Fired east Cobb teacher was chronically tardy, tribunal told

An east Cobb County elementary school teacher showed up late to work so many times that at one point administrators sent police to her home to check on her, a tribunal of educators was told Wednesday.

On nearly 20 occasions, Elizabeth Wood left 32 East Side Elementary fifth-graders unattended for long durations, administrators said, resulting in school officials scrambling to find a substitute. Her chronic tardiness, coupled with her failure to regularly update her students’ grades online, eventually led to her firing, officials said.

On March 19, after not hearing from Wood for more than two hours, the school’s administration called the police to check on her. The police knocked on Wood’s door for 20 minutes before she answered, administrators said.

Wood said she had fallen asleep on her couch at 1 a.m. that morning, chatting with students online about a class assignment. She slept through several alarms.

Wood, who has appealed her firing, argued during a tribunal Wednesday that she was a high-performing teacher unfairly targeted by the school’s longtime principal. On most occasions, she said, she was just minutes late.

“I showed that I cared and I showed that I was doing everything I could to improve,” Wood said, wiping tears from her eyes.

After several written and verbal reprimands last school year, administrators began requiring Wood to sign into work and notify administrators if she planned on being late. It was a requirement unique to Wood, her attorney argued Wednesday.

“For whatever reason, Ms. Wood was singled out,” lawyer Borquaye Thomas told the tribunal. “She is not a satisfactory teacher. She’s an excellent teacher.”

Cobb administrators disagree.

“This is an extremely straightforward case,” school district lawyer Anita Kumar said. “It’s unmistakable that Wood shouldn’t remain an educator in Cobb County.”

The tribunal of educators is expected to rule on the case by the end of next week.

A group of about 20 Wood supporters — mostly parents and former teachers who described themselves as laid off, reassigned or retired — attended the tribunal. Several said the school’s principal has created a “toxic” and “volatile” working environment.

But Principal Elizabeth Mavity said Wednesday she was trying to help Wood improve.

“It’s our job to bring issues to a teacher … and work with them to help them be successful,” Mavity said.

Support real journalism. Support local journalism. Subscribe to The Atlanta Journal-Constitution today. See offers.

Your subscription to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution funds in-depth reporting and investigations that keep you informed. Thank you for supporting real journalism.