No-confidence votes for superintendent Ed Weber have been taken by both unions whose employees work in the Wellington Schools.
The Wellington Education Association and Wellington Support Staff presented Weber and the board of education with their decisions Tuesday, accusing Weber of overruling disciplinary measures taken by faculty members and jeopardizing school safety.
While withholding the specifics of incidents and names of those involved, teachers told the board they’ve witnessed and documented numerous threats and physical assaults by students toward faculty members as well as fellow students since the beginning of the school year.
According to teachers, Weber has overruled staff recommendations to remove students from class after incidents and avoided transparency in the disciplinary process.
Weber denied making those decisions and said it does not fall under his authority.
”I have no role in that,” he said. “It is decided by the (Individualized Education Program) teams made up of teachers, case managers, perhaps the principal, and Dr. (Lynne) Shields. Any decision to place a students outside of our district goes through the IEP team.”
Teachers disputed that claim and said students they’ve disciplined have been told by Weber they “don’t have to follow the rules.”
“An incident was brought up to the superintendent and it was determined this child really didn’t mean it. He was a new student and he was young enough to have it not mean anything,” said Brenda Bosley, co-president of the teachers’ union. “There have been a couple meetings with Mr. Weber where the entire team suggested (a student) needed a different placement and it was overwritten because Mr. Weber felt there wasn’t enough data.”
“We feel he does have a role in this,” she said. “In another situation, the team met with him and the staff was told to ‘just keep doing what you’re doing.’ That wasn’t working but that’s what they were told to do. In one more situation, the entire staff, including the school psychologist, suggested a different placement and it was overturned.”
“I don’t know what I tell a parent when they say their fourth-grader is afraid to come to school,” said teachers’ union co-president Anne Petersen. “That’s a real thing that’s happening in our district. I don’t know what to say back to them.”
Bosley, Petersen, and support staff union president Karen Wright read a prepared statement to the board.
The statement accused Weber of ignoring the student code of conduct, refusing to take guidance from district professionals, and creating an environment in which a recent school audit by the Ohio Department of Homeland Security and the hiring of an additional school resource officer do not address ongoing concerns with discipline.
Weber and school board members said the scope of punishment for a threat is often limited by state and federal law and said student privacy is paramount, even in instances of discipline.
Myra Gardner, a senior a Wellington High School, drew applause after asking the board to show more urgency in responding to threats.
“Something needs to happen as soon as possible,” she said. “It can’t be put off and has to happen now. There’s so many problems going on and there needs to be some way of fixing it. I would like to see change before I graduate and I haven’t seen any change recently. I’ve seen kids getting in teachers’ faces, arguments happening, all this stuff going on in the school and it needs to be now that we change it.”
After the meeting, Weber said many of the cited situations have not reached his desk. He was aware of one threat made by a student last fall but it didn’t specifically target teachers or students.
“Throughout the process, these things have not gotten to me,” he said. “Just because teachers want a kid to go to a special school, that can’t happen without a parent’s approval. Changing a placement requires a parent’s signature. If they don’t sign, there’s a federal law that says ‘stay put.’ Some of it is beyond what we can do automatically — it’s more of a partnership.”
“Beyond that, students have due process rights too,” he said. “It’s not just the teachers’ rights, it’s also the students’ rights. You’re constantly trying to balance those. I think some of the concerns they’ve mentioned are over rumors, where no facts, figures, or data ever existed. It becomes very hard. A student will say, ‘I never said that.’ It’s hard for the school to indiscriminately discipline someone if the evidence doesn’t add up to that. If you have text messages or online bullying, we can respond to that aggressively because you can prove it.”
Jonathan Delozier can be reached at 440-775-1611 or @DelozierNews on Twitter.