School system will look harder into teachers' past - WALB.com, Albany News, Weather, Sports

School system will look harder into teachers' past

Albany- At the beginning of every school year, teachers rally together.

Sometimes after they're in the classroom, the board finds out things about educators they wish they would have known from the start. So school board members voted to make major changes to the hiring process.

The process started after former Radium Middle School teacher, Regina Mitchell, was arrested for stealing band instruments. She had been in jail before for aggravated assault. Radium Middle School teacher Mike Lewis is facing aggravated assault charges for choking a student. He had previously been arrested for drugs in Florida.

Now there will be background checks every two years on every employee and on any employee who gets promoted or changes jobs.

"Every five years was pretty lengthy and things could happen in a five year period," said David Maschke, the school board member chairs the Safety Committee.

Those will be wider searches through the Georgia Crime Information Center and the National Crime Information Center. National checks weren't being done.

"We found that that did pose a problem and that we can now have access to national background checks and take advantage of that," Maschke said.

All employees will also have to report any criminal charges within three days. But before teachers end up in the classroom, they'll answer many more questions on their applications. There are now 19 questions on the application pages that apply to criminal conduct and professional history.

They include more in depth questions like "Have you ever been arrested with a drug-related offense?" and "Have you ever been the subject of an investigation by a school district or any other employer?"

"I don't think it's overkill because what we're endeavoring to do is protect the students and protect the staff members," Maschke said.

Protected from situations where trusted teachers become convicted criminals.

posted by brannon.stewart@walb.com