Bullying allegations against Louisville Male High principal Davi - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Bullying allegations against Louisville Male High principal David Mike unsubstantiated by JCPS

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- Allegations that Louisville Male High School principal David Mike bullied students and teachers and made threats against some of them have been “unsubstantiated,” according to an investigation by Jefferson County Public Schools.

The investigation, which was conducted in May at the request of assistant superintendent Paige Hartstern, centered on multiple complaints, including the professional behavior of Mike and allegations of improper practices at the school.

According to a copy of the 12-page report dated July 9 and obtained by WDRB News, Mike was accused of:

- Bullying staff by threatening them with being overstaffed (where he would involuntarily transfer them to another school) and verbally bullying students

- Promoting teachers on the site-based council quicker than others and bypassing the student assignment process for parents on the council

- Making inappropriate statements to students and staff.

Because the allegations were not substantiated, Mike was not disciplined for them, said Helene Kramer, a spokeswoman for JCPS.

William Walsh, an attorney representing Mike, could not be reached for comment on Thursday.

This investigation into “improper practices” is separate from another JCPS investigation into alleged testing improprieties involving Mike and other staff members at Male. The status of that investigation is ongoing, Kramer said.

“No final determination has been made as a result of the testing investigation,” she said.

Mike has been reassigned to administrative duties in the central office, while the district conducts its own investigation into the testing improprieties.

The July 9 report outlined three allegations and was compiled by JCPS investigator Jeanine Riley. Throughout the course of the investigation, 44 people were interviewed.

Riley found the allegation that Mike bullied staff members by threatening them with overstaffing to be unsubstantiated.

“No one reported being threatened with overstaffing,” Riley wrote. “The overstaffed members who were interviewed did not report being threatened with overstaffing prior to it happening.”

Riley also noted the allegation that Mike verbally bullied students is unsubstantiated.

“While there were several situations reported to this investigator, these alleged incidents could be inappropriate or unprofessional rather than bullying,” Riley wrote.

Riley indicated that several staff members reported Mike had bullied staff and students into lying about the testing issues, but she noted that this investigation “did not include looking into details surrounding the alleged testing violations.”

The second allegation stated Mike would promote a teacher quicker if he or were on the school's site-based decision-making council, or if it was a parent on the council, he would bypass the student assignment process and allow them to attend Male.

“No one heard Mr. Mike promise any individual a promotion or that he would get their students into Male,” Riley wrote.

Riley said several SBDM members reported the alleged promises were intended for Jennifer Powell, a teacher; however, Mike denied making such a promise to Powell or anyone else.

In addition, Riley found that Powell's child was on a waiting list and assigned to attend a different school this fall.

The third allegation said Mike made disparaging remarks to students and staff, such as “These people can't teach,” “I am going to replace every single one of them,” “These kids are no different than Western (high school) kids” and “If you aren't on ‘Team Mike,' you are going to be gone next year.”

In her report, Riley said many of the stated comments were reported as “hearsay and not heard firsthand by any of the individuals interviewed.”

Several teachers reported Mike called some staff members "stupid." While it appears Riley was able to collaborate some of those comments, he was not disciplined.

Riley noted that rumors are abundant at Male, which many staff members and parents feel are due to “lack of communication and transparency.”

“Many of the individuals interviewed reported that a lack of communication has worsened the problems and concerns regarding the environment at Male High,” Riley wrote. “Many teachers, students and parents reported that because no one was communicating with them, all they could do was speculate about things going on.”

As WDRB reported on May 18, the ACT organization began investigating late last year whether its Compass assessment – a placement test that can certify students as “college ready” for state accountability purposes – has been properly administered at Male.

In addition to potential disciplinary action by the district over the testing concerns, Mike and two other school staffers continue to face potential disciplinary action from the Kentucky Education Professional Standards Board did not dismiss cases brought against them during an initial review of the facts on Monday.

Because the so-called “probable cause” proceedings were not open to the public, it's unclear exactly where the cases involving Mike, counselor Rhonda Branch and former teacher Debbie Greenberg stand. The three are being investigated involving allegations of cheating on a standardized test.

But according to EPSB's guidance as to how cases proceed, the action Monday means either the cases were deferred for additional training of the educators, or referred for a full investigation and hearing.

The EPSB case was opened in July following an investigation by the Kentucky Department of Education that found that several violations occurred as a result of Mike and the other staffers' failure to “ensure the security” of ACT Compass exams given during the fall of 2013.

According to the state report, students “received assistance from teachers and (other) students” while taking the test.

Those violations “increased the number of students” attaining test scores designating them as “college ready ” – thus, improving Male's standing for state accountability purposes, the department of education found.

In addition to referring the case to the Education Professional Standards Board, the Kentucky Department of Education recommended that Mike, Greenberg and Branch receive “ethics training.” The three are also “not to have any involvement” in administering ACT tests, according to the report.

The ESPB had the option of dismissing the allegations or providing a written admonishment, but that did not happen since all three cases were still pending on Tuesday, said Alicia Sneed, the board's director of legal services.

If the cases were referred for a full investigation, that process could take six months to a year, with an additional 3-6 months between the completion of the investigation and another hearing. The EPSB then has to up to 90 days to make a decision, she said.

Meanwhile, Male High School remains without a principal. Ballard High School principal Jim Jury had been serving as a dual principal at Male and Ballard at the start of the 2014-15 year, but went back to Ballard full-time last month.

Male's assistant principals are running the school while the district investigation continues, Kramer said.

You can read a copy of the report here.

Reporter Antoinette Konz can be reached at 502-585-0838 or @tkonz on Twitter.

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