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DeSoto School Board Votes To Remove Superintendent

By Matt Goodman, CBSDFW.COM
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DESOTO (CBSDFW.COM) – The DeSoto ISD School Board voted 3-2 Monday to part ways with embattled superintendent Dr. Kathy Augustine, who was placed on paid leave after her first day on the job.

The school board delayed voting on Augustine’s fate after a two-and-a-half-hour executive session during the last school board meeting on July 25, telling reporters they did not want to make a decision without the full board present.

Three trustees were missing then. Place 4 Trustee Curt Krohn and Place 7 Trustee Donald Gant were not present for Monday’s vote.

DeSoto ISD and Augustine will now begin a legal process to settle on a severance amount. Lavetta Levels will continue as acting superintendent.

“This is about leadership in this district. It’s about ethics and integrity,” said Place 1 Trustee and board secretary Sandra Wheeler. “At this time I don’t feel the leadership ability is there.”

Augustine was placed on leave while the school board investigated whether she was aware of a cheating scandal in the Atlanta Public Schools, where she had served as deputy superintendent.

Investigators there found evidence of cheating in 44 of the 56 schools they researched, roughly 79 percent. Gov. Nathan Deal said 178 teachers and principals were found cheating on standardized tests by falsifying test results to meet their targets. Eighty-two of those confessed to wrongdoing.

“We empathize with those educators who felt they were pressured to cheat and commend those who were willing to tell us the truth regarding their misconduct,” Deal said in a statement issued in early July. “However, this report is not meant to excuse their ethical failings, or exonerate them from their wrongdoings.”

Augustine, who has a doctorate from Harvard and 35 years of experience in public education, has said she knew nothing of the years-long scandal and was up front with the consulting company that suggested her to the DeSoto ISD.

On July 11 – Augustine’s first day – Wheeler said the search firm that recommended the 60-year-old administrator had not told the board about the investigation.

“We should’ve been notified about that right up front,” Wheeler said then. “If I’m going to interview someone who’s under investigation, that should’ve been told to us before we even got to her.”

The DeSoto ISD paid Illinois-based education consultant BWP & Associates $14,000 to conduct the superintendent search. Lead consultant George McShan disputed Wheeler’s claims, calling them wrong and saying they were “a misrepresentation of the facts.”

The board voted Monday to begin to “negotiate the terms of voluntary exit” that were discussed in the executive session.

Augustine was to be paid $188,000 a year as superintendent of the district. No criminal charges were filed against anyone involved in the Atlanta cheating scandal.

The Texas Education Agency only requires “cause” to dismiss an administrator, which is largely left up to local school districts to define.

CBS 11 reporter Sharrie Williams contributed to this report.

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