April 09, 2014WHITEFIELD — Despite an outpouring of heartfelt praise from parents, former students, and colleagues, the teaching contract for the 2014-2015 school year was not renewed for Lancaster School physical education teacher Doug Richardson at Monday night's WMRSD school board meeting.
The board voted to support SAU #36 Superintendent Dr. Harry Fensom's list of 118 re-nominated teachers that does not include Richardson's name on a 5 to 0 vote, with Randy Boggess of Lancaster abstaining. Jim Brady of Jefferson was absent. Boggess had moved to table the action, but no one seconded his motion.
The board's vote was taken following a 50-minute executive session.
Before opening up its public input agenda item, chairman Greg Odell laid out the ground rules, including that without the board's lawyer present the board could not discuss personnel matters and that there could be no give-and-take between board members and the 75 or so residents who had come, hoping to convince the board to retain Richardson a District P.E. teacher. Richardson is in his fourth year of teaching in WMRSD, and state law now requires five years of teaching before tenure is granted.
Parents praised Richardson for always having the best interests of children at heart and his unusual ability to individualize instruction, allowing all to be successful. A mother of an autistic child pointed out that Richardson has been part of a team of professionals who were successful in "mainstream" her son — moving him out of adaptive P. E. classes. He developed self-confidence and skills to the level where he could go on stage in the school's recent Talent Show.
A WMRHS freshman said he spoke for many of his classmates when he described Richardson, his former teacher and coach, "as a true friend."
A teaching colleague said, "It just doesn't seem right" to see someone like Richardson not have his contract renewed. He asked that the board reconsider the administrative decision in order to keep him a part of LES' community of learners. "Richardson epitomizes the No-Child-Left-Behind-style — everybody participates," he said.
In other action, the board decided to hold a school board at 6 p.m. on Monday night, April 14, at WMRHS to discuss how to respond to a March 26 request from State Director Lisa Danley of the Career Development Bureau of the state Department of Education (NHDOE). Because voters turned down the Career and Technical Education project on March 11, she said the Bureau "needs to report to the state capital budget committee regarding the allocated funding."
She asked, "Does Whitefield plan to continue to pursue the local vote? If so, what timeline are you considering and would there be any changes in the breadth of your renovation plans?"
Board members agreed to call a special meeting to develop its response after discussing its own timeline for a programmatic review and after fleshing out its plans to craft strategic plan. Furthermore, Dr. Fensom will leave his interim post in June 2015.