Board disagrees with teacher's non-renewal

Wednesday, May 27, 2009

School board members disagreed sharply over decisions made by director of schools Stan Curtis that came to light at the monthly board meeting last Thursday.

Misty Reese, who has taught in Marshall County schools since 2001, received notification that she would not be rehired for the 2009-2010 school year. According to board member Curt Denton, her request to appeal the decision was turned down by Stan Curtis, director of schools, so her next move was to ask for an opportunity to address the school board.

"I'm confused," said Reese. She said all her evaluations had been positive and her principal at Marshall Elementary School, Debra Wade, had recommended her for rehire. Curtis told her he was "not required" to give a reason for letting her go.

"She deserves an answer," said Craig Michael. "What changed from last year to this year? What is the documentation?"

"Our attorney advises us not to discuss this matter," said chairwoman Ann Tears.

"That's the first I've heard of this," exclaimed Michael. "I find that unacceptable."

"I'm not discussing this matter," asserted Tears. "We need to move on."

"What's the next step in the process?" asked Mark Wilkerson.

"According to the Tennessee Code Annotated there is no appeal process if a teacher is not tenured," said Curtis.

"The board does have the discretion to re-open Article 10 of the teachers' contract, dealing with fair treatment and just cause," Michael said.

"I don't think this is the time to get into this," said Tears.

"It's ridiculous," said Denton. "Everyone of us knows this is a great teacher. There's been some terrible decisions made."

"The board deserves the right to be notified about legal advice. You did not do that," complained Michael. "An executive decision prior to the meeting is unacceptable."

Tears succeeded in moving on to the next item on the agenda, but the problem of Reese's dismissal returned during the "New Business" portion of the meeting.

"I was chief negotiator for the board," said Michael. "But I've learned a lot in the last few months; I've listened and talked to a lot of teachers. We need to step back and look at the situation regarding employment. For any teacher without tenure not to have an answer why they're not rehired - I don't think it's right. I would like to move this school board direct its negotiating team to re-open Article 10 (fair treatment and just cause) and discuss it with the Marshall County Education Association. MCEA would have to agree, of course; I have no idea if they would want to re-open."

The motion to direct the negotiating team to re-open Article 10 was carried 6-2 in a roll call vote. Mike Keny, Dee Dee Owens, Wilkerson, Denton, Michael, and Randy Perryman voted "yes;" while Todd Tietgens and Kristen Gold voted "no" and Tears abstained.

The next negotiation meeting between MCEA and the Board of Education is scheduled for 9 a.m. Friday, June 12.

In a phone interview after the school board meeting, Michael elaborated on the points he had made, calling the situation "interesting" and said, "I don't know where this is going to go. We've got to do what we can to make it right and make it equitable."

"I think it's out of order not to inform the rest of the board," he said of the executive meeting between Tears, Curtis and their legal advisor. "I found it very disturbing, and the vote shows the rest of the board was also disturbed," Michael continued.

"I'm concerned with the personnel decisions he's making," said Denton in a phone interview. "He's taken five great teachers out of the schools this year: Lyn Stacey, Mitch Byrd, Mike Frey, Patsey Thomas, and now Misty Reese.

"Who IS good for the system? Is Stan Curtis good for the system?" asked Denton in conclusion.