Students, parents protest teacher’s reassignment
EVERETT - More than 60 parents and students from Mill Creek Elementary took a stand last week to bring back a beloved teacher to their school.
Second grade teacher Matt Stevenson, known for wearing his “tool belt” of pencils and rulers and for his affable nature, knows every student and is one of the best teachers at Mill Creek, parents said. He also is one of a few male teachers in the school, which parents say is important for boys to have a positive male role model.
He is one of a handful of teachers listed for “unassignment,” meaning he is being reassigned to another school next year. That school has yet to be determined.
“By losing him, we would be losing part of the heart of our school and will be robbing our children of an exceptional, caring educator,” said parent Heidi Hertzog, one of eight parents and former students to speak before the Everett School Board last week.
“Mr. Stevenson didn’t only make learning fun, he himself is fun,” student Kyle Kasanovich, 11, said.
The decision is a response to declining enrollment at Mill Creek Elementary, Everett School District spokeswoman Mary Waggoner said.
The union-designated unassignment process is not based on seniority, personality, discipline record or performance, Waggoner said.
If no teacher asks to be unassigned, then the selection becomes “who’s most likely to get a position elsewhere because of (a teacher’s) endorsements matching needs within the district,” Waggoner said.
The union system is designed to protect teachers, Waggoner said. Without these provisions, the principal could have selected anyone.
The district can’t override Principal Brenda Fuglevand’s decision without creating a breach of union contract, Waggoner said.
Parents say this isn’t right.
“Following the right protocol does not make it right,” parent Edie Beyer said. “He’s one of the best teachers my son has had.”
At the Stevenson household, they were shocked, Matt’s wife Amy Stevenson said.
Matt loves the kids and is the school’s designated leader for teaching his peers new curriculum, Amy Stevenson said. He’s been at Mill Creek for eight years.
“He’s so patient and so sensitive and has a connection to the kids,” Amy said, adding, “He’s invested so much in the community and now he’s being ripped out of it.”
Matt Stevenson was heartbroken when he was told of his unassignment March 28, she said.
Amy, a teacher in the Edmonds School District, said her union bargaining agreement does not have a similar clause.
Parents were aghast when they learned Stevenson could be leaving and started a Facebook campaign called “Save Mr. Stevenson.” At least 250 people have signed a petition to keep Stevenson at Mill Creek.
Parents also argue if enrollment is going down, then why is Mill Creek adding a highly capable class next year.
Those classes are separate from basic education enrollment, Waggoner said.
Some parents on the Facebook page say Stevenson was picked by the principal because she didn’t like him.
There are no emotional attachments to these decisions, Waggoner said.
Parents and students hope the board will reverse the decision, but that is unlikely.
Reversing a personnel decision is generally outside of the board’s purview, board president Jeff Russell said.
“The board is going to be reticent to get involved in a personnel matter,” Russell said.
If Stevenson doesn’t get placed at another school, his job is safe, Waggoner said. He would be put back in Mill Creek Elementary and a process similar to union bumping would take place.
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