• Instead of firing Hamilton High School's principal, SCS votes to demote her

    By: Kristin Leigh

    Updated:

    MEMPHIS, Tenn. - The Hamilton High School principal who was suspended in December will be demoted after Shelby County School officials said the principal admitted she violated SCS policy. 

    Monekea Smith will stay employed with the district after a 20-day suspension, but will be demoted to a role as a teacher.

    The district suspended Smith in December with intent to fire her. SCS did not explain in detail why the district decided to demote the educator instead following through with her termination. 


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    “There are many factors that could impact final personnel recommendations,” a spokesperson for SCS said in an email to FOX13 Wednesday. 

    Smith was formally charged by SCS’ Board of Education with “conduct unbecoming to a member of the teaching profession” and “neglect of duty,” according to the document SCS released describing Smith’s misconduct.

    The district’s investigation found report card grades for students at Hamilton High School were changed from failing to passing after the end of the 2016-17 school year. 

    According to the charges, the changes were made using Smith’s login credentials for the district’s grading system.

    “Smith acknowledged that there was no legitimate reason for the grade changes and further admitted that she violated SCS policy by providing her computer access password to individuals who were not authorized to have such access,” the document, which was signed by Superintended Dorsey Hopson on January 22, stated.

    Shelby County Schools launched an independent investigation of district-wide grade changes after former Trezevant High School Principal Ronnie Mackin penned his explosive resignation letter in June. 

    The investigation was led by former U.S. Attorney Edward L. Stanton III, of the Butler Snow law firm. 

    Following Stanton’s investigation, the board voted to terminate Teli White, the former head football coach at Trezevant, for his role in the grading scandal. 

    Shirley Quinn, who was the secretary at Trezevant for more than a decade, was also fired after grades were changed using her login credentials.

    At Trezevant, the SCS investigation found 53 students were given diplomas they didn’t earn over a four-year period. SCS did not detail whether grade changes at Hamilton were less egregious, or why disciplinary action for Smith was different.

    “The School Board approved the recommendation to suspend the employee for 20 days, and a demotion to a teaching position within SCS,” a district spokesperson said in an email to FOX13. “We will not provide any more details at this time as we do not want to interfere with the respective party’s right to a fair administrative hearing.”

    An audit of school’s grading system was released to the public with Stanton’s investigative findings in December. The audit found abnormally high grade change rates at several SCS schools, many of which are still being investigated by the district. 

    The grade changes at Hamilton were placed under the microscope, after a former teacher addressed the school board in June.  Following Mackin’s letter about Trezevant, Mike Pleasant told SCS board members about similar activity at Hamilton HS.

    Students at Hamilton High School protested the principal’s suspension in January, demanding the district allow the principal to return to the school.

    It wasn’t clear Wednesday whether Smith will teach at Hamilton High School, or be moved to another school in the district. 

    The board’s vote to demote Smith is final, unless she chooses to appeal the charges. 

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