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Archive for Saturday, May 25, 2002

Piper High School losing personnel

May 25, 2002

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— Though officials say it's not tied to this year's plagiarism controversy, Piper High School will lose almost 30 percent of its teachers and counselors, district officials said.

Seven teachers and two counselors from the high school's staff of 31 teachers and counselors have resigned, Piper Superintendent Mike Rooney said. The number is higher than usual, but the people are leaving for "a whole bunch of reasons," he said.

"I wouldn't tie it all to what happened with the botany project," Rooney said.

However, a teacher who has served as a spokeswoman for the school's teachers said she thought the plagiarism incident did have an impact. A parent helping lead an effort to recall three school board members agrees.

The controversy centers around biology teacher Christine Pelton's resignation in December after Rooney ordered her to change the failing grades of students she had accused of plagiarism. The order came after the school board discussed the matter behind closed doors the night before.

There is still no consensus on who ordered the grading change. Pelton said Rooney told her then that the board made the decision. But since then, three board members have claimed Rooney made the call.

Regardless, many teachers think administrators and the board broke faith with them by failing to back Pelton, English teacher Leona Sigwing said this week. She said the district's leaders still had a long way to go to rebuild trust with teachers.

Some of the Piper teachers said they couldn't continue to work with administrators who failed to treat them as professionals, said Pam Ruth, one of the parents leading the recall effort.

"Some of the teachers we are losing are superb teachers," Ruth said. "My freshman is not a happy camper knowing that she is losing people she was counting on to be there for her."

The leaders of the recall effort also are upset with the role Rooney played, and they've asked the school board to fire him. The board has not responded.

Rooney declined Thursday to comment on that effort.

He also said Thursday that the number of students accused of plagiarism was 25, not 28, as had been widely reported. He said there might have been some confusion initially because three students failed to complete the assignment.

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