Columbiana parent tells board to respect teachers

COLUMBIANA – A district parent issued a word of warning to the Columbiana Board of Education and Superintendent Don Mook this week.

Wendy Pancake said unless the board can come to agreements with teachers- and treat them with respect-more will likely be leaving. The board accepted the resignations of four teachers during the Tuesday meeting.

Pancake first approached the board at the June meeting urging they come to an agreement with middle school and high school teacher Darcy Quinlan, who received a full-ride scholarship to Slippery Rock University to complete a master’s degree.

According to Pancake, Quinlan was hoping to stay on with the district while pursuing the degree using a one-year leave of absence, but that request was denied.

Quinlan has been employed with the district two years as a health and physical education teacher at both schools and is pursuing the master’s degree in adaptive physical education. She has also held the head girls soccer coaching position.

The district does not grant sabbatical leave to teachers until they reach five years of employment, although Pancake believed the board could have come to some sort of compromise.

“I am disappointed in the lack of the ability of you guys to come to some kind of understanding or agreement with the teachers in concern with Darcy Quinlan,” she said. “I know that an agreement could have been made, and I am just really disappointed and I’m worried.”

She said that prior to the Tuesday meeting she was emailed an agenda of the meeting and was concerned to see so many teaching resignations. She believes more will follow if the board is not willing to give and take.

One of the resignations was for Quinlan, who is leaving both the teaching and coaching positions to continue her education.

“Several of our top-notch teachers are resigning. I just hope that as a board and as an administration, when you are working with teachers, hopefully you can have a lot of respect and work out ways (to compromise),” she said.

Other resignations were for Cynthia Schnellbach, middle school gifted teacher, Benjamin Shaw, fifth-grade math teacher and Gregory Kibler, seventh- and eighth-grade science teacher and head cross country coach.

Treasurer Lori Posey said all of the teachers are leaving for jobs in other areas and their positions will be replaced in the future.

She said Schnellbach has been with the district three years and accepted a job with Girard City Schools, Shaw has been with the district 13 years and left for a position with the Mahoning County Educational Service Center (ESC), and Kibler has been with the district five years and also took a job with the Mahoning County ESC.

Pancake told the board a “precedent is being set” with the resignations.

None of the teachers attended the meeting and attempts by the Journal to contact them afterward were not successful.

“I am sorry to see that we are losing teachers. I hope that the reason isn’t due to any feeling of lack of respect from the board of education. We deeply respect the teachers and we try to treat all of our staff, teachers and staff members, with respect they are obviously due,” Board President Mark Hutson said. “We really regret losing any staff members, especially teachers that have been with us for any number of years. I would like to thank them for their service, and I would like to welcome all new teachers and staff to our district.”

Mook did not comment during the meeting but when contacted on Wednesday said the resignations weren’t the result of the district “forcing anyone out.”

He said the teachers simply chose to pursue other options.

“I’m a product of being a teacher that moved on to administration and chose a different career path within education. A teacher earlier in the year chose to let us know they finished their master’s and wanted to go into accounting. They wanted out of education. There are times when people choose to do those types of things,” he said.

With Schnellbach, taking a job in Girard put her closer to her home in Newton Falls, he added.

Meanwhile, Shaw had been talking with Mook personally over the last few years about his interest in curriculum.

“He has a master’s in curriculum instruction. He has been talking for the last several years about doing curriculum for the county. He had been entertaining that for a while. Ben was a phenomenal teacher. He did a great job for us. I think he will do a great job for the ESC,” he said.