A Carroll school district investigation of Old Union Elementary principal Andra Barton revealed violations of special education law, misuse of restraining holds on children, and a hostile work environment in which some staff members feared retaliation, according to a preliminary report released Friday by the district.
The report details the findings of the investigation, conducted by the district’s legal firm, and it lists recommendations for proposed corrective action. The investigation, which began in February, included interviews with 14 current and former Old Union employees and informal interviews with staff and others.
Barton was placed on paid administrative leave in mid-March and resigned Thursday when presented with the findings, officials said.
Neither Barton nor her attorney, Kevin Lungwitz of Austin, returned phone calls seeking comment Friday. Superintendent David Faltys and school board President Erin Shoupp also did not return calls.
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The investigation report, along with proposals for corrective action at the school, is on the agenda for Monday night’s school board meeting. District spokeswoman Julie Thannum said she doesn’t expect changes to the investigation findings, but there could be recommendations for changes or additions to the action plan.
After the report is approved, district officials plan to hand-deliver it to the Texas Education Agency, then hold a meeting with staff and parents at Old Union, Thannum said.
According to the findings of the investigation, Barton created a hostile working environment in which teachers were afraid to come forward with concerns, and some felt “picked on.”
Also, the report states that use of restraining holds on students was “not always limited to use during emergencies,” and a violation of the law. No child was abused, the report says, but one incident was “arguably a violation of the Texas Educator Code of Ethics.”
The report also stated that Barton provided misleading information during the investigation and failed to follow a directive to not discuss the investigation with a third party.
Thannum said that to her knowledge, there have been no grievances filed by parents or staff at Old Union.
“One of the things that is very important to us is accountability and ensuring the public that we take these matters very seriously,” Thannum said.
Many of the proposed actions to be taken at the school involve training of administrators and staff.
“It’s very hard to hold people accountable if they don’t know what that expectation is,” Thannum said.
On Feb. 8, attorneys for the school district began investigating concerns about records management, testing procedures and the work environment at the school. They made a report to the Texas Education Agency on March 14.
State officials said last week that the investigation involved testing irregularities related to the administration of the state exam in March.
The State Board for Educator Certification will be notified, which could result in a sanction against Barton’s certification.
It is not clear whether the district will face state sanctions or whether the problems will affect the TAKS reading results for Old Union. Every third-grader passed the TAKS reading exam March 5.
The article contains information from the Star-Telegram archives. Katherine Cromer Brock, 817-685-3813