in an effort to support the continued licensure of Mr. Edwards and Ms. Gallaher and to cooperate with PED to ensure that PED's concerns are addressed."
It also states the educators could have their licenses revoked if they fail to comply with the conditions of the agreement.
Among other conditions listed, Edwards and Gallaher have to refrain from actions that include changing grades, changing the weight of grades, substituting any score for a zero when a student has not earned a higher score and interfering with a teacher's judgment on grading students.
The violations the educators are accused of will be dropped after two years if the principals meet the agreement's requirements, according to the document.
The agreement also states both principals are required to attend an educator ethics course by May 31, 2016.
The district must implement a series of anti-cheating programs as part of the agreement. Fliers have to be posted at every CCSD school that state cheating will not be tolerated and that ask anyone to report cheating to a teacher, administrator or the state education department's licensure investigations unit.
Under the agreement, the staff must also actively monitor students during all graded assignments, quizzes and tests conducted on a computer.
Teachers are prohibited from sharing passwords with students and are required to change passwords quarterly. Teachers and staff members are not allowed to give students answers on quizzes or tests in advance except when a mistake is made on a test that would penalize the student.
Furthermore, computers will be locked down during testing to prohibit students from accessing online resources. All district administrators will take required training to implement the anti-cheating programs, and the district will be required to file annual reports on the training conducted.