CASS CITY — Ron McCollum – called the “lowest-rated” Cass City Public Schools teacher by an administrator when the school board laid him off in August – was called back to work this week in a move hailed as “marvelous” by a teacher union leader.
“I think it’s marvelous,” said Kris Milligan, a teacher at Cass City Elementary School and president of the Cass City Education Association.
When asked if she has a problem with the job McCollum is doing as a teacher at the elementary school, Milligan said “None.”
Cass City Superintendent Jeff Hartel recommended laying off a teacher at the board’s August meeting due to a 19-student decline in the school district’s preschool “Great Start Readiness Program.” The decline was caused by a change in the way officials calculate family income to determine which students are included in the program for at-risk pupils.
McCollum, described by union leaders as a teacher with about 15 years of experience in Cass City, lost his job after the district laid him off instead of any of three teachers in the preschool program: Ashley Copeland, Mandy Haag and Amanda Hartzell.
Union officials indicated McCollum had more seniority than one or more of the three preschool teachers, though it wasn’t clear at press time if McCollum – who teaches physical education and technology at the elementary school – had more seniority than each of the trio.
The school board called McCollum back to work, though, after Haag declined to accept a full-time position as a preschool teacher, and resigned from the school district.
“I’m glad to see Ron back at work,” Milligan said. “It’s as it should be.”
Milligan said Haag took a leave of absence last school year, but turned down a full-time preschool teaching job this school year.
“(Haag) did not want to take a full-time job,” Milligan said. “In the spring she had indicated she was coming back to work, but the position went from half-time to full-time, and that wasn’t right for her family.”
In her letter of resignation accepted Monday by the school board, Haag wrote “Please know that this was an extremely difficult decision for me, but this is what’s best for my family right now.”
In August, Hartel said McCollum ranked lowest among Cass City’s 55 teachers, when using evaluations of teachers done by school principals. Teachers receive one of four ratings from administrators: highly effective, effective, minimally effective and ineffective.
“He was the lowest-rated, the next one (for layoff),” Hartel said after the August meeting. “Seniority is out the door.”
Hartel told the school board Monday that McCollum has been placed under a “strict” individualized development plan, adding McCollum must meet various objectives, including student achievement adjectives.
Hartel said district principals Aaron Fernald and Don Markel are “monitoring (McCollum) daily, weekly and monthly.”
“I hope he does well,” Hartel said after the meeting. “He’s off to a good start right now and we’re going to give him all the support that we can give him, and we’ll see how he does.”
When asked if McCollum needs to be strictly monitored, Milligan said “I’ve not been in his classroom, but that’s an administrator’s role – if they see there’s problems, they need to identify them and give that person an opportunity to improve themselves.”
When asked if seniority benefits a teacher, Milligan – in her 38th year as a teacher at Cass City – said “I think experience counts for a lot.”
In other action Monday, the school board accepted Nick Moyer’s resignation as a paraprofessional at Cass City Junior/Senior High School, as Moyer has accepted a full-time job as a physical education teacher at Ubly Elementary School. Board members also accepted the resignation of Mayra Learman as coordinator of the Student Responsibility Center, which houses students needing to better their behavior to improve academically and stay out of trouble.
After accepting the resignations of Haag, Moyer and Learman, the board hired Laurie Roggenbuck as an elementary-school paraprofessional, and hired Susanne Forster, a paraprofessional, as a part-time teacher.
Tom Gilchrist is a reporter for The Advertiser and can be reached at email@example.com