Eighteen months ago, State Auditor Elaine Howle called the California Commission on Teacher Credentialing one of the “worst-run” agencies she had investigated in a comment to the Sacramento Bee.
Howle had conducted a review at the Legislature’s request after reports surfaced that the Commission had been slow in investigating thousands of reports of arrest and prosecution against teachers – some involving criminal charges requiring automatic revocation of teaching credentials. There were also complaints of nepotism and employee intimidation. Several key administrators, including the executive director and chief counsel of the Commission, retired soon after.
On Thursday, returning to the Commission to close the books on her audit, Howle praised the Commission and staff, singling out Executive Director Mary Sandy, Teri Clark, director of the Professional Services Division and Nanette Rufo, drector of the Professional Practices Division, the focus of the audit, for the corrective actions they have taken. “Overall, I am here to commend you as commissioners and the staff. You have worked diligently.”
Howle’s office has released three updates since her scathing audit in April 2011 found that “the division’s delays in investigating reported misconduct potentially allowed educators of questionable character to retain a credential.” Extreme cases involved allegations that credential holders distributed obscene material to a student and demonstrated recurring misconduct such as prostitution and petty theft. In each of the updates, Howle’s office reported actions taken in response to the 22 major recommendations; by last month, only a half-dozen partially implemented responses remained. On Thursday, she checked those off, too.
- The Professional Practices Division automated the process of receiving and responding to the unprocessed Reports of Arrest and Prosecution (RAP sheets) from the Department of Justice;
- The Division created a staffing plan for handling complaints;
- Flaws in the database of allegations and complaints were addressed, including ways to identify priority cases of misconduct and an audit trail to justify why decisions in cases were made;
- Cases involving mandatory revocation or suspension were identified for prompt action, along with cases approaching a statute of limitations;
- Employees now have a manual on how to conduct investigations into misconduct;
- In response to surveys revealing that employees feared retaliation for raising concerns on the Commission’s operations, staff members now are trained and sign off on a policy explaining their rights as employees.
Acknowledging the seriousness of the audit, Sandy said, “This has been a tough couple of years.” Fully meeting Howle’s recommendations for improvements marks “an important moment in our institution,” she said.
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