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Arbitrator Rules for Two Philadelphia Principals Implicated in Cheating Scandal

Two Philadelphia principals who were dismissed as part of a cheating probe could eventually be rehired by the district following an arbitration ruling in their favor, The Philadelphia Inquirer reports.

The arbitrator ordered that Michelle Burns, a former principal of Tilden Middle School, be reinstated as principal, receive back wages, with the exception of wages covering a 60-day suspension, and reimbursement for expenses incurred as a result of the loss of benefits, the paper reported.

The other principal, Marla Travis-Curtis, was also ordered reinstated, but was demoted to assistant principal, according to the paper. Travis-Clark would also receive back pay, but minus salary for a 30-day suspension, and would also be eligible to receive expenses for lost benefits, according to the paper.

The Philadelphia Inquirer reported that the arbitrator ruled that while the district proved that cheating occurred at the schools, it did not prove that the two principals directly participated in it.

A third principal, Diedre Bennett, was fired in connection with the cheating probe, but her firing was upheld by the arbitrator, the paper reported.

The investigations were part of a cheating probe following reports in the local press, including The Philadelphia Inquirer in 2011, on dramatic increases in test scores at some city schools.  Some sources told the paper that the gains were possible in part because of  "adults tampering with the tests," the paper said.

Following a two-year-investigation, the district reported last year that 138 educators had been implicated in the cheating, according to the Philadelphia Public School NotebookThe district found grounds for disciplinary action against 69. Of that number, 40 were still employed by the district, 29 had already resigned, retired or had been terminated, the publication reported.

Seven principals and teachers were criminally charged, but none of the cases went to trial, according to The Philadelphia Inquirer. Eight principals were subjected to disciplinary action. Seven teachers were disciplined, including three who were fired, the paper reported.

A district spokesman told the paper that formal investigations have not yet started at 22 schools. And state officials told the Philadelphia Inquirer that more charges were possible, the paper reported.

It was also unclear whether the two principals will be placed in schools for this school year because most administrative assignments have already been made, the Philadelphia Inquirer reported. If the arbitrator's decision is not overturned on appeal, the two principals will be paid even if there are no positions for them in the district, the paper said. 

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