Court orders reinstatement of Philadelphia principal fired in cheating scandal

Court orders reinstatement of Philadelphia principal fired in cheating scandal

Judges say there was no evidence that Michelle Burns had engaged in the cheating that occurred at Tilden Middle School.

A state appeals has ruled that the Philadelphia School District wrongfully fired a principal in connection with a statewide cheating scandal in 2014

Michelle Burns reports that a three-judge Commonwealth Court panel ordered the district to reinstate Michelle Burns, who had been principal of Tilden Middle School.

The judges agreed with an arbitrator that although Burns had failed to uncover cheating and prevent it, she had not engaged in the cheating herself.

“Although the cheating which occurred at Tilden is abhorrent and must be rooted out, the arbitrator found only that Burns failed to uncover it and prevent it,” the court said. Firing, the opinion said, was too harsh a penalty for “mere negligence.”

Burns says that she had an unblemished record during her 18 years with the district as a teacher and administrator and that the district had presented no witnesses during her termination hearing who implicated her in cheating.

An the arbitrator ordered Burns' reinstatement in 2015, and the district appealed to Common Pleas Court, where a judge sided with the district. The Commonwealth Association of School Administrators, the union that represents district administrators, appealed the case to Commonwealth Court.

The state of Pennsylvania investigated 53 district schools and seven charter schools in 2012 for possible tampering on standardized tests. Seven principals and teachers were criminally charged, and several others were disciplined.

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