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Dean Denies (Knowledge Of) TAKS Cheating At Key Middle School

In today's latest revelations concerning the alleged standardized cheating, employee theft, and other massive problems at Key Middle School (and involving Kashmere High),  Dean of Instruction, Dolores Westmoreland insists she didn't know of any cheating going on involving the TAKS test at Key.

"To my knowledge, the testing procedures of the 2009 TAKS test were not breached," Westmoreland wrote in her response, a copy of which HISD released today.

The response comes out on the same day Westmoreland is retiring from the district. In a letter dated March 22, Westmoreland declined to appear for an administrative meeting on March 24, stating that "I violated no law of the State of Texas or any policy or procedures of the Houston Independent School District."

According to school district investigators, there were testing improprieties concerning the 2009 Texas Assessment of Knowledge and Skills Test at Key in 2009 and Westmoreland was the "designated testing coordinator." Investigators talked to witnesses that said teacher Richard Adebayo had handed out handwritten questions from what was supposed to be previous years' TAKS tests. Instead, it was discovered, "one set of handwritten review questions composed the 2009 7th Grade Math TAKS test and the second set of handwritten notes composed the 2009 6th Grade Math TAKS test."

Investigators checked with the Texas Education Agency and were told the questions "could only have been obtained from the 'live' TAKS test before the test had been administered in April 2009."

According to Westmoreland, district procedure "does not state that the Testing Coordinator must pick up the booklets," so it was fine for a certified teacher, which Adebayo is, to handle that task. She said the materials "arrived intact with all of the booklets in their cellophane holders" until it was time to give them out to test administrators.

As for allegations that her signature was on PROCARDS used to buy things the school shouldn't have been purchasing, Westmoreland said the charge cards were kept in the business manager's office and she was told to sign charge slips "because I was told this was the protocol at Key." She says she understood that "my card was one of four which was issued to Key and could be used, as needed, for purchases at the discretion of Ms. Collins, business manager."

The school board is scheduled to discuss the Key/Kashmere situation further in closed session at their board workshop meeting Thursday morning.

Also on the agenda:

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Superintendent Terry Grier will propose another piece of the belt-tightening measures he's advocating for the district -- cutting even more central-office positions.

Grier let it be known Tuesday that he's proposing another 40 central-office cuts in addition to the ones previously considered. The administration is scrambling to deal with an anticipated $25 million shortfall for the 2010-11 school year and its trying as hard as it can to avoid affecting students in the classroom, Grier said.

The shortfall will occur because of state coffers running out of money (the recession hitting Texas) and because of anticipated hefty increases in insurance costs for employees.

There will also be an update on the magnet schools assistance program grant, the one that's caused a certain amount of angst among Garden Oaks Elementary parents and teachers.

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