Published: Jul 27, 2012 11:49 AM
Modified: Jul 27, 2012 11:50 AM
CHAPEL HILL - The Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board has upheld the involuntary transfers of two Chapel Hill High teachers.
Honors English teacher Anne Thompson and A.P. Biology teacher Bert Wartski say they will now challenge the transfers in court.
“No one has ever told me the reason behind my transfer,” Wartski said.
Superintendent Thomas Forcella issued a second letter to “clarify my decision to the extent I am able to do so without violating personnel confidentiality law.”
“As the Superintendent who is charged with leading this shift in how schools approach teaching and learning, I felt I needed to implement staff changes that would provide the best chance for success as Chapel Hill High School moves forward under a new principal,” his letter stated.
Both teachers said they have been critical of several proposed academic policies and specific CHHS administrators.
Thompson said she protested the “misuse” of online courses and took part in a grievance against Assistant Principal Kevin Kay on an unrelated matter.
Wartski said he had criticized former Principal Jesse Dingle in private conversations with Forcella.
Dingle left Chapel Hill High at the end of the 2012 school year to take a job at John Handley High School in Winchester, Va.
School Board Policy 7440 states, “An employee may appeal an involuntary transfer decision to the board. The board generally will uphold transfer decisions made in accordance with this policy that are not arbitrary, capricious, political or discriminatory.”
Wartski, Honor Teacher of the Year in 2009-10, wondered aloud how he had come from being voted for the award to being told he contributed to a “toxic” environment at the school.
“Chapel Hill High’s been my home for 19 years,” he said Wednesday. “It’s hard to pack up and leave your home.”
About 80 people protested the transfers at the last school board meeting. The teachers say they are being assigned to teach new subjects, despite years teaching and building curricula in their areas of expertise.
Attorney Trey Tanner said Thompson will contend, among other things, that her transfer was “political and retributive.”
Thompson, who plans to retire next summer, said she begged school board members to let her finish her career at CHHS. She had planned to retire this past school year, but the death of her husband in the spring convinced her to delay any more drastic life changes.
She was emotional as she described her meeting behind closed doors with the school board.
“I said, ‘Please. I only have one year left to go. Please let me do it in this place I’ve spent the last 26 years of my life,” Thompson said.
Thompson added that in her closed-session meeting with the school board, Forcella “named no names of anybody that’s come forward to say anything against me. … They showed me nothing.”