An 11-year Summit County schoolteacher was fired Tuesday during a tense meeting of the Summit School District Board of Education.
Nancy MacDowell was handed her walking papers following a lengthy public hearing by the board about allegations the former Frisco Elementary School teacher had a long history of tardiness, neglect of duty and insubordination.
Prior to Tuesday’s hearing MacDowell and school district officials participated in a five-day investigative inquiry with hearing officer Matthew Norwood. In an 11-page report to the board Norwood recommended MacDowell be terminated despite inconclusive evidence on at least some of the charges against her.
The board first started the hearing behind closed doors, but continued it in a public forum at MacDowell’s request. Several parents attended the meeting to show their support of the Frisco Elementary teacher, but were denied an opportunity to voice their arguments in support of retaining MacDowell during public comment.
Board president Margaret Carlson explained to the audience their comments would be mute because state law requires a school board to make a decision to terminate an employee based solely off the recommendation of a non-biased third party.
Board members, none of whom participated in the five-day hearing, were therefore tasked with taking one of three courses of action: accept Norwood’s recommendation and terminate MacDowell, deny Norwood’s recommendation and place MacDowell on one-year probation or simply reject Norwood’s recommendation and keep MacDowell on staff.
The board voted, 4-3, to terminate MacDowell.
Board secretary Alison Casias, treasurer Sue Wilcox and members J Kent McHose and Dave Miller voted in favor of the action. Carlson, board vice president Erin Young and member Marilyn Taylor voted against termination.
“I’m struggling with the recommendation (to terminate) because of the fact that some of the evidence is inconclusive,” Carlson said prior to the vote. “I’d hate to end an 11-year career in the Summit School District because of a tardy behavior problem and I would support a decision that included probation over termination.”
Young and Taylor also supported probation instead of termination, with Taylor citing nothing in the report stating an adverse affect on student performance due to MacDowell’s alleged behavioral issues.
The majority of the board didn’t agree.
Citing a section of the report that stated MacDowell also was late in compiling student progress reports, Wilcox argued that her alleged habitual tardiness and perceived inability to perform the duties of her job affected her colleagues, which ultimately trickled down to the students.
“If you’re position is there was no harm to the children then we also have to consider how (McDowell’s) behavior affects other teachers,” McHose added. “It’s not fair to other teachers who have to change their schedules to cover someone who isn’t there when they’re supposed to be.”
Attempts to reach MacDowell Wednesday for comment were unsuccessful.