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Ormond Beach Observer Thursday, Aug. 15, 2019 1 day ago

Former Mainland High School principal held fake class for senior athletes

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An investigation into Cheryl Salerno discovered the principal retired after receiving a termination letter the day before.
by: Jarleene Almenas News Editor

A class that never existed. Stellar grades for nine senior athletes. Two teachers working as school counselors without proper certifications. 

This is what a second investigation into recently former Mainland High School Principal Cheryl Salerno uncovered, which led to her retirement on Aug. 6, before she could be fired at the Aug. 28 school board meeting.

“As a school administrator, you are subject to highest ethical and professional standards in the District," read an Aug. 5 termination recommendation letter to Salerno. "Your misconduct seriously reduces your effectiveness as an employee of the District and constitutes extremely poor judgment.”

Investigation documents obtained by the Ormond Beach Observer revealed that Salerno, who in July was reprimanded for administering fake AP tests to over 300 students, and later placed on administrative leave, was supposed to have taught a Speech 1 course to nine student athletes during the 2018-2019 school year. However, there isn't much evidence that the class actually happened, aside from one former faculty member stating she remembered one time that she sat in on the class and watched students give speeches. 

The investigation reported that the class was added to the school schedule on Jan. 30, though it was backdated to Aug. 13. The students all received a 95/A grade for every grading period. There were no grades in the grade book, and Salerno didn't produce student work for the investigation, even though she said she would. 

The class was supposed to be held three days a week during "Buck" time. 

Salerno also assigned two teachers as counselors, both of which were working toward certification, but hadn't achieved it at the time. Both teachers were listed as part of the counseling team and met with students, the investigation found. One worked with ESE students, and the other with the school's "mind, body and spirit academy group." One of the teachers has since gained her counseling certification.

Volusia County School Board member Carl Persis said on the Marc Bernier Show that assigning teachers to teach a course in which he or she is not certified is common nowadays because of teacher shortages. However, Persis acknowledged that the school needs to notify parents when this is the case. 

Mainland parents weren't notified. 

Persis said Salerno would have needed approval from former Chief Academic Officer Teresa Marcks to assign the two counselors. Marcks resigned in late June after the AP placebo test ordeal. Persis also disclosed on the show that only six students out of the 85 that took the real AP test actually passed.

Persis told Bernier that when an employee decides to retire, there isn't anything the school district can do to stop them. Beyond Salerno's personnel file stating she resigned in lieu of termination, there is no other penalty for her actions at this time.

“That’s a pretty harsh statement to have in your personnel files," Persis told Bernier. 

Should Salerno apply for another education field job in the future, whether in Florida or not, potential employers would need to contact the Volusia County School District to be made aware of the situation. Otherwise, they'd never know, Persis said.

Former Mainland Principal Tim Huth has returned to the school to serve as its principal this year.

This story was updated at 3:28 p.m. on Friday, Aug. 16, to include comments from School Board member Carl Persis in the Marc Bernier Show.

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