Fired teacher speaks her mind; Curtis does, too

Wednesday, June 24, 2009
Misty Reese

At least one of the Marshall County teachers who was not re-hired for the upcoming school year was "totally surprised" by the letter she got from schools director Stan Curtis saying she wasn't being re-hired.

"Just let me do my job - the thing I have a passion for," exclaims Misty Reese who addressed the school board's May meeting about not being told why she was not re-hired. "That's all I really wanted, was an answer. I knew my principal was pleased."

Reese taught first grade at Marshall Elementary School in 2008-2009.

Deborah Wade "had recommended me for re-hire. Miss Wade (the MES principal) and I have had a good past together."

Reese said Curtis visited her room at MES "maybe three times" in the year, and never stayed more than a minute or two.

"To me, it's not using good judgment," Reese commented about Curtis' decision.

When asked about Reese, and the other teachers and support personnel who have not been renewed, Curtis said that his action had nothing to do with budget cuts.

"I can only give the standard answer," he said. "My role is to make decisions on what will be best for the efficient and effective operation of the Marshall County school system. The law says you don't have to give a reason" for not renewing someone's contract.

Reese has lived in Marshall County since she was in fifth grade. Some people know her from playing ball, and many know her for her artistic and creative talents - some of Reese's murals can be seen at Westhills, and many are in private homes around the county. Her husband, Steve, coaches at Marshall County High School, and they have a 16-year-old son and a 10-year-old daughter.

"I was not a very good student," Reese admits. "I felt like I didn't get the help I needed. I love kids, and I want to help kids - that's why I went into teaching. So many kids in this county have a terrible home life. You can see some don't even have a chance unless someone steps in and tries to guide them correctly."

Reese has taught "off and on" in Marshall County for seven years, she said. Her certification is in elementary education, but she taught art at Westhills, and also did BITE (Behavior Intervention and Training - Elementary) for a year.

She says they pushed her to get her certificate for teaching art, and also for special education, but Reese has always wanted to be where she can help the most kids: in the regular classroom.

"I'm not a quitter," Reese said of her future. "I've applied in other counties, and I did renew my application here. I just feel like I have seven years in this county all with good evaluations, and I feel like it (not being renewed) would make it hard for me to get something outside the county."

A superficial reading of the Tennessee Code Annotated might indicate Reese could be eligible for tenure because of her length of service, and the fact that she taught all of the last school year in her area of certification.

"No," Curtis said. "She did not fall under those categories. I'm not wanting litigation: I had our attorney look at it."

"I wish I could give you more," Curtis added. "You have to make decisions you think are best and live with the consequences. It's hard for people to understand."

Reese said, "I don't know where he gets his information about people. He just doesn't know. He's come from outside the county, but his decisions are no different from what we had before. The educators know what's going on, but somebody needs to let people in the county know what's going on."

The school board's Director's Evaluation Committee is due to meet at Central Office at 5 p.m. July 2 to tabulate the results of the anonymous evaluations of Curtis' performance that all the board members have been filling out.