Although no one spoke during Richmond Community Schools’ public hearing regarding a tentative agreement reached with Richmond Education Association, the board heard from additional unhappy constituents regarding the union leader’s paid administrative leave.
During the board’s Nov. 20 meeting, Jamie Bolser, who oversees RCS finances and human resources, summarized the 2023-25 master contract to be voted on Nov. 27.
Bolser said stipends approved in May contributed to 92% of teachers returning this fall, compared with 74% for 2022-2023.
In their new contract, teachers would see an average 10% pay increase ($4,500), based on education and experience.
RCS also will award Teacher Appreciation Grants to those rated highly effective or effective.
All six speakers (alumnus Trevor Hall, parent Ali Rivera and current/former colleagues Gary Wier, David Murray, T. Washington and KC Raper) criticized RCS officials for recommending termination of REA president Kelley McDermott’s teaching contract.
RCS officials placed the 35-year teacher on paid administrative leave on Aug. 9, alleging insubordination.
Wier noted RCS officials didn’t offer time to REA at the first-day teachers’ meeting as usual. He said teachers want updates from union leaders upon returning.
McDermott answered questions and exchanged ideas with some teachers for about 5 minutes afterward in the lobby, communicating with constituents as union presidents should, Wier said.
Wier suggested McDermott’s suspension is retaliation for REA’s June Unfair Labor Practice complaint alleging the stipends violated Indiana bargaining laws because compensation was affected outside negotiations.
“That’s what I call egregious,” Wier said.
According to the ULP, Bolser said RCS faculty arrived late to mandatory building meetings because of McDermott’s “egregious acts of insubordination.”
Murray said union/administration discussions can be messy and inconvenient like democracy, but are essential for teacher retention.
“Isn’t it time to reinstate her and drop all the politics and put this travesty behind all of us and focus on the real issues that are facing Richmond Community Schools?” Murray asked.
Washington said Indiana’s 30,000-plus teachers’ union members are watching whether RCS’ board reverses what might have been a rash decision. She hopes board members will navigate the tension.
Raper said the board should prioritize education over matters such as buying McBride Stadium. She said district officials have “crossed the line” with teachers.
“You have chosen to be selfish, narcissistic political bullies and you should be ashamed of yourselves,” Raper said. “You need to stop your political agendas and listen. You need to revisit the purpose for the betterment of all RCS academia.”
Rivera said she wasn’t concerned whether McDermott ruffled RCS leaders’ feathers or made their duties harder, and the public deserves the truth about what led to McDermott’s suspension.
Rivera said many board members campaigned on transparency, and their silence leads people to believe McDermott’s actions were so heinous that she must be removed for at least 15 weeks.
Repeating a board member’s May comment about teacher retention benefiting students, Rivera asked, “Is what she did so blatantly harmful that you would jeopardize the relationship with her students and their academic success?”
Public comment policy unchanged
Richmond Community Schools will continue allowing public comments for five minutes per speaker.
A motion to reduce each speaker’s time to three minutes failed for lack of a second at the board’s Nov. 20 meeting.
At a prior meeting, board member Brad Walton had suggested the change after learning at school board member training that most Indiana districts allow one or three minutes per speaker. Other boards’ representatives expressed surprise that Richmond allowed five minutes each, Walton said.
RCS’ board meetings and work sessions, which usually take place every other Wednesday night, often last approximately two hours. Some meetings exceed three hours.
Several RCS board members said they didn’t feel it’s the right time to consider a change regarding community comments, but they might be open to revisiting the discussion as they routinely review and consider updates to various district policies.
Some recent meetings have included comments from those supporting Kelley McDermott, Richmond Education Association’s president, who is facing potential termination of her teaching contract after RCS officials placed McDermott on paid administrative leave, alleging insubordination.
Community members also can send emails or letters to district administrators and/or board members to share their views or ask questions outside of board meetings.
The next board meeting is 5:30 p.m. Wednesday, Dec. 6, at 300 Hub Etchison Parkway.
In other business
- Jamie Bolser, chief of finance and human resources officer, said recently approved salary increases for classified employees have resulted in new hires of permanent substitutes, district subs, paraprofessionals and environmental services. Many of those jobs went unfilled last year, she noted.
- RCS officials congratulated Stephanie Hoober, who has changed roles at Richmond High School. The board approved Hoober’s new assignment as assistant principal after previously serving as a counselor. Hoober was recognized in May for 15 years of service with the district. She previously was principal of Elizabeth Starr Academy, now known as Starr Elementary. Hoober replaces Laura Brazil, who became Test Intermediate School’s principal.
- K-8 students will begin i-Ready math and reading assessments Dec. 4. Data will guide future instruction.
- LOGOS teachers T. Washington, Roya Maze and Richard Shroyer presented at National Association for Gifted Children’s conference.
- The board approved a contract with Sprinturf for Richmond High School field turf replacement in June and a spring break 2025 trip for Spanish students to San Juan, Puerto Rico.
- Superintendent Curtis Wright said he enjoyed serving food at Applied Skills’ Thanksgiving meal and learning how teachers and paraprofessionals guided students through the process of grocery shopping and food preparation.
A version of this article appeared in the November 29 2023 print edition of the Western Wayne News.