Hearing under way for suspended principal

Published 12:00 am Thursday, March 27, 2003

LIBERTY &045; Six months after his suspension amid suspected inaccuracies in student records, an appeal hearing for suspended Amite County High School Principal Charlie Floyd is finally under way.

Hearing Officer Perry Sansing, a Columbus attorney, sequestered more than a dozen witnesses in the case, which began Thursday with three hours of testimony about student records.

Mary Ann Moore, director of the Accreditation Division of the Mississippi Department of Education, said none of 45 ACHS student records presented as evidence by school district attorney Jim Keith meet the standards for record-keeping set by the MDE.

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&uot;This group of records has a distinctive pattern of errors,&uot; said Moore, noting that many of the files contained unexplained grade changes and lacked critical information &045;such as grade point averages and Carnegie unit totals &045; needed to determine a student’s eligibility to graduate.

Floyd’s attorney, Gregg Spyridon of New Orleans, objected to the admissibility of the evidence and challenged the authenticity and control of the records.

But Sansing ruled that the documents are the official records of the school district.

&uot;You can attack the credibility of the records during cross-examination,&uot; said Sansing.

Under Spyridon’s cross-examination, Moore admitted she could not tell by looking at the records who made the changes or when the alterations occurred.

But Moore said Floyd, who certified most of the records, was ultimately responsible for ensuring their accuracy.

&uot;The principal is responsible for maintaining the (active) records &045; he has a direct line of responsibility,&uot; said Moore.

Spyridon presented student records with similar deficiencies from previous administrations. &uot;We’re already back to the pre-Floyd era. This pattern was continuing before Coach Floyd became principal,&uot; Spyridon said.

Redirected by Keith, Moore said despite the fact that similar record-keeping errors were previously committed, deficiencies should now be corrected when they are found.

&uot;I would suggest a combination of policy changes and training to improve the record-keeping,&uot; Moore said.

He added that former guidance counselor and current Superintendent Charles Kirkfield represented ACHS in a records training session in 2000.

&uot;We instructed the representatives to take that information back to the principals.

I felt really good about the quality of the training we provided,&uot; Moore said.

In November, then-acting Superintendent Mary Russ notified Floyd that his suspension was due in part to possible inaccuracies in student records.

Floyd has refused to comment on his suspension, except to deny any wrongdoing.

State investigators later documented unexplained grade changes, illegal disciplinary measures and improper graduations during an audit of the district.

Testimony will continue in the case today.

Within 30 days of hearing all the testimony,

Sansing said he will provide the school board with a transcript of the evidence and his recommendations.

If Floyd is dissatisfied with the board’s ruling, he may then appeal the case to the Chancery Court.