The school district is filing tenure charges against an outspoken gym teacher for allegedly creating a hostile work environment.
School board members narrowly approved filing tenure charges against Marcella Simadiris, a physical education and health teacher at School 4 or Frank Napier Academy, on Wednesday night.
Simadiris said the district is trying to silence her. She has criticized successive administrations in the district for incompetence. Her criticism often focused on the district failing to implement Amistad curriculum, lack of educational equity, and poor management.
Over the past year, she has criticized superintendent Eileen Shafer.
“I’m really happy about that equity audit, madam Superintendent, but that does not take place for what you’re responsible for the last school year in preparing for this school year, which you’re in direct violation of,” Simadiris alleged at a public meeting in September. She threatened to file complaints against the district with the state and federal governments.
Simadiris was suspended on Oct. 24, 2018 for alleged “conduct unbecoming” pending an investigation. She had taught in the district for 18 years.
School board members were provided findings of the district’s investigation in a closed-door meeting on Wednesday night. Simadiris allegedly slammed a door in the face of one of her colleagues. Also, a majority of her colleagues signed a petition to remove her from the school.
Before the school board went into a closed-door meeting, Simadiris handed the board her performance evaluations for the past several years. She said her performance last school year was “exemplary.”
“Hopefully, you’ll go over these and there will be a red flag that there’s an issue,” Simadiris told the school board.
A dozen people attended the meeting to support Simadiris. Some spoke in her favor, giving her glowing reviews.
“She sacrifices her time and money, whatever it takes, to make our community and our students better. She fights for equity in learning for all students,” said retired teacher Sarah Moody. “It’s a shame if we’re going to remove a teacher of this caliber from the district.”
The district will be able to terminate Simadiris if it successfully convinces an arbitrator to uphold the charges against her.
Simadiris sometimes brought her students to school board meetings. Often, encouraging them to address the superintendent and the board. She also accompanied them to various community events over the years.
“She’s one of the best teachers there,” said Linda Wallace, a grandmother of one of Simadiris’ students.
“I’m a personal witness to her care and concern for her students. I’ve seen her personally, with her own resources and money, bring students to programs in our community,” said Lawrence Hamm of the People’s Organization for Progress to the board. “I think she is a great teacher. She should be in the classroom. I’m urging you not to do anything to take her out of the classroom.”