A state government agency that certifies educational personnel has released the findings of an investigation into Dawson County High School’s principal.
The Ethics Division of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission handed down a nearly month-long, unpaid suspension of Wayne Chelf’s educational certificate Feb. 25.
The action came in the wake of an investigation by the Atlanta-based standards commission.
Director Gary Walker has said it involved three standards in particular: conduct with students, honesty and professional conduct.
In a standards commission case document obtained Monday by Dawson Community News, the board outlined specific “findings of fact” that led to its decision in the matter.
The document addresses alleged matters such as inappropriate contact with students, favoritism, changed grades and an inappropriate comment to a teacher.
Chelf said he had no comment Tuesday morning.
Dawson County School Superintendent Keith Porter and the school board received a final order from the standards commission Feb. 25 that announced the suspension of Chelf’s educational certification from March 1-26.
According to the final order, Chelf has until mid-March to “appeal the findings.”
Porter said Feb. 26 that Chelf “will not be returning to the high school.”
“He is eligible to return, but the decision’s been made that he will not be returning,” Porter said.
Porter made the decision to reassign Chelf “to a location to be determined to complete system projects that will be assigned at a later date.”
In the meantime, Porter said he will recommend career and technology supervisor Neil Harrison as an interim principal for the high school at the board’s March 8 work session.
Porter sent letters home to both students and parents Feb. 26 addressing the situation.
He said the school board continues to “monitor the situation very closely throughout the process, which includes being responsive to parents.”
The standards commission case document is a narrative summary of interviews by standards commission investigators.
The Dawson Community News omitted details about those involved to protect their identities.
According to the document, “two students confirmed that the educator had made inappropriate contact with them ... he denied touching any of them inappropriately.”
The document detailed allegations involving favoritism: “Witnesses said that the educator showed favoritism toward a particular [student] by spending a lot of time talking to [the student] and allowing [the student] to use his office computer and telephone.”
According to the document, “He emphasized that he had an open-door policy with all students and that the view through his office door was never blocked.”
There were also allegations in the document that stated “the educator instructed [a teacher] to change [a student’s] grade so that [the student] could be an honor graduate.”
According to the document, “The educator denies that he told anyone to change a grade.”
Lastly, the document addressed an inappropriate comment reportedly made to a teacher “when she asked for time off.”
Again, it noted, “the educator denies making the statement.”
The matter surfaced late last year. According to Porter, “the school board took immediate action upon receipt of the allegations.”
Prior to the standards commission’s Jan. 13 review of the case, Porter said the school system “completed an investigation which led to the information provided to the professional standards commission.”
Chelf gave the board of education a letter of resignation Feb. 5. Three days later, the board voted unanimously to accept the resignation, which is effective June 30, when his contract expires.
According to his resignation letter, dated Feb. 5, Chelf cited “emerging health issues and personal considerations” for his decision.
The letter stated he “[does] not wish to be considered for, nor will I accept if offered, a contract for employment for the 2010-2011 school year.”
The ethics rules are part of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission’s governing code, which serves to “define the professional behavior of educators in Georgia and serve as a guide to ethical conduct.”
Following an investigation, the ethics board can choose to dismiss the case or take one of several disciplinary actions: a warning, reprimand, suspension or revocation of certification.
Chelf joined the local school district in 2007. He previously served for five years as a principal and assistant principal at Lakeside High School in DeKalb County.
He was removed as Lakeside’s principal in March 2006 for what DeKalb Superintendent Crawford Lewis called “leadership issues.”
Parents and students protested the removal, and Chelf was reinstated within two weeks.
During contract negotiations in 2007, Chelf learned he and several other principals would be reassigned to different schools within the system.
His contract with DeKalb County schools ended June 29, 2007, at which time he relocated to Dawson County.