Apple Valley charter school's teacher terminations spark frustration

  • Article by: ERIN ADLER , Star Tribune
  • Updated: June 4, 2013 - 2:20 PM

Paideia Academy parents fear that contracts for five teachers were terminated unfairly.

At Apple Valley charter school Paideia Academy, tensions are running high among parents and students after the contracts of five teachers weren’t renewed for next school year.

Parents allege that the teachers were terminated unfairly, and that politics and ambiguous evaluations contributed to the cuts.

Paideia’s director and school board, though, say protocol was followed and the teachers weren’t meeting expectations.

Board member Stephanie Abraham said that though the number of teachers terminated is higher than in recent years, the school is finally gaining stability after going through a series of directors. As a result, teachers were observed consistently this year.

“We’ve been somewhat rudderless for the past 18 to 20-something months,” Abraham said. “We hadn’t had a formal director in place for a long period of time, so those positions were never truly evaluated the way they probably should have been.”

This year, Paideia hired Marci Levy-Maguire as its new director — its fifth in eight years, not counting interim directors.

Paideia, which opened in 2005, serves about 380 students and offers a classically focused education, including Spanish and Latin instruction.

Levy-Maguire said she’s spent the year “ensuring a sustainable, long-term future” for Paideia, which included developing a process of observing and evaluating teachers using a well-known model.

At a board meeting two weeks ago, 75 parents and students turned out, with about 10 parents addressing the board, asking why the teachers were let go.

At the meeting, social studies teacher Leah Hood said she believes the school should continue reviewing its evaluation process, making it more transparent and helping teachers with remediation when necessary. She also voiced support for the administration and board.

Several parents tearfully lamented the terminations of the gym teacher, Mindy Daugherty, at Paideia for three years, and Susan Webster, a second-grade teacher who had been there for eight years.

Levy-Maguire explained that teachers were observed multiple times by herself and another person and given opportunities to improve if deemed below proficient.

“The criteria are very clear. This is a framework that has been used across the nation,” she said. “This isn’t fun for anyone — not me, not the board.”

Specific details can’t be shared because human resources information is confidential, said Allen Johnson, a board member and human resources committee chair.

The terminated teachers declined to comment on the circumstances of their dismissals.

“I just want you to be aware, we have been very thoughtful about this process,” Johnson said.

But some parents aren’t so sure.

Andrea Stone, who has five children, said she’s “been through a lot of hiccups” with the school, but that she’s never seen so many parents so upset.

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