Wednesday, Jul 18, 2018
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Washington Local accepts resignations of 5 teachers

Soon after Brady Hall returned from a fun-filled Michigan camp trip in May, the Washington Local student said his sixth-grade teacher left his class “frantically in the middle of the day.”

The 12-year-old who recently finished sixth grade at Hiawatha Elementary said he hasn’t seen his teacher since.

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Washington Local School Board President David Hunter

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The classroom door shut firmly behind five Washington Local teachers Wednesday when the school board unanimously accepted their resignations. They quit rather than face disciplinary proceedings after a district probe determined they left a sixth-grade camp in Fenton, Mich. and drank alcohol at restaurants.

Board President David Hunter said a student was hurt while some or all of the teachers were gone, and though he described the unspecified injury as minor, the child was taken away from camp for medical attention.

“They were supposed to be there supervising. If they were there, would that student have been injured? I don’t know. That’s kind of my concern is had we had more staff on hand maybe that injury wouldn’t have happened,” he said.

The teachers, placed on paid leave May 17, turned in resignation letters May 26. Their resignations are effective Aug. 1, and they were paid through June 8.

The departing employees are Monac Elementary teachers Ronald Bushrow and Jamie Hesselbein; Shoreland teachers Gregory Huebner and Megan Tuttle; and Hiawatha teacher Lesley Snyder.

Washington Local did not renew the contracts of two tutors, Gabrielle Hinshaw and Anna Szalkowski, who also were investigated.

The teachers each cited unspecified “personal reasons” for their decisions to leave, according to nearly identical resignation letters provided to The Blade after a public records request.

Toledo attorney Christine Reardon, who represents some of the former employees, did not respond to requests for comment Wednesday.

A couple supporters, including Brady, implored the school board to allow the teachers to remain.

Brady said he enjoyed his time at camp and his classmates “didn’t suspect anything” until after they returned.

“We’ve been hearing a lot of things, speculation. We haven’t gotten any honest story on it yet,” he said. “I would hope that I could see my teachers teaching next year in the classrooms.”

Deborah Crawford said her granddaughter also attended the camp and didn’t know the teachers had left the grounds.

“Now my granddaughter thinks that this school district kicks you to the curb if you make a mistake. People make mistakes and deserve a second chance,” Ms. Crawford said after the meeting.

District officials have said that leaving camp for longer than “a short errand” or consuming alcohol during camp violates board policy and the state licensure code.

Teachers receive a $75 per night stipend in addition to their usual paychecks to attend the multiday camp. Other adults remained on site, so children were not completely unsupervised.

“You don’t want to let these people go because, from what I understand, they’re all very good quality teachers, but they still have to be … leaders for our students,” Mr. Hunter said.

Officials have said the district is required to report the violations to the state. Ohio Department of Education spokesman Brittany Halpin would not say Wednesday if the agency was conducting an investigation.

The state board of education makes final decisions on teacher licensing matters.

Contact Vanessa McCray at: vmccray@theblade.com or 419-724-6065, or on Twitter @vanmccray.

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