School board denies teacher

Written by Chris Collins June 06, 2012 09:25 am

By Chris Collins

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The Baker School Board rejected a fourth-grade teacher's employment-related grievance during a special meeting Monday.

The grievance was denied in a 3-1 vote. Lynne Burroughs, board chair, and directors Mark Henderson and Andrew Bryan voted in favor of the action. Director Kyle Knight was opposed.

Director Jim Longwell did not attend the meeting. 

The vote was the only item on the agenda for the special meeting, which lasted about five minutes.

Directors were asked to consider Henderson and Burroughs’ findings that teacher Jamey Hardy’s grievance had “no substance” and that it be “denied in all respects.”

Hardy, who resigned in March, effective  when the school year ends Friday, is seeking to be reinstated as a teacher in the district.

(Although Hardy remains under contract with the district until Friday, she is out on medical leave because of a knee injury.)

Hardy brought her complaint before the subcommittee of Burroughs and Henderson during a closed meeting  on May 30 after four meetings with administrators failed to settle the matter to her satisfaction. 

Hardy was represented at the May 30 meeting by Sandy Bushek, Oregon Education Association consultant.  Superintendent Walt Wegener and Betty Palmer, South Baker principal, represented the district.

Knight attempted to attend the closed hearing May 30, but was asked to leave. Henderson and Wegener both threatened to call the police to have him removed, but Knight left before that was necessary.

Knight has been censured by the board, which has resulted in the district withholding certain confidential information from him and excluding him from certain committee meetings.

Wegener said Tuesday that Burroughs and Henderson prepared a report that was distributed to all board members “approved for confidential information,” which did not include Knight.

Knight said he opposed the subcommittee’s recommendation, but also voted no as an expression of his disdain for how the grievance procedure was handled.

“The whole process was out of whack in my opinion,” he said.

Knight noted that in the past, the entire board has heard grievances rather than having two directors hear the complaint.

Knight said he also believes Hardy, an experienced teacher who is in her sixth year with the district, should be reinstated.

“It is my conclusion that the district did not act in the best interest of our students and district by passing the recommendations made by Lynne Burroughs and Mark Henderson,” Knight wrote in an email to the Baker City Herald.

Knight said in a telephone interview Tuesday that although the district has denied him access to information regarding the grievance, he has gleaned details from other sources.

“I hear one side and I hear the other and this is my recommendation,” he said. “I don’t see any problem that would prevent me from saying she should be reinstated.”

Knight said he believes Hardy should be rehired for the 2012-13 school year and placed at the same level on the salary schedule as before her March 13 resignation.

“We should be honored that this teacher decided to stay with this district,” he said. “It is going to cost the district more money to hire a new teacher with no experience, along with an arbitration claim.”

Wegener has said that all teaching positions at South Baker School have been filled for the coming year, pending board approval at the June board meeting.

But Knight says that shouldn’t prevent the district from reinstating Hardy.

Neither Hardy nor Bushek attended Monday’s meeting.

Bushek declined to comment on the board’s ruling. She said she will meet with the Baker Education Association’s executive team to decide how to proceed. 

Bushek said she would also advise Hardy not to comment on the board’s action regarding her grievance.

 The next step would be to have an independent arbiter hear the matter and render a decision.