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Hamburg’s years-long effort to discipline teacher has dragged on for far too long

From New York’s education commissioner comes the not-so-subtle finding that the Hamburg School District acted improperly when it placed teacher Martha Kavanaugh on a leave that has stretched more than two years. The suspension has been ordered removed from her record. This case has dragged on far too long. It should have been settled long ago.

Kavanaugh was placed on leave Jan. 15, 2014. Without getting caught up in the years-old thicket of claims and counter-claims, it should be enough to know that Kavanaugh spent two years on administrative leave, being paid and covered by health insurance at taxpayer expense while the district “investigated.” The lengthy delay showed a disregard for the need for a timely determination.

A few years ago, the Hamburg School District routinely made headlines. It was nothing short of a soap opera, with a cast of characters and grudges. That students were able to focus on academics was nothing short of amazing.

When school officials placed Kavanaugh on leave they should have had a solid plan on how to quickly and efficiently proceed. They didn’t.

After 19 months on leave, the board accused her of incompetence and insubordination for failing to submit adequate lesson plans, or to proctor a final exam. Kavanaugh was also accused of not grading exams, telling a substitute teacher to use the wrong test and failing to attend an open house. And she was charged with not meeting deadlines on a curriculum project when she was on leave.

According to a hearing officer, the district showed “bad faith” and “unacceptable conduct” in its quest to get rid of Kavanaugh. The district is appealing that decision in State Supreme Court, further extending a drama that could have been avoided with some prompt action.