Saturday, January 15, 2011

non-Termination of a Teacher

As most of the community is aware, high school science teacher Marianne Pearson had been on unpaid administrative leave for many months. In December 2009, the former Board of Education voted (4-1) to file an "Intent to Terminate" as per the Swanton Education Association (SEA) contract.  (Mike Wiederman voted "no")  This document included five separate points at issue on the matter.  Ms. Pearson was removed from the classroom as the investigation proceeded.  

One of the charges was required by Federal law to be reported to the Ohio Department of Education (ODE).   The ODE ran an independent investigation of this one charge. Last Spring, Pearson "agreed to accept a thirty day suspension of her license without admission of any wrongdoing" as part of a legal settlement called a "Consent Agreement" between Pearson and the ODE.

During these many months, Ms. Pearson had ample opportunity to resign. Although she submitted more than one proposal for a resignation, they all contained demands for various types of compensation consideration - basically, requesting that she be "paid" to resign. All of these proposals were rejected by the Board; however, the Board did continue to carry her medical insurance throughout this process and for the duration of her unpaid leave.

Under Ohio law, Ms. Pearson had the option of a hearing before a third party referee agreed to by both parties.  She chose to use that option, and presented over a dozen witnesses (including Mr. Wiederman, former Superintendents, and fellow teachers, etc.) and submitted over 90 exhibits to the referee.  The Board also produced witnesses and exhibits.  Ms. Pearson's attorney cross-examined our witnesses as our attorney did with her witnesses. 

The referee was an impartial fact-finder, who granted great latitude to Ms. Pearson in the presentation of her side of the case.  There were many days of testimony, which was appropriate to make sure that Ms. Pearson was fairly heard. 

The referee heard and evaluated all testimony from both sides, reviewed all exhibits, and rendered his decision.  The bottom line was that he found each one  of the five charges to be independently worthy of termination of Ms. Pearson's contract with our school district.  He therefore recommended termination.  A resident of our district asked about the referee's report, and as it is a matter of public record you may read it here, in its entirety (student names have been redacted).

Under the statute in Ohio law, the Board was required to give deference to the findings of fact by the referee.  It could then either accept or reject the recommendation of the referee; however, if the Board chose to reject his decision it needed to provide other evidence of fact.

Instead, at the last minute - literally - Ms. Pearson tendered her resignation without a demand for any type of monetary consideration.  By a vote of 3 to 2, this resignation was accepted by the  Board, which nullified the requirement to respond to the findings of the referee as she was thus no longer an employee.

I was one of those "no" votes - why was that??  I voted "no" because Ms. Pearson had more than enough time to resign prior to putting this district through the time and expense of a hearing (which had cost her nothing, as her attorney fees were covered by the OEA).   She was certainly entitled to a hearing, and I am glad that she acted on that right - but it took a lot of nerve to THEN resign, in my opinion.  Part of what she had done was include students in her wrongful actions, which completely negates her insistence that she is a "nice person".  What she did was anything but "nice" to those kids, who love her.  (Comments shared with me included reference to her number of years at Swanton and that "other teachers" do the "same thing".  Try using that excuse for your next speeding ticket.)  At this point, with the referee's strong and objective recommendation on each of the 5 counts, she needed to be simply terminated.  Period.   

That is not what happened, however.  Now the district will move forward.

I only write about this situation here because there are many half-truths and innuendos in the community at large, and felt it appropriate to give the facts to those who are willing to recognize them as such. 

1 comment:

C Irmen said...

At the risk of repeating myself, the opinions expressed on my blog are MY opinions - not the opinion of anyone else. Clearly, with a 3-2 vote on this resignation, there are Board members who did not share my opinion.
If you want to know why others voted "yes", I suggest you ask them - they are your elected officials, just as I am, and are answerable to You. None of your elected officials are mind readers, including school board members. Never hesitate to contact any one of us if you have a question or opinion to share.