Testimony continues in David Mike tribunal as he fights to get h - WDRB 41 Louisville News

Testimony continues in David Mike tribunal as he fights to get his job back

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LOUISVILLE, Ky. (WDRB) -- JCPS rested their case just before testimony concluded on Wednesday in the second day of the tribunal hearing for former Male High School Principal David Mike.

Testimony will continue Thursday for the final day of the hearing. 

Superintendent Dr. Donna Hargens testified Wednesday, saying testing is one of the most important functions of the school district.

"I can tell you when you have to make the determination to terminate somebody it's definitely the hardest thing you'll ever do. And you do not take it lightly and you do not take a little bit of time arriving at that decision," Hargens said.

Dr. Hargens was the final of 12 witnesses called for JCPS who talked about a chaotic testing lab, and reports of teachers helping students cheat on their ACT Compass test. She testified for more than an hour.

Mike's attorney said he's never been accused of directly helping anyone sheet and he's being singled out because he's the leader.

"As the principal, as the person in charge, I'd be asking a lot of questions about anything somebody told me like that because it wouldn't be consistent with what I believed was acceptable," Hargens said.

An investigation by Jefferson County Public Schools led to Mike's firing in October and he is fighting to be reinstated. 

Mike is accused of helping students cheat on the ACT test, although no evidence of that has been admitted during the hearing. 

Attorneys at his tribunal hearing are questioning the people who investigated the cheating accusations. 

JCPS called eight witnesses Tuesday and three witnesses have been called so far today. They include Male High assistant principal Todd Barber, JCPS investigator Jeanine Riley and assistant superintendent Paige Hartstern.

Testimony this morning started with Barber. 

Witnesses are not allowed to listen to testimony and were asked not to follow social media, but Barber mentioned twice what other witnesses said during yesterday's proceedings.

Barber told the tribunal he was the point person for the ACT investigation, and that 12 to 14 students approached him about the cheating scandal.

"I was proud of her (student Lauren Schanz), as well as the other kids, for coming forward and telling the truth. I'm very proud of them," Barber said.

JCPS is calling more than 20 people to testify. David Mike's attorney has also subpoenaed about a dozen witnesses, including JCPS Superintendent Donna Hargens and Mike, although it may not be until Friday before they are called.

The three-person tribunal -- none of whom lives in Jefferson County -- is hearing Mike's appeal. The panel consists of a school administrator, teacher and a layperson. The hearing is being overseen by Susan Durant with the Kentucky Attorney General's office.

Also on Wednesday, WDRB obtained documents from the investigation into Rhonda Branch, a guidance counselor at Male, that claim she failed to ensure a proper testing environment during the ACT.

Branch was one of three people investigated after the alleged improprieties at Male; that investigation was concluded at the same time the investigation into David Mike concluded, and JCPS officials have not yet said what, if any actions will be taken against Branch.

Officials did say that Branch will keep her job with JCPS, but will no longer be working at Male. Branch is not on the witness list to testify in Mike's tribunal, but could be called as a rebuttal witness.

Paige Hartstern, who identified herself as Mike's direct supervisor, said she first heard about possible testing improprieties in December of 2013. She says the testing environment at the school in the fall of 2013 "was not very good."

When Hartstern was asked if she thought Mike engaged in conduct unbecoming of a teacher, she replied, "yes."

Hartstern testified that JCPS officials found it difficult to reach a decision to fire Mike. "This is someone's career," she said.

When asked about the factors that led to the decision to fire Mike, Hatstern mentioned a "tense" working environment, and said she knows Mike felt it was a hostile work climate.

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