The fate of a middle school principal facing allegations of mishandling MAP testing procedures will be decided by the Camdenton Board of Education at the conclusion of a hearing that drew an audience of over a 100 onlookers and lasted throughout the day Wednesday.
The hearing for Sean Kirksey got underway Wednesday morning with more than 15 potential witnesses.
Sean Kirksey was placed on administrative leave from his position as Camdenton Middle School principal earlier the year after an investigation into possible mishandling of the state required testing procedures this spring. The hearing ran late until the evening and had not concluded at press time.
The attorney for the Camdenton R-III District School Board, Mike McDorman, opened the hearing by reading the three charges against Kirksey. Both attorneys — Tom Mickes on behalf of the Camdenton administration and Jay Kirksey on behalf of Sean Kirksey — elected not to give opening statements.
Michael Minks, Coordinator of Assessment for the Department of Elementary and Secondary Education (DESE), took the stand as the first witness of the day. During his questioning, Minks confirmed that the seventh grade Communication Arts writing prompt is to be given for 60 to 90 minutes in one sitting. DESE regulations allow additional time to be given to students who "have made adequate progress," but should still take place in one sitting according to Minks. He confirmed that a test is not allowed to be given over two days unless the student has special needs which would allow for an additional day.
"Each testing session should be completed in one sitting," Minks read from the MAP test guideline booklet.
The district alleges Kirksey failed to follow Missouri Assessment Program (MAP) testing protocol by breaking up test test into two days that was meant to be held in one sitting.
Due to the findings in the investigation, officials said that more than 200 scores from Camdenton Middle School were thrown out.
"Those students would be judged to have an unfair advantage," Minks said of the students who were allowed two days to test.
When asked if the improprieties would affect Camdenton's accreditation, Minks said, "It can long term."
"When scores disappear, it makes whatever happens next year a little wobbly," he added.
In the 2013 Annual Performance Report (APR), Camdenton's accreditation was unaffected.
Throughout the hearing Wednesday, Sean Kirksey's attorney Jay Kirksey argued the testing schedule was ultimately not Sean Kirksey's responsibility.
When Sean Kirksey took the stand, he said that the schedule was a collaborative effort by him and the building leadership team.
"I participated in a decision to allow that," Sean Kirskey said of the splitting up of the communication arts writing prompt into two days. "The schedule was not my direct responsibility. I was a part of a team who made that schedule. It was a collaborative decision."
Page 2 of 4 - Sean Kirksey also said that the building had conducted testing like this before by splitting up a test into two days.
"Our previous experience with that test is that it had been split," Sean Kirksey said.
For part of the hearing, it was unclear who created the schedule and whose responsibility it was to make sure the schedule was in compliance to DESE and Board guidelines.
According to DESE guidelines, the district testing coordinator, Assistant Superintendent Roma France, is to maintain test schedules and have them on file if DESE decides to come for a visit. Guidelines also state that the district testing coordinator must review the district's assessment guidelines. According to France, those guidelines include information regarding all of the districts assessments and security for those tests.
When Becky Long-Ruggles — CMS building testing coordinator — took the stand, she said that she had seen issues with the schedule and spoke up but did not get cooperation from her building administrator.
Long-Ruggles said she has been on CMS staff for four years. When she interviewed for the job, she said that Sean Kirksey mentioned that even though she would have the title of MAP testing building coordinator, they would work together since it was a "big job."
Long-Ruggles has multiple years of experience with MAP testing. While she was employed by the Richland School District prior to coming to Camdenton, she was the district testing coordinator. She said that Sean Kirksey brought the schedule to the building leadership team and she immediately had questions. She had to ask another staff member to explain it to her. She testified that that was when she realized the schedule allowed for the writing prompt to be taken on two separate days, prompting her to address the issue with Sean Kirksey.
In her testimony, Long-Ruggles said that she told Sean Kirksey, "You can't do that." She then alleged that Kirksey told her, "That's how we do that."
Long-Ruggles said that other teachers voiced their concerns, as well.
When asked if she felt as if the schedule was built from a collaboration, she said, "No, Mr. Kirksey prepared it."
Long-Ruggles said she has had issues with CMS's testing practices since she took the job. The first year she was in the district, she refused to sign off on the tests. When asked why, she said, "I did not like the practices here."
She went on to say that Sean Kirksey signed off on the tests that year.
Long-Ruggles recalled Sean Kirksey admitting to France that he created the schedule. When asked how she would respond if she knew he said that it was a collaborative effort, she said through tears, "I am disappointed. He was honest in the interview (with Roma France during the investigation) and so was Joel Carey. I was very proud to be a Laker. We didn't cover it up. As the building testing coordinator, I should have called Roma France and made sure she knew it or called DESE, but I was convinced they already knew it."
Page 3 of 4 - Much of the hearing revolved around if Roma France read or reviewed the schedules when she received them.
"She (Roma France) would receive them (schedules) and keep them on file in case DESE requests them. That is my interpretation of the responsibility of the district testing coordinator," Long-Ruggles said. "I don't think you can tell by looking at our schedule that it is a split schedule. It is vague."
When asked why she turned in a schedule that she was not comfortable with, "I felt helpless," she said. "I had told my boss and he said, 'This is the way we will do it' and I did it."
Jay Kirksey asked her if it was her job to make sure the schedule is compliant.
"It should have been if I had been given the power to do that," Long-Ruggles answered.
Roma France took the stand and said that she discovered the improprieties allegedly made by Sean Kirksey when she was asked to investigate allegations that a teacher had cheated during MAP testing.
"At that time several things began to unfold," France said.
France confirmed what others had said — that the test should have been given in one sitting. She also brought up the point that according to board policy, building administrators are not to proctor tests.
"They should not have a testing session, they should be walking the halls," France said.
France told the board that while Kirksey was proctoring the test on three different occasions, two untrained school personnel were put in charge of testing.
When asked what her recommendations to the board would be following her investigation, she said that the school test coordinator should be allowed to do their job and create the schedule with receiving input, principals should not proctor a test, all students should be scheduled to test at the same time, all appropriate school personnel should be trained, the building coordinator should submit any concerns or violations directly to the district coordinator and she added while at the hearing that the district coordinator should review the schedules from now on even though it is not outlined in DESE guidelines.
"I don't want anything like this to happen again to this district," France said.
The two secretaries who allegedly filled in for Sean Kirksey while he was proctoring a test both took the stand and recounted the events form their perspective. Both confirmed that they were not trained to proctor a MAP test, but both did indeed sit in for Sean Kirksey during the spring 2013 MAP test.
One secretary also told the board that Sean Kirksey typed the schedule on her desktop while she was nearby before emailing it out to the entire middle school staff.
Page 4 of 4 - According to McDorman, there are other pending charges against Kirksey but the ones regarding MAP testing are the only ones discussed in Wednesday's hearing. If the board elects not to terminate Kirksey, they would have the opportunity to hear those charges on a different day.
At the time this article went to print, the board of education was still conducting the hearing and had not made a decision regarding Kirksey's employment with the district.