CHAPEL HILL - School district officials are not saying much, but at least two Chapel Hill High School teachers have learned they are being transferred this fall to nearby schools.
A.P. Biology teacher Bert Wartski received a letter informing him that he will be transferred to East Chapel Hill High School this fall.
Honors English teacher Anne Thompson declined to comment except to say she plans to hire an attorney to appeal her non-voluntary transfer.
More than 200 students, parents and alumni have formed a Facebook group at on.fb.me/PkD4rk
to galvanize support for both teachers, and many plan to speak at the Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board’s July 19 meeting.
Critics think the transfers may be punishing teachers, like Wartski, who have vocally opposed some district policies.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools spokeswoman Stephanie Knott said the Human Resources office could not provide information yet about possible transfers. “While some transfers are being worked on, nothing’s been finalized yet,” Knott said.
Knott would not even confirm Wartski’s transfer, though he provided The Chapel Hill news with a letter from Superintendent Thomas Forcella confirming it. Efforts to reach Forcella for comment last week were unsuccessful.
School board Chairwoman Mia Burroughs said state law prohibits her from commenting about personnel matters. However, people may write board members and speak at meetings about issues they feel are important, she said.
Wartski, who is traveling this week, said by email that his transfer is for “nebulous” reasons.
“The superintendent is concerned that I cannot add to the positive culture at the school,” Wartski wrote. “Sure I can be gruff and to the point. But I always fight for the best interests of the students, faculty and school. Heck, I always stick out my neck for faculty.”
Chapel Hill alumna Laura Cox is one of several people who have contacted district officials.
In her letter, Cox said Wartski is one of the teachers who made high school rewarding. He stays after school for hours answering questions and helping students study and finish labs, she said. While stern, he grades fairly and doesn’t tolerate “laziness or immature behavior,” she said.
“He would not only be a grave loss to a terrific program, but it would put his future students at a great disadvantage,” Cox wrote.
A 24-year teacher, Wartski was the district’s Teacher of the Year in 2009-10. He coordinates graduation and related events, is faculty co-chairman and a teacher representative on the School Improvement Team and is the faculty sponsor for the Key Club.
Among his contributions, he also cited arranging student internships, supporting teachers seeking National Board certification, starting and organizing Advance Placement information night and being the first high school teacher to lead A.P. Biology teacher workshops in China.
He has been vocal in opposing some district decisions over the past several years. He fought to keep student-painted ceiling tiles in the school’s science wing and spoke against a grading policy change and adding online and hybrid honors science classes. He also spearheaded an unofficial faculty survey in 2010 that evaluated local administrators and the school board.
Thompson and other teachers also spoke out against the grading policy change.
Chapel Hill-Carrboro schools have a longtime reputation for teachers being able to openly and honestly speak their minds, said Steve Scroggs, who retired in 2008 as assistant superintendent for support services and served as CHHS interim principal in 2009.
Scroggs said he heard the transfer rumors and believes some changes may be necessary to improve the school. While more good things than bad could be said about Chapel Hill High, it is known for having a tough culture, he said.
“If the culture is a tough culture that makes you continually re-examine how you deliver instruction, how you take care of kids, then I think you’ve got to deal with that. But if on the other side of the coin, the culture scares off potential applicants (and is) running off principals, then, is that a good thing?” he said.
Since 1992, when former Superintendent Neil Pedersen was hired and former CHHS Principal Marvin Koenig resigned, the high school has had seven full-time principals.
At least 98 percent of CHHS’s 93 teachers are fully licensed and 45 percent have advanced degrees. Seventeen teachers are nationally certified. No local high school made Adequate Yearly Progress in 2010-11. Carrboro and East Chapel Hill, respectively, met 92.3 percent and 95.2 percent of their goals, while Chapel Hill met 87 percent.