Following two separate executive sessions totaling nearly three hours, the Newcomerstown Board of Education voted Wednesday to begin termination procedures against Scott Thomas, a sixth grade math teacher at Newcomerstown Middle School. Over 50 people attended the meeting.
The first executive session, which did not relate to Thomas, was called soon after the board opened its meeting and lasted for over 90 minutes. During the first executive session, board members spoke with various parents from the district who had asked to be on the agenda under "Public Participation" with Supt. Staggs explaining that the parents asked to be in executive session. Speakers to the board included Jeff and Marianne Burrier, Rhonda Popadak, Denise and Bryant Lehman, Brent and Dee Stocker and Carl and Trisha Wharff. The topics discussed by those parents was not indicated in open session but Jeff Burrier said after the meeting that most were there to discuss what he described as administrative misconduct. No action was taken as a result of this session.
The board then re-opened the regular meeting and immediately went into a second executive session, lasting a little over an hour, to discuss the possible termination of Thomas.
Thomas, his attorney and several people representing the Newcomerstown Teachers Association attended part of the executive session, with Thomas leaving immediately afterwards without comment.
The board re-convened and voted unanimously to begin termination procedures, also suspending Thomas without pay beginning immediately. In the resolution authorizing the action, the board listed the following as grounds for possible termination.
"During the 2011-2012 school year, Mr. Thomas has displayed seriously inappropriate judgement in dealing with students and most specifically with respect to a particular student... demeaning this student in the presence of others by referring to him as a 'moron' and/or 'idiot,' and/or crumpling this student's paper throwing it away in the presence of classmates, and/or grabbing this student's Chapstick and throwing it away in the presence of classmates, and/or repeatedly and angrily yelling at this student, and/or singling this student out for special and inappropriately adverse treatment."
Other grounds indicated in the resolution were that the administration believed Thomas was not candid and forthcoming during its investigation; that contrary to prior directives, Thomas continued to use a cell phone during instructional time for texting and telephone calls; and engaged in "belligerent, boisterous and over-the-top behavior" following a meeting with Supt. Staggs and others on Feb. 16.
The resolution says the board intends to proceed with formal action to terminate Thomas' contract at the March 12 board meeting, unless Thomas files for a hearing before the board or a referee.
Action for the rest of the board meeting was covered in less than 30 minutes and included approval of:
Field trips for Newcomerstown High School solo and ensemble choir contest at Oak Glen High School; Newcomerstown Middle School Science Olympiad at Akron University; FEA students to Muskingum University; sixth grade class to Camp Muskingum in Carrollton; senior class trip to Kalahari Water Park in Sandusky; second grade class to McKinley Museum in Canton; fifth grade class to COSI in Columbus; Newcomerstown High School Science Fair award winners to International Science & Engineering Fair in Pittsburgh; and fourth grade class to Campus Martius Museum in Marietta.
Open enrollment policy; applications may be picked up at the superintendent's office beginning March 15 and must be returned by April 15.
Jake Fox as assistant wrestling coach ($1,865 stipend), Nathan Smith as middle school track coach ($1,332) and Matt Mathias as assistant baseball coach ($1,865).
Tom Addy, Steve Meeks, Troy Mozena, Delon Jackson, Brian Collins and Mario Lovrinic as track volunteers; Chelsea Fenton as softball volunteer; and Hayden McAfee, Braedon Fitzgibbon, Rob Nay, Zach Waltz, Brennen Sokowski and Johnny Iacabucci, baseball volunteers.
Student activity account budgets.
List of substitutes pending outcomes of background checks.
Use of the West School gym by Cub Scouts for the Pinewood Derby from 8 a.m. to noon on March 13; and use of the Middle School cafeteria for a Relay for Life Survivors dinner from 5-7 p.m. on June 7.
Spring sports schedules.
2012-2013 calendar for the classified staff.
Tuition reimbursement for Kimberly Miller at Malone University and Jeremy Lute at Walsh University.
Transfer of $128.51 from the high school Students Against Drunk Driving activity fund to the Future Educators of America fund.
Membership in the Newcomerstown Chamber of Commerce ($50).
Cash activity statement for the Vernon and Edith Lee Fund, which showed a market value of $2,868,288.72 as of Dec. 31, 2011.
Recommendation of Newcomerstown High School Wall of Honor Committee to honor Margaret Brodie Buswell this year at a ceremony at 6:30 p.m. on Thursday, May 17.
In other action the board:
Gave recognition of student achievements for the East School, West School and Middle School.
Waived a requirement for a body mass index screening program that Superintendent Jeff Staggs said he felt was inappropriate.
Authorized the treasurer to request Huntington Bank to release interest of the Lee Stadium Trust Account.
Amended an employment resolution to show Chris McClellan had been hired as junior high wrestling coach.
Accepted a donation of $532.80 from Moose Lodge 1337.
Accepted tax rates as determined by the Tuscarawas County Budget Commission.
Heard activity reports for the East School by Kathy Reid, West School by Pat Cadle, Middle School by Jason Peoples, High School by Tim Sherman, Buckeye Career Center, Steven Brode and Newcomerstown Athletics by Matt Ritzert.
Prior to the regular meeting, the Newcomerstown Exempted Village School District's records commission met, noting that space for student and financial records is nearly non-existent.