Accused Atherton Elementary Teachers Want an Apology From Grier; TEA Reviews HISD's Investigation
One teacher has been back at her job since March. Another is ready to settle with Houston ISD for a year's salary and her promise that she will never apply to work for HISD again, according to her attorney Larry Watts.
But the third and fourth teachers originally accused of helping students cheat on tests at Atherton Elementary are more concerned about their good names than money, according to Watts, who, borrowing a line from The Merchant of Venice ("Who steals my purse steals trash ... but he that filches from me my good name ... makes me poor indeed"), vowed Tuesday to continue battling on their behalf and to wrest an apology from HISD Superintendent Terry Grier.
"We want [Grier] to tell the state that we didn't do anything; that your evidence is not good," Wattts said.
"Sherri Jackson has returned to Atherton, Veronica Davis is settling and Reuel Sosa and Jennifer Sterling are fighting it," Watts said. "They don't want money. All it would take is for Grier to admit he was wrong. There was no evidence."
University of Houston Cougars Football vs. Louisville Cardinals College Football
TicketsThu., Nov. 17, 7:00pm
Rice University Owls Football vs. UTEP Miner Football
TicketsSat., Nov. 19, 11:00am
SWAC Football Championship
TicketsSat., Dec. 3, 3:00pm
TicketsSat., Jan. 7, 7:00pm
HISD conducted a four-month investigation into the teachers, specifically in regards to the 2013 Grade 5 STAAR (State of Texas Assessment of Academic Readiness) Math and Reading tests. In April Grier's administration recommended three of the teachers for termination - which school board trustees promptly approved.
About a week ago, the Texas Education Agency began its process of reviewing the report from HISD, said TEA spokeswoman DeEtta Culbertson, adding that if anyone or any organization is found to be at fault, then sanctions will be issued. No details will be revealed while that review is underway, added Clubertson, who said she didn't know when the review would be completed.
Not that attorney Watts, who appealed to the TEA back in April, is holding his breath.
"TEA is first of all a cover. If you can imagine Terry Grier as a transvestite and going to a Southern Baptist convention reception, TEA is who he would select to be his escort."
Instead, Watts said he believes his clients will find more relief in either state or federal court if he can find the right judge.
"Martin, Disiere Jefferson and Wisdom [the firm hired by Grier to investigate the teachers] ran the sloppiest investigation," Watts said. "Of course in Texas you can't sue anybody for a sloppy investigation."
As previously reported, Watts has alleged a pattern of misbehavior by Grier for his past investigations such as the one involving Mable Caleb, former principal of Kashmere High School and Key Middle School, who was ultimately found not guilty after being fired by the district.
At Atherton, the district initially investigated seven teachers. Two were dropped because the teachers weren't working on the testing day, another because it couldn't be verified that the teacher had anything to do with the tests, while with another the number of erasure marks was not considered excessive.
But they did supposedly find an above-average rate of wrong to right answers, a high number of erasure marks and high passing rates that were not reflected in another standardized test given shortly thereafter in the cases they pursued.
Polygraph tests were given to Davis, Sterling and Sosa. All denied that they coached students or otherwise compromised the test results and, according to Watts, all passed the polygraph test administered by a former federal examiner for the U.S. Department of Justice. Flashback:
Get the This Week's Top Stories Newsletter
Every week we collect the latest news, music and arts stories — along with film and food reviews and the best things to do this week — so that you'll never miss Houston Press' biggest stories.