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One hearing left for fired Lincoln County teacher

CHARLESTON, W.Va. -- A Lincoln County middle school teacher who says she was fired for speaking out about teachers faking test scores is moving closer to having her appeal decided.

Kelli Burns was an English teacher at Guyan Valley Middle School until she was fired in March. She filed a grievance over her termination, and the third of four daylong grievance hearings took place Friday in Charleston.

A fourth hearing will be scheduled for next month, and a decision from Administrative Law Judge Stephanie Ojeda is expected within 30 days of the final hearing.

Burns said Friday she was fired because she complained about other teachers faking scores on state-mandated standardized tests.

"She had complained about test scores being faked and then there was disciplinary action taken," said Gordon Simmons, Burns' union representative.

"It's a huge issue," Burns said of test-score faking. "I don't think it takes Sherlock Holmes to figure that out."

The Lincoln County Board of Education contends that Burns was fired because of poor performance. According to news reports, Burns has said school officials accused her of showing nude pictures to students and trying to "turn" them gay.

Devonne Brown Parsons was a teacher with Burns at Harts Intermediate School in 2010. Parsons was one of a parade of teachers and school officials who have been called to testify in Burns' case.

As the only two English teachers at Harts, Parsons said she and Brown worked extensively together, with students, on lesson plans and on teaching methods.

She said that both she and Burns used "21st-century teaching methods" -- games, skits and other types of nonbook learning -- and that classrooms could get a little loud.

"She was great to work with," Parsons said of Burns. "We got a lot done."

Parsons came under detailed cross-examination from Rebecca Tinder, an attorney with Bowles Rice, representing the Board of Education.

Tinder asked about where lesson plans were kept, how often the two teachers met and how often Burns' classroom was observed.

Burns did not appreciate the detailed, sometimes harsh, line of questioning.

"You'd expect this from Halliburton or whoever," she said, "But not from the Board of Education."

Reach David Gutman at david.gutman@wvgazette.com or 304-348-5119.


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