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STRUTHERS SCHOOLS Educators await decision over credentials



Published: Fri, August 27, 2004 @ 12:00 a.m.



By MARALINE KUBIK

VINDICATOR STAFF WRITER

COLUMBUS -- It could be months before Struthers schools Superintendent Dr. Sandra DiBacco learns whether the Ohio Department of Education will revoke her superintendent, high school principal and supervisor certificates.

After being informed in May of the board's intention to revoke her professional certificates and prohibit her from reapplying for them for five years, DiBacco requested a hearing, which began Aug. 19 and will continue Sept. 28, said Adrian E. Allison, director of the state board's office of professional conduct.

After all evidence is presented, both sides may be required to submit written briefs to the hearing officer, Allison continued. Transcripts of the hearing, which will be ready within three weeks of the close of the hearing, must also be submitted. Then, the hearing officer will have four weeks to submit a recommendation to the state board based on the findings.

"That's unlikely to be concluded before December," he said.

The hearing officer could recommend DiBacco's professional certificates be revoked, suspended or retained intact.

The state board can then accept, reject or revise the hearing officer's recommendations.

Appeal to court

If DiBacco is dissatisfied with the board's decision, Allison said, she could take her case to common pleas court in either Mahoning or Franklin counties.

The board is not requesting DiBacco's teaching certificates be revoked, Allison noted.

That's not the case for Struthers teacher Cheryl Richards. The board has threatened to revoke her teaching certificate.

Both she and DiBacco are accused of submitting false information to the board regarding Richards' teaching experience.

The state board received two anonymous complaints that DiBacco provided false information, Allison continued. After what he calls "a cursory look" at information provided by the anonymous caller indicated that there may be some wrongdoing, the board investigated the matter further. Now, Allison said, "We're out of the investigation and into proving a case that the superintendent submitted false information to the department."

According to Allison, DiBacco wrote a letter to the board stating that Richards had more experience teaching special education classes than she actually had.

The letter was in response to the state board's refusal to grant Richards a special education teaching certificate after determining that she did not meet the requirements.

Richards' hearing began Aug. 20 and was continued until Oct. 4.

Independent cases

Although the cases are linked, the board treats them as independent issues with the state submitting information on both, Allison stressed.

"At this point in time, actions on both cases are simply in a period of waiting," he explained. "None of the parties have changed position. The state still believes the action [against DiBacco and Richards] should go forward. Mrs. DiBacco and Mrs. Richards still believe they've done nothing wrong."

kubik@vindy.com




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