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You are Viewing an Archived IssuePosted: 10/16/13
RHS band teacher placed
on administrative leave
by CHRIS GRAYMembers of the Romeo Community Schools district are frustrated that little information has been provided about the absence of a well-liked instructor.
Observer Staff Writer
Parents and students expressed their concerns about the absence of Romeo High School band instructor Eric Gonzalez at the Board of Education's Oct. 7 meeting.
On Sept. 19, Gonzalez was placed on paid administrative leave, and has not been in the classroom since then.
A special closed session meeting was scheduled for Oct. 14 regarding the matter. The results of the meeting were not available as of Observer print deadline.
Superintendent Nancy Campbell declined to specify why Gonzalez was placed on leave. As of Oct. 10, she said she was unsure as to whether any information would be relayed to the public.
"There are laws that protect privacy," she said.
At the Oct. 7 meeting, Board President Anita Banach said there is a district investigation taking place. She said the board was given a 23-page document prior to the meeting regarding the administrative leave.
"There are factual pieces of information that has caused us to pause, to cause the actions we're taking," Banach said.
She said e-mails the board received from parents regarding the issue mentioned police investigations, but said the board has to look at policies and determine what are appropriate actions for the district's teachers.
"While a criminal case is one thing, there is the oath of a teacher and they are held to different standards based on our own policies and practices," she said.
Banach didn't expand on the circumstances of the administrative leave, and said the board didn't have a timeline it could provide regarding the matter.
"We're all parents, we have just as much passion for the band program and our arts program," she said. "We're volunteers that have to follow policies, procedures, guidelines and act in accordance with information we're given."
Gonzalez has been with the district since 1998, working at Powell Middle School until three years ago when he moved to teach at the high school as the sole band director.
On Oct. 10, Campbell said Gonzalez's position has been temporarily filled by retired band director John Boren.
"We want the program for our students to continue in full force during the absence of Mr. Gonzalez," Campbell said.
More than a dozen parents and students took turns at the podium during the Oct. 7 meeting, most of whom spoke in favor of returning Gonzalez to his position.
Beth MacKinnon, a Romeo parent, said she didn't believe Gonzalez could have done something so bad that he would "lose his job and his career," and wanted the board to let parents decide if he should stay.
"The frustration that these students and these parents feel is because you're leaving us in the dark," she said. "I know there's things that maybe you can't say, but give us a timeline."
Adam Reiss, another band student, said he felt compelled to speak on Gonzalez's behalf because of the influence the director has had on himself and his peers, and wondered what the next steps would be for the program.
"I understand that you can't tell us everything that is going on, but some information would be nice to have," he said.
Christopher Bousho, a band student, said he was one of many students who was concerned about Gonzalez and the band programs themselves.
"Mr. G was kind of the core of everything that we did," he said. "He knew all of our names, he knew what we needed to do, he knew all of us personally and he was really close to each and every one of us."
Kathy Daniel, a bus driver and parent in the district, said she too was upset that the district wasn't forthcoming with information, but added that the safety of the students should be the highest priority.
"Just because someone is trustworthy, a good teacher and someone that you've looked up to for many years does not mean that they're perfect or things cannot happen," she said.
Bill Spitz, a parent of two band students, said if the board didn't follow procedure during the process that the board and Campbell could be removed as a consequence.
"There are several lawsuits that are about to come this way if this continues, if you do not do things the proper way," he said.
Banach said the board understood the frustration felt by parents, but it has received enough information to continue with the current course of action.
"We would like a speedy end to this as much as you do," Banach said.