Superintendent renews contract of teacher who claimed he was fired because of his beliefs

A teacher who said his contract was not renewed because of his conservative political beliefs will return to his Lawrence High School government and history classes for the 2009-2010 school year.

Superintendent Randy Weseman ruled Thursday on Tim Latham’s grievance, which stated that Latham did not receive all of the four mandatory classroom observations for first-year teachers that are laid out in teachers’ contracts.

“The observation data lacked appropriate documentation,” Weseman said. “I couldn’t tell from that when they were conducted.”

Weseman previously said that the formal grievance had nothing to do with politics and his investigation and the hearing was based solely on Latham’s grievance that his contract had been violated.

Latham’s attorney, Caleb Stegall, said both he and his client were happy with the ruling.

“I think that this is a tremendous victory for free political speech, for the open exchange of ideas and, frankly, for the American system of self governance.” Stegall said.

Latham said in a press release that he is ready to return to Lawrence High in the fall.

“I couldn’t be more pleased with this outcome,” Latham said. “I will always be grateful to my students for actually putting what I teach into practice.”

School administrators are in charge of conducting the evaluations. Each non-tenured teacher is required to have one evaluation each semester, which includes at least two 20 minute classroom observations. Weseman said Latham claimed he had not been observed in the spring semester.

“Since they weren’t documented … properly, then they didn’t happen,” Weseman said. “If they didn’t happen, then the evaluation is contaminated.”

Latham has been a teacher for 19 years, most recently in Arkansas. This was his first year in Lawrence.

Because of Weseman’s ruling, the school board will not seek further action to not renew Latham’s teaching contract.