The former Norman S. Weir School teacher cleared of test-cheating accusations is receiving $25,000 in back pay.
Michelle Gates was accused of assisting students in her classroom cheat on the New Jersey Assessment of Skills and Knowledge (NJ ASK) on May 5th, 2012. The district brought tenure charges against Gates after 17 of the 27 students interviewed by investigators said she directly assisted them during the test or witnessed her helping other students.
Arbitrator Edmund Gerber dismissed the tenure charges against Gates on September 8th, 2016 after her attorney argued the district presented “hearsay” evidence by not calling any of the 27 students to testify in the case.
Gerber ordered Gates be reinstated with back pay going back to the date when she was suspended.
Terry Corallo, spokeswoman for the Paterson Public Schools, said Gates was placed on administrative leave without pay on May 16th, 2016. Gates will receive $25,010 in back pay through September 30th, 2016, she said on Friday afternoon.
Gates’ salary at the district is $100,042, according to payroll records.
Corallo said the necessary paperwork for Gates’ reinstatement was completed on Friday and is being routed for approvals. She said the district anticipates Gates’ return on Monday, September 26th, 2016 or latest by Tuesday, October 4th, 2016.
Gates has been working for the city’s school district for 19 years. Her last teaching post was as a language arts teacher at the Gifted and Talented Academy in School 28.
The test-cheating accusations against her emerged when Measurement Incorporated, firm that administers NJ ASK, found tests from her classroom had a large number of wrong to right answer erasures.
“An erasure analysis of the test revealed a high number of wrong to right erasures. That is, a significant number of students had erased wrong answers and filled in right answers,” reads the arbitrator’s decision.
Those students were interviewed and audio recordings of those interviews were submitted as evidence in the tenure charge case, but none them were called to testify which prevented Gates’ attorney from cross examining the witnesses.
Gates attorney characterized the audio interviews as “hearsay” third party statements. The arbitrator agreed and dismissed the charges against the veteran teacher.