Monday, June 18, 2018
Education

Teachers face suspensions over FCAT lapses

DADE CITY — Migdalia Mojica had problems with the behavior of the two seventh-graders she was proctoring as they took the FCAT exam this spring.

The first time they misbehaved, before she even gave them their testing materials, she called Nancy Guss, the principal at Irvin Education Center, an alternative school for students with severe discipline problems. Guss came to the classroom and got the students back on track.

The second time they started acting up, Mojica set up her classroom computer to video record their actions. Then she sent an email to Guss asking what to do next.

What Mojica thought to be a proper reaction to protect herself, according to district records, ended up being the moves that got her into trouble.

State FCAT administration guidelines clearly forbid recording devices in the testing rooms. They also instruct proctors not to use their computers or email, or do anything that might distract them from monitoring the students.

"She should have called again for more backup from the administrators," Pasco schools district spokeswoman Summer Romagnoli said, noting that the rules allow proctors to make calls for emergencies. "Instead of calling the administrators again, she decided to videotape students without their permission."

Now Mojica faces a 10-day unpaid suspension and a formal reprimand in her personnel file. The School Board will consider her case next week.

Mojica, 54, could not be reached for comment. Her phone numbers had been disconnected, and people at her listed home address said they never had heard of her. There was a "for sale" sign on the front lawn.

In an interview with a district employee relations supervisor, Mojica said she never intended to break the rules.

"You stated that you could not believe how the students were acting and that you have never been in a testing situation such as this before," superintendent Heather Fiorentino wrote in her official reprimand letter. "You explained that you decided to record the students because you were by yourself and wanted evidence of the students' behavior. You stated that the students were taunting you by asking what you were going to do about their behavior and would not stop talking to each other."

"You stated that you felt vulnerable to be alone with these students and are used to having another adult in the room during testing," Fiorentino wrote.

But that explanation was not acceptable, the superintendent continued.

The teacher had signed papers that same day agreeing to abide the state's testing protocol, less than a week after having been trained in the procedures. Moreover, Fiorentino added, this lapse in judgment came just days after Mojica left her students unattended for two class periods.

"Both of these incidents could have resulted in significant consequences for students, as well as for your school and our district," Fiorentino wrote.

She found Mojica in violation of the district ethics policy and the state's professional code of conduct.

This is not the first FCAT-related problem for Pasco teachers this year.

Earlier in June, the School Board suspended Gulf Middle School teacher Janet Deshotels for five days without pay for mishandling FCAT materials. Next week, the board will also consider suspending Wesley Chapel Elementary School teacher Wanda Colon for five unpaid days, for allowing three students to leave the FCAT testing room at the same time, unattended, while the exam was being given.

The state takes a dim view of teacher FCAT violations.

The Florida Legislature and Department of Education have strict rules on the administration of the annual assessment because the results factor heavily into so many decisions made about schools. Even relatively minor infractions have resulted in teachers losing their jobs and their certification to teach in Florida.

In 2007, Moon Lake Elementary teacher Barbara Heggaton lost her job for rewording questions on the math FCAT for special education students. In 2006, the state revoked a Hillsborough teacher's certification for an FCAT violation despite a hearing officer's recommendation for a lighter penalty.

Jeffrey S. Solochek can be reached at [email protected], (813) 909-4614 or on Twitter @jeffsolochek. For more education news, visit the Gradebook at tampabay.com/blogs/gradebook.

Comments
Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Ethan Hooper steps up with a salute to teachers

Editor’s note: Ethan Hooper wrote today’s column to give Ernest Hooper Father’s Day off.In May, I graduated from the University of Central Florida with a degree in elementary education, and I recently secured a job as a first-grade teacher with Orang...
Published: 06/18/18
AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

AP World History course is dropping thousands of years of human events - and critics are furious

Since 2002, the AP World History course has covered thousands of years of human activity around the planet, starting 10,000 years back. But now the College Board, which owns the Advanced Placement program, wants to cut out most of that history and st...
Published: 06/16/18
School board races attract new faces

School board races attract new faces

TAMPA — When long-time Hillsborough County School Board member Susan Valdes resigned this month from the board to run for the State House of Representatives, the decision affected more than just her seat in west Hillsborough’s District 1.It also coul...
Published: 06/14/18
Updated: 06/17/18
Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

Hillsborough schools tax referendum is unlikely for November

TAMPA — Money that the Hillsborough County School District needs to build schools and replace air conditioners might be farther from reach, thanks to a new state law and a bureaucratic process required before the voters can decide on a tax referendum...
Published: 06/14/18
University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

University of Chicago eliminates SAT/ACT requirement

The University of Chicago will no longer require ACT or SAT scores from U.S. students, sending a jolt through elite institutions of higher education as it becomes the first top-10 research university to join the test-optional movement.Numerous school...
Published: 06/14/18
Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

Unhappy with superintendent’s budget wish list, Hernando School Board shuts down talk of tax increase

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano presented to the School Board Tuesday nearly $53 million worth of budget priorities, asking them to choose which will be funded in the upcoming school year.The board voted 3-2 later Tue...
Published: 06/13/18
UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

UT shines the spotlight on visiting authors

The University of Tampa’s MFA program will host the June 2018 Residency Visiting Writers Lectores Series that runs from now until June 21 on the ninth floor of the Vaughn Center, 401 W Kennedy Blvd. Each reading will be held at 7:30 p.m.Each January ...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/15/18
Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

Hernando School Board fires Superintendent Lori Romano after member says she ‘lost the public trust’

BROOKSVILLE — Hernando County schools Superintendent Lori Romano will step down at the end of this month following a 3-2 vote by the School Board to terminate its contract with her amid increasing concerns about her ability to lead.Romano has suffere...
Published: 06/12/18
Updated: 06/13/18
Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

Pasco summit aims to merge school cultures while making students feel included

NEW PORT RICHEY — The dozen Fivay High school students and their administrators arrived at the Pasco County school district’s annual Together We Stand conference with a clear goal in mind.With hundreds of former Ridgewood High students arriving in th...
Published: 06/12/18
Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

Central’s air rifle team prepares for national competition

BROOKSVILLE — Historic Camp Perry is where it’s at. Located near Clinton, Ohio, the National Guard training facility is where the nation’s top shooters go to compete.Next week, some of Hernando County’s top shooters compete there in the Civilian Mark...
Published: 06/11/18
Updated: 06/14/18