Superintendent Steve Green said Tuesday that being previously charged with a crime would not make someone ineligible for a job. District officials said they were not aware of Hudson’s arrest prior to hiring him.
Atlanta Public Schools officials did not say whether they were aware of his 2013 meth arrest, but said late Tuesday that results of standard background checks met their guidelines.
According to the Code of Ethics for Educators, from the Georgia Professional Standards Commission, unethical conduct includes the commission or conviction of a felony, including a situation where the charge is disposed through diversion or similar programs.
On his application, Hudson marked “no” when asked whether he had been convicted of any crimes in the last five years. On his resume, instead of listing the name of the high school where he worked, he wrote “NYC DOE High School,” or New York City Department of Education.
Efforts to reach Hudson were not successful. District officials said he “walked off the job” Nov. 26.
Bernice Gregory, the district’s human resources chief, said changes to the hiring procedure since she arrived at the district in April include having a second person — either Gregory or the director of employment services — perform a second candidate screening to ensure checks and balances on the district’s hiring checklist have been met. That could include a Google search and verifying a person’s job history for the past 10 years, talking to at least one reference who directly supervised the candidate.
“We put another set of eyes on it,” Gregory said about the applications. “Once we put their names in Google, you know everything … is going to come up that’s out there.”
The district recently joined the National Association of Teacher Education and Certification, which has a database giving the district access to convictions, arrests and charges against a potential candidate. Her staff is set to begin training this week to use that system. She said they also recently signed up for access to the Child Protective Services Information System, which essentially is a child abuse registry for the state of Georgia and would tell district officials whether someone had had as little as a child abuse complaint against them.
A question added to applications will ask applicants if they have been asked to resign from a school district. During peak hiring times, Gregory said someone from her department will ask the question again.
The district has gotten into trouble for sloppy hiring in the past, including a teacher hired last summer who had been fired from the Toledo, Ohio, school district on allegations that she assaulted students by putting them in headlocks and pushing them against walls. DeKalb County Schools placed Sandra Meeks-Speller on administrative leave on Oct. 10, 2017 pending an internal investigation, shortly after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution requested her personnel file and told district officials what was uncovered online about her past.
Diane Clark was removed twice from the district in 13 months. The first time, in November 2016, she was allowed to retire early after several of her Cross Keys High School students claimed she made threatening comments about getting them deported immediately after President Donald Trump was elected. The second time was December 2017, after The Atlanta Journal-Constitution discovered Clark had been brought back to the district as a substitute teacher.
District officials admitted failing to do internet searches was among critical gaps in their background-check process, and promised changes such as verifying the work history candidates provide on their job applications and making direct contact with references.“Our background-check process certainly needs shoring up,” Superintendent Steve Green said last year. “We need to keep up with the times for ways there are to get information. In the old days, if you were cleared to teach in Ohio, you would be cleared to teach here.”
District officials said in an email at the time that they would provide training sessions on interview tips, contact state boards where candidates are licensed and provide annual safety awareness training for some human capital management employees.
From the Code of Ethics for Educators
An educator shall abide by federal, state, and local laws and statutes. Unethical conduct includes but is not limited to the commission or conviction of a felony or of any crime involving moral turpitude; of any other criminal offense involving the manufacture, distribution, trafficking, sale, or possession of a controlled substance or marijuana as provided for in Chapter 13 of Title 16; or of any other sexual offense as provided for in Code Section 16-6-1 through 16-6-17, 16-6-20, 16-6-22.2, or 16-12-100; or any other laws applicable to the profession. As used herein, conviction includes a finding or verdict of guilty, or a plea of nolo contendere, regardless of whether an appeal of the conviction has been sought; a situation where first offender treatment without adjudication of guilt pursuant to the charge was granted; and a situation where an adjudication of guilt or sentence was otherwise withheld or not entered on the charge or the charge was otherwise disposed of in a similar manner in any jurisdiction.
The hiring of a former principal who had been arrested on a methamphetamine charge in New York isn’t the first personnel problem DeKalb County Schools has experienced in recent years. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution previously reported on the former personnel director who was demoted after several months of unexplained absences from work, as well as on a teacher from Ohio hired in spite of allegations there of abusing students, and the re-hiring of another teacher the district had allowed to retire just months earlier after student complaints of threatening comments.