Wood BOE declines to renew three contracts

PARKERSBURG – Wood County school officials have declined to offer contracts to three educators for the 2013-2014 year.

Bob Harris, assistant superintendent of pupil and personnel services, said Wednesday officials declined to offer probationary or continuing contracts to Amanda Terrell, Jesse Young and a third unidentified Parkersburg High School teacher.

Board members approved a large list of probationary and continuing contracts for personnel Tuesday. Harris said contracts are offered based on the recommendation of the superintendent with approval of the board.

“The board votes on it and has the final say,” he said.

Over the past 12 years Harris estimates the school system has declined to renew contracts with three teachers.

“And we are doing three this year,” he said. “It has been an unusual year.”

Terrell was the teacher involved in the “Bad Kid Fort” incident, which made international news. Young was involved in an inappropriate Harlem Shake video that included students engaged in simulated sex acts. Harris declined to identify the third teacher, or the reason the board did not offer another contract.

“The only way I can release it is if they request a hearing,” he said.

Unlike Terrell and Young, the teacher has not been subject to any disciplinary suspensions. All three are teachers at Parkersburg High School.

Harris said officials have a well-stocked pool of applicants from which to draw replacements. Terrell is a social studies teacher. Young teaches physical education.

“In our recruitment efforts at various colleges and universities we have had several students with the certification interested in working in Wood County. I don’t predict we will have problems finding people in those positions,” he said.

Greg Merritt, president of the Wood County AFT, said the other side of that is there is a teacher already committed to the position, gone through development and interested in being a teacher.

“It does seem appropriate to keep a teacher in a position unless they have committed some unforgivable act,” he said.

In Terrell’s case, Beth Dean, whose son was the victim in the incident, pushed school officials to action and went as far as contacting child protective services regarding the incident. Terrell was suspended by the school system. Merritt said CPS did a “thorough investigation” of the incident and found no evidence of abuse.

He said there is a misconception about teacher unions trying to save bad teachers.

“The AFT does not want any teacher in a classroom who would harm a child or hinder the learning process,” he said. “But we are going to fight for a teacher’s job when we feel the reasoning is muddled or unclear.”

When the board approved the large list of contracts, no notice was given that anyone currently employed by the school system was not offered a contract. Merritt said Terrell was unaware she wouldn’t receive an offer until she noticed her name wasn’t on the list.

“The process to me is disheartening to a teacher,” he said. “Even if there is a legitimate reason not to renew that contract it seems more appropriate to let the person know ahead of time rather than going through board action. It seems backward to me.”

The system’s policy of failing to notify employees until afterward is unprofessional, according to board president Tim Yeater. He said professionals should be made aware of the fact their contact isn’t being renewed. And board members need to be made aware of those who aren’t slated to receive contracts. Yeater had no idea a third teacher was not offered a renewed contract.

“Unless we know someone is on there, we have no idea,” he said. “If you don’t put someone on the list, we don’t know it.”

Harris said officials are following procedures outlined in state code. Merritt said if it’s the correct procedure, officials should follow it.