Will fired Del. teacher make the grade this time?

January 27, 1994|By Knight-Ridder Newspapers

Delaware's Great Grades Debate will have another round.

High school algebra teacher Adele Jones, fired last spring, will get a shot at getting her job back.

Sussex County Superior Court Judge T. Henley Graves last week ordered a county school board to reconsider its decision to fire Ms. Jones amid complaints that she flunked too many students. That decision sparked a national debate.

Judge Graves ruled that the Indian River school board erred by voting to fire Ms. Jones without a complete review of the record of her dismissal hearing. And Judge Graves ordered a board member whose two children had "negative" experiences with Ms. Jones to abstain from voting to avoid a potential conflict of interest.

The firing of the 10-year, tenured teacher sparked national discussion on how U.S. schools should deal with students' eroding performances on standardized tests and in entry-level jobs. It also became a touchstone for debate over grade inflation and "negative grades" as well as teacher tenure and termination.

Ms. Jones, 33, has been working as a waitress since being dismissed from her $29,000-a-year job. On Tuesday, she said she was encouraged that the court had given her a chance at regaining her job at Sussex Central High School.

"I'm hopeful and optimistic," she said, "since the vote before [to dismiss] was 6-4, and they need six votes to carry. "

School Board President Frederick W. Duncan, who had voted in favor of dismissal, said he did not agree with the ruling, but would abide by it. "I feel it was done right the first time, personally," said Mr. Duncan, who was vice president of the board when Ms. Jones was dismissed.

In his ruling, Judge Graves did not set a timetable for a new vote. The recent resignation of a board member, who voted to dismiss Ms. Jones, will delay it at least a month, Mr. Duncan said.

Other changes on the board -- plus the disqualification of board member George H. Harrison -- make the outcome of a new vote uncertain.

Mr. Duncan acknowledged that "all this stirred the waters of educational reform," but he said he still was concerned about Ms. Jones' techniques and performance.

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