The Open 5th Grade Position at Beye School

The Open 5th Grade Position at Beye School

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Wendy Roderweiss started this petition to District 97 School Board and

We petition that the hiring of the new 5th grade teacher at Beye school be postponed until an interim Principal and Sr. Director of Human Resources have been appointed.  We want a fair assessment of all the candidates, and do not feel that the two people in charge of filling this position, Jennifer Schemidt and Gina Hermann, are capable of making a decision without bias.  This year, Ms. Schemidt and Ms. Herrmann decided to not renew a highly qualified, award-winning teacher that many people in the community feel should be teaching at Beye.  Furthermore, Ms. Schemidt and Ms. Herrmann have both resigned and will be leaving our district at the end of the year, no longer a part of the community that they will greatly impact with their decision-making.

There has been a lot of rumor and conjecture surrounding the near dismissal and subsequent non-renewal of Patrick McAndrew, a 5th grade teacher at Beye.  Below is some context, and the actual wording of the complaint against him.  This year, the Beye community lost a brilliant teacher, but we have a chance to get him back, as he has applied for his former position. 

The pandemic caused a great deal of anxiety, depression and loss for many people.  Thankfully many of us had family for support.  Patrick’s family isn’t here, they live 7500 miles away.  His other home is Nepal, where his children, dogs and extended family live.  However, due to Covid, for over a year, he was unable to see them. 

The absence from his loved ones started to take a toll.  Each opportunity that Patrick thought he had to see them was thwarted.  His students, fellow teachers, and school leaders knew of his attempts to go home, and by most accounts, were rooting for him to be reunited with his children. As soon as travel restrictions eased and he could get a visa, he flew to Nepal.  This was not a vacation, this was a necessary step for his mental health and well-bleing.  He, like many of us, needed to see his family, and make sure that they were okay.  To be clear, he took this trip in January, while the schools were still fully remote.  It should be pointed out that during his time in Nepal, he continued to teach his class remotely, despite the 11 hour time difference, and even incorporated Nepal into their social studies lessons, taking them on virtual field trips and cultural tours.

However, his trip home and his use of sick days (though they were sanctioned by his doctor) led to an investigation and forced administrative leave by the district.  Ultimately the Sr. Director of Human Resources, Gina Hermann, recommended that Patrick be terminated.  The following language is from the memo to Mr. McAndrew, obtained through a FOIA request.

"After concluding the administrative investigation regarding your alleged misconduct, I have decided to recommend that your employment as a non-tenured teacher be terminated. This recommendation for termination is based on my determination that you have engaged in the following misconduct and violation of Board Policies:

1. Intentionally failing to notify the Principal of your plan to travel to Nepal for a 10-day family visit or request personal business leave as provided by Article XVII(A)(1)(c) of the OPTA Collective Bargaining Agreement.

2. Intentionally and fraudulently submitting a paid sick leave request for January 20, 2021 in advance of your boarding an international flight to Nepal on personal business.

3. Intentionally and fraudulently submitting a paid sick leave request to excuse your absences from on-site work on January 25, 26, and 29, 2021 despite your previous receipt of the Superintendent’s e-mail notice on January 15, 2021 of this on-site work requirement and due to your presence in Nepal on personal business.

4. Failing to truthfully respond to questions asked by the District’s Senior Director of Human Resources during the fact-finding investigatory interviews.

5. Engaging in insubordination by repeatedly refusing to respond to relevant fact-finding questions during the January 29, 2021 investigatory interview.

6. Violation of Board Policy 5:120 (“Employee Ethics; Conduct; and Conflict of Interest”), which requires District employees to demonstrate integrity and honesty, to be considerate and cooperative, and to maintain professional and appropriate relationships with students, parents, staff members, and others.”

Thankfully Mr. McAndrew was not terminated, in part because the community rallied.  100s of letters of support poured in, and ultimately the board voted to approve a 10 day suspension (after nearly 2 months of administrative leave) instead of termination.  However, the very day he returned to the classroom, and his adoring students, he was told by Principal Jenn Schemidt and Gina Herrmann that his contract would not be renewed and that after June, he would no longer be teaching at Beye school.

As stated, since that time both Jenn Schemidt and Gina Herrmann have resigned.  However, before they go, they will be hiring a new 5th grade teacher for Beye.  Patrick McAndrew has applied for his former position but is not optimistic that he will be considered since the two people who recommended his termination are in charge of hiring.

This year has been tough on everyone, and mistakes have been made.  The one thing that we have repeated over and over to our children is that what is most important in a crisis is empathy, compassion, flexibility and understanding.  Let’s be the example that we are asking our children to model.  Let’s leave this year in the past.  Let’s look to the future and a new Principal who can make the best decision for Beye school.  Let the new Principal consider all of the candidates who have applied, and therefore make an equitable decision.    

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