BENTON CITY -- Tim Cook of Benton City went to the Kiona-Benton City School Board meeting Thursday to protest the transfer of a first-grade teacher to the middle school.
Teacher Connie Meredith is being victimized, said Cook, whose kids were taught by Meredith several years ago. "She knows her stuff," and she's taught first grade for 18 years, he said.
Meredith, a union representative, recently was transferred to teach eighth grade.
Cook also accused Ki-Be Elementary School Principal Heather Franklin of not liking older, senior teachers.
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That sentiment was echoed by the majority of about 70 people who attended the meeting. Many of them complained that an atmosphere of distrust and intimidation had been created in the elementary school since the new principal arrived last year.
Retired third-grade teacher Dianne Greenwald talked of anxiety, lack of communication and planning in the school as factors that hastened her decision to retire. "My decision to retire didn't come lightly. I felt I still had a lot to offer as a seasoned and veteran teacher," she said.
She asked the board to look into and rectify problems at the elementary school.
Board Chairman Dan Raap said the board is investigating complaints of bullying at the school. There's is one written complaint, he said.
"We'll bring in an outside investigator," said Rom Castilleja, district superintendent.
Board members urged the public not to name the principal while making their comments as it becomes a personnel issue when someone makes personal accusations, Raap said.
He and Castilleja also said the decision to transfer Meredith is not part of the bullying investigation. "(The transfer) was in the best interest of the building," Castilleja said.
But Meredith said she was told by the school administration that she was the center of disruption at the elementary school.
Teachers talked to her about their concerns at the school, said Meredith.
A former district school teacher who was present at the meeting called the transfer an intimidation tactic to silence the concerned and vocal minority.
After the public comments, the board met in a closed-door session to discuss personnel issues.