Quigg v. Ga. Prof'l Standards Comm'n, A17A1885.

CourtUnited States Court of Appeals (Georgia)
Citation809 S.E.2d 267
Docket NumberA17A1885.
Decision Date27 December 2017

344 Ga.App. 142
809 S.E.2d 267



Court of Appeals of Georgia.

December 27, 2017

809 S.E.2d 269

Lumley & Harper, Jerry A. Lumley, Sarah S. Harper, for appellant.

Christopher M. Carr, Attorney General, Annette M. Cowart, Deputy Attorney General, Russell D. Willard, Senior Assistant Attorney General, Jennifer Colangelo, Rebecca S. Mick, Assistant Attorneys General, for appellee.

Barnes, Presiding Judge.

Following the grant of her application for discretionary appeal, Linda Jean Quigg, former superintendent of the Thomas County School District ("School District"), appeals the superior court's order affirming the final decision of the Georgia Professional Standards Commission ("Commission") to suspend her educator's certificate for 60 days. Quigg argues that the Commission's initial investigation of her three alleged ethical violations was conducted in a procedurally improper manner and that the Commission's decision to suspend her educator's license therefore was made in excess of statutory authority, upon unlawful procedure, and in violation of her due process rights. Quigg also contends that the Commission's decision to sanction her for three alleged ethical violations was clearly erroneous because it was unsupported by the evidence on the whole administrative record.

For the reasons discussed more fully below, the Commission's decision to sanction Quigg for dishonesty under Standard 4 of the Code of Ethics for Educators ("Ethics Code") for her involvement in a revision made to her daughter's high school transcript to include a personal fitness credit was clearly erroneous in view of the whole record, given that Quigg was no longer serving as superintendent and had retired from the School District when the incident occurred and thus was not acting "in the course of professional practice." We therefore reverse the superior court's order to the extent that it affirmed the Commission's decision to sanction Quigg for that alleged ethical violation and remand for further action consistent with this opinion. We affirm the superior court's order in all other respects.

On appeal, we view the evidence presented at the administrative hearing in the light most favorable to the agency's decision. Bowman v. Palmour , 209 Ga. App. 270, 270 (1), 433 S.E.2d 380 (1993). So viewed, the evidence showed that Quigg held a teaching certificate in Georgia at all times relevant to the present case. Quigg started her career in the School District as an elementary school teacher. Quigg subsequently left the School District and worked elsewhere for several years, but she later returned to the School District and was promoted to the position of assistant principal and then to the position of assistant superintendent of curriculum and instruction. In 2007, Quigg was promoted to the position of School District superintendent and served in that position until the School District chose not to renew her contract in June 2011.1

Quigg had two daughters who attended the Thomas County High School during her tenure as superintendent. The ethical violations alleged against Quigg arise out of a temporary change in the School District's policy regarding dual enrollment students in the 2009-2010 school year that benefitted Quigg's oldest daughter; the removal of confidential student files from Quigg's work computer; and the inclusion of course credit for personal fitness on the high school transcript of Quigg's younger daughter even though she had not taken that course.

Dual Enrollment Policy. When Quigg served as superintendent, Georgia's Accel Program administered by the Georgia Student

809 S.E.2d 270

Finance Commission offered high school students the opportunity to enroll in college courses and earn credit hours toward a college degree while simultaneously meeting their high school graduation requirements. The Accel Program was funded by the Georgia Lottery and provided financial assistance for the cost of the college courses taken by high school students enrolled in approved dual enrollment programs. A State regulation issued by the Georgia Department of Education ("DOE") required that the grades earned by dual enrollment students in college courses be placed on the students' high school transcripts and be used in computing their high school grade point averages (the "Dual Enrollment Regulation").2

Before and after the 2009-2010 school year, all grades of dual enrollment students in the School District were posted on students' transcripts in compliance with the State's Dual Enrollment Regulation. But, for the 2009-2010 school year only, the School District adopted a new policy of posting the college class grades of some, but not all, dual enrollment students on their high school transcripts, which violated the Dual Enrollment Regulation. Under the School District's new policy, whether college course grades were included on a dual enrollment student's high school transcript depended on the student's SAT score and whether the student needed the credit from the college class to graduate.

Quigg participated in meetings where the change in the dual enrollment policy was discussed and saw emails questioning the validity of the change for the 2009-2010 school year. One result of this change in policy was that the grades earned by Quigg's oldest daughter in her dual enrollment classes, including a "D" in one college class, were not posted on her high school transcript. If the grades had been posted on the daughter's transcript, they would have lowered her grade point average. Additionally, the School District reported students, including Quigg's older daughter, as dual enrollment students to the Georgia Student Finance Commission for funding purposes under the Accel Program, even though the students' college course grades were not posted on their transcripts as required by the Dual Enrollment Regulation.

The Confidential Student Files. The non-renewal of Quigg's contract as superintendent was effective June 30, 2011. Before she left the School District, Quigg downloaded all of the electronic files from her work computer onto external flash drives and deleted all of the information on the hard drive. The files included confidential student information, such as test scores and student identification numbers.

Personal Fitness Course Credit. The School District had a longstanding practice of allowing students to meet the State graduation requirement of taking a personal fitness class by instead taking marching band. However, a State regulation issued by the DOE permitted only Junior ROTC to be substituted for personal fitness credit (the "Personal Fitness Regulation").3

809 S.E.2d 271

After her tenure as superintendent ended, Quigg retired from the School District and moved with her family to Oconee County, where her younger daughter enrolled in high school for the 2011-2012 academic year. Her daughter had taken marching band at her high school in Thomas County, but not personal fitness. Before school started, when an Oconee County School District counselor informed Quigg that her daughter did not have a personal fitness credit as required for graduation, Quigg contacted the principal at her daughter's former school and asked him to check on her daughter's transcript in light of the School District's longstanding policy of allowing personal fitness credit for marching band. After speaking with Quigg, the principal contacted the clerk of student records at the daughter's former school, who revised the daughter's transcript to substitute a personal fitness credit for marching band. The clerk then sent the revised transcript to Oconee County.

The Investigation. George Kornegay succeeded Quigg as superintendent of the School District in July 2011. Quigg and Kornegay had a strained working relationship dating back several years. After becoming the new superintendent, Kornegay learned that Quigg had removed all of the electronic files from the hard drive of her work computer. Counsel for the School District requested that Quigg return the electronic files, and she complied with the request. Based on the information contained in the electronic files and upon learning of the School District's policies during Quigg's tenure that violated the Dual Enrollment Regulation and Personal Fitness Regulation, Kornegay became concerned that further investigation was needed to determine whether Quigg had violated any ethical rules. Kornegay took steps to have the School District rescind the dual enrollment and personal fitness policies that had been in effect during Quigg's tenure as superintendent and to enact a new dual enrollment policy consistent with the State's Dual Enrollment Regulation. Kornegay also had the personal fitness credit removed from the high school transcript of Quigg's younger daughter and a new transcript sent to Oconee County reflecting that she had taken band rather than a personal fitness class.

In February 2012, Kornegay emailed John Grant, the Commission's chief investigator for ethics violations, and requested help in determining whether any of the "irregular" practices he had identified in the School District rose to the level of reportable ethics violations. Later that month, before a formal written request for an investigation had been filed with and approved by the...

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