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Teacher opposes nonrenewal

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The Yellow Springs School Board approved a recommendation at their meeting Thursday, May 8, to nonrenew the contract of McKinney physical education and health teacher Angela Bussey. During the board meeting, Bussey and her attorney Mark Landers held a public hearing to defend her right to maintain her job. The hearing was held before the board’s unanimous vote, with Sylvia Ellison, Sean Creighton, Steve Conn and Evan Scott voting to approve the recommendation, and board President Aïda Merhemic abstaining from the discussion and the vote.

The nonrenewal was based on Bussey’s performance evaluation, conducted by Yellow Springs High School and McKinney Principal Tim Krier. The collection of four evaluations conducted during Bussey’s first year with the district last year show “a low degree of professional competence for the year” in two areas of professionalism and classroom environment and recommends that the contract be nonrenewed. Basora reviewed the evaluation and Bussey’s overall performance and forwarded the recommendation to the board.

“Evaluators do not recommend the nonrenewal of a teacher contract to the board of education. Only the superintendent can do that,” Basora said this week. After a careful review of Ms. Bussey’s evaluation and listening to concerns raised by her personal attorney, Ohio Education Association Labor Relations representative Jasmine Williams, and Ms. Bussey herself in a private meeting, I felt that moving forward with a recommendation for nonrenewal was the right course of action.”

But Bussey did not feel she received a fair evaluation. During the hearing, she and her attorney accused Krier of “bullying” and “intimidating” her throughout the year, and denying her the professional development, which she requested because she knew it could help improve her job performance. In March she lodged a complaint to the district about her relationship with Krier and asked for a new evaluator. Basora denied the request, inviting Bussey to file a formal complaint of harassment or bullying against the principal. According to Basora, Bussey has done neither to date.

During a lengthy statement Bussey made to the board members asking them to table their vote, she summed up her argument: “The accusations that I am under by Tim Krier are absolutely false and also hold no weight. They are subjective by opinion because he simply does not like me. It is discussed and known by the teachers of past and present that if you are a strong woman that has an outlook other than Mr. Krier’s you will see his wrath…”

Bussey also accused Krier of using offensive language and making disparaging statements about village residents, and she named and quoted several of her colleagues who she claimed also said that the principal was a bully. And she reminded the board that just three years ago, during his first year in the district, a majority of the McKinney/YSHS teachers voted “no confidence” in Krier as principal. Several teachers made statements in support of Bussey’s talent and competence as a teacher and a leader, including retired teachers Pam Conine and Sarah Lowe and current teacher Karleen Marterne.

Krier this week declined to address the specific comments attributed to him, but said that he stands behind his recommendation to nonrenew Bussey’s contract.

“Ultimately nonrenewing a teacher or staff member is one of the toughest responsibilities a principal has — and I never take it lightly,” he said. “I’ve tried to operate with integrity and do what’s best for the students, and I strive daily to support every staff member and encourage risk taking to meet the district’s 2020 strategic plan.”

According to Basora this week, the evaluation was conducted fairly and accurately and was provided as reason for nonrenewal of the first-year employee, as is district policy. Employees who want to challenge their evaluations may do so by requesting a hearing, public or private, with the board to discuss points of disagreement. According to Basora, Bussey used a public hearing not to talk about her evaluation but to discredit Krier, her evaluator.

“Appeals should focus on inaccuracies in the evaluation itself or timeline/due process violations. Absent of any grounds to raise these concerns, appeals typically turn to demeaning and defaming the character of the evaluator. This is a distraction that takes the focus off of the evaluation itself and puts it on the evaluator,” Basora said.

Basora further stated that during the hearing Bussey made false statements and attributions.
“There were many false and misleading statements about Mr. Krier, me and several of our teachers,” he said. “I do not think it would be appropriate to dignify the insensitive, slanderous and inflammatory public comment directed toward Mr. Krier with a response.”

This is the first year for the new Ohio Teacher Evaluation System imposed by the state, however, and Basora believes it was applied fairly. The district’s two principals completed evaluations of 50 school personnel this year, and Bussey’s was the only contract that was nonrenewed because of it, Basora said, adding that hers was the lowest score in the district. Since Basora came to the district four years ago, Bussey’s contract is the only one the district has nonrenewed.

According to the performance evaluation obtained in Bussey’s personnel file, her overall rating of 2.22 out of 4 (Ohio Teacher Evaluation System) includes consistent difficulty in the areas of “collaboration and communication,” “professional responsibility and growth,” and classroom management. Krier’s comments include Bussey’s “tone” with colleagues and students and the use of “sarcasm and defensive hostility;” “a poor understanding of developmentally appropriate learning targets;” and “using shame and embarrassment to get a student to pay attention.”

While Bussey did request support for continuing education to attend an overnight state convention for health and physical education teachers, the district denied it, saying it is using limited professional development funds to support the growth of a project-based learning program in line with the district’s strategic plan. Bussey holds a master’s degree in teacher leadership and curriculum instruction and earned her master’s plus 30 semester hours from Antioch Midwest last fall.

Bussey and her attorney have not communicated with the district about their intentions going forward, but Landers has made four extensive public records requests and Basora anticipates an appeal, he said this week.

In the meantime, Bussey is still teaching until her contract ends in June. The district has already advertised the open position and looks to hire a new permanent PE/health teacher for the coming school year.

“We have to move forward and hire the best candidate — we hope to find someone in the next few weeks,” Basora said.

Other school board business will be covered in next week’s News.

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