Six educators indicted for cheating; two still active in classroom

AROUND MISSISSIPPI — Six Mississippi teachers have been indicted for participating in a scheme in which teacher candidates would hire others to take certification tests.

Teachers in Tennessee and Arkansas have also been implicated.

The case stem from a 45-count indictment returned by a grand jury in July that charged Clarence Mumford Sr. of Memphis with fraud and identity theft. He is accused of being the ringleader of a group of individuals who were paid to take teacher certification examinations on behalf of aspiring teachers dating back to 1995.

The Clarion-Ledger reports at least two of the Mississippi teachers indicted are still active in the classroom.

Jadice Moore, 40, of Port Gibson continues to serve as a teacher’s aide at Port Gibson Middle School despite a charge of mail fraud, according to Claiborne County schools Superintendent Elijah Brown, who said the district is conducting its own investigation.

And Kimberly Taylor, 36, of Charleston is still employed at Charleston Elementary School, where she is listed as a fourth-grade teacher. She also was charged with mail fraud.

“She has been given a vote of confidence by her employer,” said Taylor’s attorney, Mark Mesler of Memphis.

Staff at East Tallahatchie School District, which oversees Charleston, referred all questions to Superintendent Ellis Smith, who did not return calls for comment.

Other Mississippians indicted are former Jim Hill High School teacher and coach Samuel Campbell, 38, of Jackson, who was charged with wire fraud; Columbus High School special education teacher Darcel Gardner, 34, of Columbus, who was charged with mail fraud and placed on administrative leave; Meridian High School physical education teacher and football coach Carlo McClelland, 34, of Meridian, who was charged with mail fraud and also placed on administrative leave; and Sarah Richard, 44, of Richland, who was charged with mail fraud and fraud related to identification documents.

Richard’s place of employment and current employment status couldn’t immediately be verified, the newspaper reported.

Suspects face up to 20 years in prison and $250,000 in fines for each count if convicted.

Prosecutors said for 15 years, teachers in the three Southern states paid Mumford — himself a longtime educator — to send someone else to take the tests in their place, authorities said. Each time, Mumford received a fee of between $1,500 and $3,000 to send one of his test ringers with fake identification to the Praxis exam. In return, his customers got a passing grade and began their careers as cheaters, according to federal prosecutors in Memphis.

Authorities say the scheme affected hundreds — if not thousands — of public school students who ended up being taught by unqualified instructors.

Mumford faces more than 60 fraud and conspiracy charges that claim he created fake driver’s licenses with the information of a teacher or an aspiring teacher and attached the photograph of a test-taker. Prospective teachers are accused of giving Mumford their Social Security numbers for him to make the fake identities.

The hired-test takers went to testing centers, showed the proctor the fake license, and passed the certification exam, prosecutors say. Then, the aspiring teacher used the test score to secure a job with a public school district, the indictment alleges.

One test-taker, John Bowen, 63, of Memphis, pleaded guilty in September to his role in the scheme.

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