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Board in Del. Ordered To Review Case of Ousted Algebra Teacher

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A Delaware Superior Court judge has ordered the Indian River school board to take another vote on whether to dismiss Adele Jones, the mathematics teacher whose firing last year attracted national media attention.

In a Jan. 19 ruling, Judge T. Henley Graves said the board had erred in voting to dismiss Ms. Jones without fully reviewing all the exhibits in her case. And he ruled that a board member whose children had fared poorly in Ms. Jones's class had a conflict of interest and should not have voted on her firing.

Ms. Jones, who taught algebra at Sussex Central High School in Georgetown, was fired because she had a record of giving many of her students D's and F's. The official charges against her were incompetence and insubordination. (See Education Week, Sept. 15, 1993.)

Ms. Jones argued that she had high standards, requiring students to keep notebooks, to pay attention in class, and to do their homework. Those who did so, she said, generally passed her class.

But district administrators said her students' "negative grades'' damaged their self-esteem, turned them off from studying mathematics, and were the result of poor teaching methods.

She appealed her firing with legal assistance from the Delaware State Education Association.

Ms. Jones said last week that she was "hopeful'' the new vote would swing in her favor.

The vote to fire Ms. Jones was 6 to 4, with the board member found to have a conflict voting against her. Since that time, the school board has lost three members, two of whom voted against her and one of whom voted to retain her.

No date has yet been set for the new vote, which will not involve a hearing.

Under Delaware law, judges can examine only whether school boards followed correct procedures in terminating teachers, not the merits of the case itself. The state teachers' association is lobbying to change that law to allow judges to consider the merits of such cases.

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