City school board reinstates principal who had been fired over alleged cheating

The city school board reinstated a principal Monday night who had been fired by CEO Andrés Alonso over alleged cheating at her school.

But the reinstatement of Abbottston Elementary School Principal Angela Faltz won't take effect until 2013, and she won't receive back pay.


Board members also upheld Alonso's decision to dismiss Marcy Isaac, the assistant principal of Abbottston Elementary, who had been testing coordinator.

"The decision made this evening was a travesty to the Baltimore Public School System," said Jimmy Gittings, president of the administrators union, which has been fighting the dismissals for more than a year. "It is quite obvious that Dr. Andrés Alonso, the CEO, can buy anything he wants from the board of school commissioners. This decision was a slap in the face of every child, every parent, every teacher and every administrator in this system."


Board members did not discuss the decisions and left without commenting.

Alonso said after the board's decision, "I haven't been part of the deliberations, so I would need to read the board's opinions in order to understand what that means."

In 2010, Alonso dismissed Faltz and Isaac, who had been held responsible for suspected cheating at the Northeast Baltimore school on the Maryland School Assessment tests during the 2008-2009 school year.

In May, two hearing officers, attorneys hired by the school system to review facts and render opinions regarding personnel cases, found that, contrary to Alonso's assertions, there was not enough reliable evidence to confirm that cheating had taken place at the school.

The hearing officers recommended that the two administrators be reinstated, with back pay.

When the brief meeting was over Monday, Isaac buried her head in the arms of family members and wept. She later declined comment. Faltz shook her head without commenting before leaving the room.

Gittings vowed to continue fighting, saying that he will next go to Gov. Martin O'Malley and Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake. He added that he will start a petition in the city Tuesday seeking to have school board members removed.

Alicia Wilson, one of the attorneys for Faltz and Isaac, said, "It's disheartening that this board would be allowed to overrule two independent hearing officers. ... After looking into the faces of countless witnesses, after hearing the testimony, it's an outrage. There is something rotten in this school system for this to be able to happen."


Alonso dismissed the administrators, who each had more than 20 years of experience in the city, after the school's 2010 MSA scores showed a 30 percent decline in math and a 37 percent decline in reading. Abbottston had achieved 100 percent proficiency the previous school year. U.S. Secretary of Education Arne Duncan had visited Abbottston and commended the school on its achievement.

According to documents obtained by The Baltimore Sun in May, the statement of charges accused Faltz and Isaac of failing to ensure that tests were administered properly and that security regulations were followed.

The school system said evidence from pretests that analyzed students' performance over the years and in comparison with the rest of the school district found that the significant increase or decrease in test scores could not have occurred without improprieties.

Last year, Alonso said a Maryland State Department of Education investigation that centered primarily on analysis of test erasures — an analysis that hearing officers later deemed "crude" and "incompetent" — confirmed that cheating had taken place. Gittings called Alonso's dismissal a rush to judgment.

The union has spent more than $700,000 fighting for the dismissed administrators.