School board

Montpelier Exempted Village Schools Board Member Darrell Higbie speaks during the school board meeting Tuesday evening. LUCAS BECHTOL/Staff

MONTPELIER — The Montpelier Exempted Village Schools Board of Education is encouraging teachers to cooperate with them in an investigation, saying their jobs are not in danger.

Abby Calvin, a concerned citizen, came before the board to ask questions in regard to an ongoing investigation involving teacher morale at the school. Calvin is the daughter of the late Melanie Sutter, who taught at the school for nearly 30 years until she died in February.

“At the February board meeting, it was brought to the attention of the school board that teachers are not feeling respected and are being mistreated by the school’s administration,” Calvin said, adding she and her brother had brought the issue up. “The feeling is that the morale among the teachers is low, which may be impacting the teachers’ ability to teach at their highest potential.”

The teachers have been feeling afraid for five or more years, Calvin said, and don’t have a good way to express these feelings. She said it is “assumed and widely known” that many school board members are “in alliance” with the administration.

She said board members were surprised by those comments and said they would investigate the issue.

Calvin wanted to follow up with the board during its monthly meeting Tuesday evening and asked several questions, especially in regard to teachers’ anonymity when they answer any survey questions related to the investigation.

Board member Nate Rose said it is anonymous to a degree, as he talks to the teachers over the phone or in person.

“It’s anonymous to the administration and the rest of the staff, and that’s what we’re going for,” he said, later adding he doesn’t put a name with his notes when he does talk to someone.

In addition, there is a system in place that allows teachers to anonymously fill out the survey and put it in an envelope to be picked up in the office, Rose said.

He also shot down the idea the board and the administration are in league together.

Calvin said there was a fear among teachers that they could lose their job for speaking out.

“That was my mother’s fear, I do know that,” she said. “She was afraid to say (anything) because she was afraid she would get fired. That’s how I know this is a real thing.”

Rose said that fear, too, was unfounded.

“That’s not even close to reality,” he said.

Rose added teachers do not have to worry about reprisals against their children for speaking, either.

Board member Darrell Higbie said the initial hope was to be able to discuss the issue at Tuesday’s meeting, but that wasn’t possible.

“We wanted to try to reach out to people; We decided to come up with these few questions to at least get us started,” he said. “We divided teachers up to try to contact them ... It was a bigger undertaking than I thought it was going to be.”

The board does intend to continue on and speak to as many of the teachers and staff as they can, he said, to see if there is a problem.

“That’s what we’re here for, to try to figure out what the problem is,” Higbie said. “We can’t do anything more than tell people they won’t get fired, there’s no retaliation. You brought a problem up to us, we’re just trying to identify it and come up with a solution.”

The current plan is to have an executive session during the board’s next meeting to discuss their findings.

However, Rose said in order to go forward at that time they will need teachers and staff to talk to them.

Also at the meeting, the board:

• Learned finances are on target for the five-year forecast.

• Heard kindergarten screening would take place April 11 and 12.

• Heard a Montpelier High School student is going to the state Geography Bee in Columbus.

• Heard the state superintendent would be at the Montpelier schools on April 12 sometime in the mid-morning.

• Entered executive session with no action expected after.

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