The loss of one employee caused an outcry for fairness during a recent Marshall County Board of Education (MCBOE) meeting.
Asbury Elementary School (AES) assistant principal Jessie Vassar was terminated, but according to AES third grade teacher Cindy Walton, he shouldn’t have been.
In her address to the MCBOE on Wednesday, Walton said she and 10 other AES employees attended the meeting “as a faculty” to show they wanted Vassar back for the 2019-2020 school year. She said both the students and faculty at AES “deserve and need” to have Vassar there as assistant principal. In describing Vassar, she said he is a “strong role model for the children,” and “he brings stability to the lives of the students and staff.”
Walton said in her 15 years at AES, there have been 11 different principals and assistant principals, and because of the changes, the school has had a “difficult time getting into the rhythm.”
“We try to bring consistency to our classrooms, but that’s difficult when we don’t have consistency in our lives,” Walton said. “We have found an ally with Mr. Vassar, who at 4 o’clock is still in the office and will come to our rooms and meet with us. And, he helps pull us together when we need that extra support. With Mr. Vassar we have a plan and a direction, and we have a security and a vision and so do our students.”
After two years at AES, Vassar was “pink slipped,” which is a nice way of saying “non-renewed.” Walton said they were told it was because of “money issues.” She said it was “a bad time” for the MCBOE, since it was the day before the Fourth of July holiday. She said more were planning to attend to support Vassar, but many weren’t able to because of the timing.
“We are really hoping that he is brought back to our classroom and to our school,” Walton said. “We’re all here supporting him. He is a wonderful person. He is a fantastic administrator. He has brought such a positive change to our school. He’s just outstanding. Obviously, he is, because if he wasn’t we wouldn’t all be here supporting him.”
Even after being dismissed from his job at AES, Vassar has been at the school drawing murals on the walls, according to Walton. She said he has done “beautiful work,” which is a continuation of the positivity he’s brought to AES.
In The Reporter’s exclusive interview with Vassar, he said after 10 years in education in Birmingham and Jefferson County, he thought he’d found a “home” at AES. He said in the two years as the school’s assistant principal, he felt that he was appreciated and accepted by the faculty and students.
With the termination coming with the explanation of “money issues” and with the MCBOE not speaking directly to Vassar, the perception of discrimination has been assumed by members of the school staff and community. On the other hand, his dismissal could be seen as the result of him being a “non-tenured” employee. It takes three years to have tenure as a teacher, and Vassar was one year short of having tenure at AES.
“I don’t know the reason, but I know what it feels like,” Vassar said. “I’m hopeful that I get hired back.”
Vassar pointed out that if the MCBOE is having financial issues, then why are other schools in the Marshall County School System allowed to have more than one assistant principal? He said AES would be the only school that “earned” an assistant principal but doesn’t have one. A school must have a certain number of students to earn an assistant, and Asbury earns half of one, he said. So, the other half of the assistant principal’s salary was paid through Title 1 funds, according to Vassar.
“The biggest surprise, to me, out of all of this was the amount of support from the community, the parents,” Vassar said. “I mean, they stood up immediately. It’s crazy. I never thought I would be in the middle of this.”
Vassar said he just wants to be able to go back to AES and continue to help the faculty and students.
“I want everyone to know that I’ve not given up,” Vassar said. “I have 100% hope and desire to go back to Asbury. The students are wonderful, and the faculty is wonderful. I couldn’t want anything more. My dream has not changed; it’s still to be at Asbury.
“Hopefully, things turn around,” he continued. “They’re the biggest elementary school. You’d think they’d get the most attention and push. So, push forward instead of step backwards. Certainly, 680 kids are too much for one administrator to handle.”
After the MCBOE meeting Thursday, July 11, when asked about the view of discrimination against Vassar, MCBOE Superintendent Cindy Wigley, Ph.D., said she wasn’t able to provide a comment.
As of Thursday, July 11, the MCBOE had not finished setting its budget, and Wigley said she was unable to say if AES would be able to have an assistant principal.
“Asbury will receive the units they’ve earned,” Wigley said.
According to Wigley, the AES principal was notified of the reasons Vassar was not renewed. She said she was not be able to give any further comment in reference to Vassar’s “non-renewal.”
In other business, the MCBOE:
• Announced Marshall Technical School as the winner of The Sand Mountain Reporter Readers’ Choice in the career training category
• Approved the minutes for June 20 meeting.
• Approved the following resignation(s)/retirement(s)/ transfer(s):
1. Stacy Anderton, principal, DAR High School, resignation and retirement, effective Sept. 1.
2. Moriah Miller, teacher, Douglas Elementary School, resignation, effective June 25.
3. Ashleigh Robertson, English teacher, Brindlee Mountain High School, resignation, effective June 27.
4. Amanda Rosewarne, reading specialist, Marshall County, resignation, effective July 31.
5. Holley Christian, special education teacher, Douglas Middle School, resignation, effective June 27.
6. Tinzley Wilson, family and consumer science teacher, Douglas High School, resignation, effective July 3.
7. Kyle Wilson, special education teacher and junior varsity basketball coach, Douglas High School, resignation, effective July 3.
8. Glenda Moore, bus driver, Marshall County Schools, retirement, effective June 1.
9. Linda Roden, CNP worker, Douglas Middle School, resignation, effective July 2.
10. Malorie Casey, Claysville School CNP manager to Douglas High School CNP assistant manager, effective 2019-20 SY.
11. Britney Hight, Brindlee Mountain Elementary School CNP worker to Brindlee Mountain High School CNP stock clerk/janitor, effective 2019-20 SY.
12. Alana Bonds, elementary instructional coach, Asbury Elementary School to elementary instructional coach, Brindlee Mountain Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
13. Valerie Williams, special education teacher, DAR Elementary School to special education teacher, DAR Middle School, effective 2019-20 SY.
14. Meagan Weaver, counselor, Claysville Elementary School to counselor, half-time Douglas High School, half-time Asbury High School, effective 2019-20 SY.
15. Dana Morrison, librarian, half-time Claysville Elementary School, half-time Brindlee Mountain Primary School to librarian, full-time Brindlee Mountain Primary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
16. Leah Manning, first grade teacher, Claysville Elementary School to elementary teacher at DAR Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
17. Ashley Traylor, second grade teacher, Claysville Elementary School to Elementary Teacher, DAR Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
18. Tina Wright, third grade teacher, Claysville Elementary School to elementary teacher, DAR Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
19. Elizabeth Brown, special education teacher, Claysville Elementary School to special education teacher, DAR Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
• Approved the following leave of absence(s):
1. Valerie Chamblee, kindergarten teacher, Asbury Elementary School, leave of absence beginning Aug. 5, with a tentative return date of Oct. 10. FMLA paperwork provided.
2. Kristy Stockton, teacher, Brindlee Mountain Elementary School, leave of absence Nov. 4 – Dec. 19.
• Approved the following new employees:
1. Alexa Ingle, special education teacher, Asbury Elementary School, effective 2019-20 SY.
2. Dylan Pope, math teacher, Brindlee Mountain High School, effective 2019-20 SY.
3. Tyler Esson, math teacher, DAR Middle School, effective 2019-20 SY.
4. April Pilkington, elementary teacher, Asbury Elementary School, 2019-20 SY.
5. McKenzie Harden, nurse, Claysville School, amended start date to Aug. 14.
6. Rebecca Howard, English teacher, Brindlee Mountain High School, effective 2019-20 SY.