Former principal demoted after alleged testing misconduct

Dozens came out in support of former Windy Hill Principal

Published On: Jan 30 2013 03:26:41 PM EST   Updated On: Jan 08 2013 06:57:33 AM EST
JACKSONVILLE, Fla. -

Sharon Sanders, a former principal at Windy Hill Elementary school, was officially sent to Landmark Middle School and demoted to assistant principal Monday night.

The move was made last week when Dr. Nikolai Vitti was made aware of testing misconduct at the school.

Nearly two dozen people spoke on behalf of Sharon Sanders.

"This is a woman whose leadership has brought nothing but wonderful things to Windy Hill Elementary," said Greg Toole. "Who has done nothing but care for the children under her charge."

Sanders was demoted because of accusations that she didn't follow proper FCAT procedures at Windy Hill. The School board voted to demote her to an assistant principal position and reduced her pay.

Sanders did not want to speak on camera but her attorney, Tad Delegal, did on her behalf. Delegal said he and his client disagree with the whole process.

"Mrs. Sanders was demoted based on allegations that were never fully investigated," said Delegal.

The School Board said the issue has to do with FCAT procedures rather than "cheating." Delegal told Channel 4 that Sanders was cited for things like not having students properly spaced during testing, proctors were not properly trained for the testing and that materials that could help the students were not covered up or removed from the walls during the tests.

The School Board will not release anymore details, but Delegal said there were several claims made against Sanders and all those claims had to do with how the test was administered.

"All the evidence shows there was no cheating that went on at the school," said Delegal, "We are fairly perplexed as to why this vote took place."

Delegal said Sanders is obviously disappointed by the demotion, and so were many who came out to testify on her behalf Monday night. A few parents of Windy Hill students spoke, along with many members of Crossroads Church, spoke out on her behalf.

Sanders started a volunteer program at Crossroads, linking students and church members. Church members said the program won't be the same without her.

Delegal said Sanders plans to continue her career with Duval County Public Schools, but is considering a lawsuit against DCPS.

Board approves suspension without pay for two employees

Julie Bennett, a social studies teacher at Fletcher Middle School and Stephanie Raver, a Language Arts teacher at James Weldon Johnson Middle School, were both suspended without pay for unprofessional conduct.

Ms. Bennett is receiving a 20-day suspension without pay and Ms. Raver has a 15-day suspension without pay.