Dozens of teachers and their union representatives confronted Kiona-Benton City School Board members Monday night about the dismissal of two substitute teachers.
Board Chairman Charles Gray declined any comment during the meeting about the matter, citing district policy regarding employment matters.
With more than 75 teachers and others in attendance, Connie Meredith, president of the Kiona-Benton City Education Association and a first-grade teacher, and other teachers said the dismissals haven't been explained and have strained teachers needing reliable substitute teachers to cover classes.
"I couldn't find a sub today," said Joni Ashley, a fifth-grade science teacher. "I threw up at school and had to stay."
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The board members moved public comment up its agenda and relocated the meeting to the Kiona-Benton City Middle School gym to accommodate the crowd.
District officials and union representatives declined to officially identify the dismissed substitute teachers, but teachers indicated they were longtime educators with an extensive history of employment in the district.
"These subs were highly respected," Meredith said.
Meredith told the Herald that the two substitute teachers were prohibited from being given assignments in the district last Wednesday and all their scheduled assignments were canceled. That led some teachers, including Meredith, to redo lesson plans for when they were scheduled to be away from their classrooms.
Meredith said the dismissals reportedly stem from an incident in which one of the substitute teachers sought the help of the other in controlling an unruly eighth-grade class March 13. At least two students were referred to school administrators, and their parents were contacted.
Meredith said she had to work extra hours to redo her lesson plan for a new substitute after the one she was assigned was dismissed. Gray said any substitute should be able to be used by any substitute teacher. That comment elicited laughter from the audience and a rebuttal from several teachers.
"In math, they honestly can't (use the same lesson plan)," said Barbara Thomas, a sixth-grade math teacher. "We really are hurting for quality math teachers in this district."
Jan DeFord, the district's substitute coordinator, said she still hasn't been given an explanation of why she couldn't assign the substitute teachers in question.
"I was told I could ask but I would not be given an answer," she said.
The substitutes were highly sought by many teachers in the district, and their dismissal has made it difficult to fill assignments. Some substitutes who used to work in the district have also begun to refuse assignments, she said.
Gray at first attempted to cut off Meredith when she began making public comment about the dismissed substitutes. The board eventually moved on to the rest of its agenda, but members of the audience continued to bring up the issue, leading Gray to address the matter again.
"If everyone's going to say the same thing, we're going to close down the comments," he said before continuing with the rest of the meeting.
Gray and Superintendent Rom Castilleja said any employment matters would be discussed in a closed session of the board. The board has such a meeting scheduled for tonight. Castilleja said the meeting was set to discuss a number of employment policies but said the issue regarding the dismissed substitute teachers also could be discussed.
-- Ty Beaver 582-1402; firstname.lastname@example.org