- Associated Press - Thursday, July 28, 2016

A woman accused of orchestrating cheating at Clarksdale’s Heidelberg Elementary School is no longer principal there, and she currently has no state teacher or administrator license.

Superintendent Dennis Dupree said Wednesday that the Clarksdale school board last week named Lowanda Tyler-Jones the communications coordinator for the district’s magnet school program.

Mississippi Department of Education spokeswoman Jean Cook says Tyler-Jones’ license expired June 30. Cook says Tyler-Jones sought renewal on July 6. Cook says lawyers for the Department of Education are preparing a response. Tyler-Jones is currently listed in the state’s online tracking system as having “no license.”

License renewals for teachers and administrators are normally routine in Mississippi.

When asked whether Tyler-Jones was moved from her position at Heidelberg because she no longer had a valid administrator’s license, Dupree said “not necessarily.” He said her new position was being paid for with grant money, but declined to answer further questions.

The Mississippi Department of Education, in a hearing in May, argued that Tyler-Jones led the scheme.

Mississippi’s teacher licensure commission began a hearing on suspending or revoking Tyler-Jones’ license in May, but recessed the hearing after four days of testimony. At the time, the commission said it would resume the hearing in August. Cook couldn’t say whether that is still scheduled.

Lisa Ross, a lawyer who has represented Tyler-Jones, did not respond to an email seeking comment. Ross has said Tyler-Jones did nothing wrong, saying witnesses against her are lying and that the state improperly singled out the principal.

Tyler-Jones, previously an elementary school teacher, was named Heidelberg’s principal in January 2012. Test scores from her first semester at the school rose so much over the previous year that the school’s letter grade in the state rating system rose from a D to a B. After 2013, the year that the allegations focus on, the letter grade rose again from a B to an A.

Those test score increases were flagged by the state as statistically unlikely, and the Mississippi Department of Education asked Dupree to investigate. His cursory inquiry reported nothing wrong.

In May 2014, The Clarion-Ledger reported that test results were falsified at the school, sparking a state investigation led by consulting firm Caveon. That inquiry found that teachers were coaching students on answers.

Heidelberg teacher Frances Smith-Kemp gave up her teaching license for two years, while the commission suspended the license of Tetra Winters for five years.

The conduct of at least two other Heidelberg teachers has been questioned. It’s unclear whether state officials suspect Dupree of wrongdoing.


Follow Jeff Amy at: https://twitter.com/jeffamy. His work can be found at https://bigstory.ap.org/author/jeff-amy

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