OKLAHOMA CITY – Two teachers are now speaking out about an embattled school district in a recently filed lawsuit.
According to court documents, two teachers are now suing Epic Charter Schools, claiming they were fired for being honest about students who were not making the grade.
The former Epic teachers, who live in Mayes and Pawnee counties, claim they were let go when they refused to manipulate student enrollment numbers.
Noelle Waller and Shana Atchley say there was pressure on teachers to drop students who were doing poorly academically in order to maximize the teacher’s potential bonus.
According to the lawsuit, Epic has a bonus system where “teachers, principals, and certain administrators can receive monetary bonuses when students meet certain benchmarks. The bonus system is divided into four categories: retention, test scores, attendance and student’s ability to move on to the subsequent grade level.”
Waller said that the first few years with the district were fine, but things changed around the 2015-2016 school year. That’s when she said that Epic officials pressured her to manipulate her roster based on academic ability.
The lawsuit alleges that Epic teachers were told to hold students who tested poorly to more rigorous truancy standards than those students who tested well.
“Initially, Waller buckled under pressure and held her low-performing students to the letter of Epic’s truancy standards. But as time went on, Waller came to understand that Epic’s actions had nothing to do with enforcing truancy standards and that poor testers were being singled out for enforcement of these policies, even if they were doing what their teachers asked of them and trying to comply with Epic’s exacting standards,” the lawsuit alleges.
She says she told her principal she would no longer remove low-performing students from her rolls and was told that decision would affect her bonus.
Around June of 2018, Waller says she was suddenly terminated because of state test scores.
When she confronted officials in a claim, Epic alleged that Waller was “fired for failure to comply with the Employee Agreement, failure to comply with the Employee Handbook, inappropriate conduct, parent complaints, habitual poor performance, unprofessional and rude behavior, bringing a weapon inside a site designated for state testing, and disobeying a directive not to bring the weapon again by returning with it the next day.”
She denies those accusations and is seeking more than $75,000.
Officials with Epic Charter Schools sent News 4 the following statement:
“We have not been served with any lawsuit. However these are disgruntled former employees hoping to profit from what they perceive to be the issue of the day. I cannot comment about personnel issues, but I can tell you that these employees are no longer employed with us, and for good reason,” said Epic Assistant Superintendent Shelly Hickman.