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Kean Teachers Will March, Continue Walkout

Oct. 21, 2004 — A two-hour meeting of the Ivanna Eudora Kean Parent Teacher Student Association Thursday evening did not bring about a satisfactory resolution for the school's faculty and staff who had been protesting a recent order by Territorial Court Judge Leon Kendall.
Although mostly everyone in the packed school library agreed that the students' education was at stake and they should be allowed to attend classes soon, parents and students went home without knowing when children would be return to the East End high school.
The teachers, all pledging support for school principal Sharon McCollum-Rogers, said the school would be closed indefinitely – until Rogers returns to the school campus.
"We want Dr. Rogers back," the teachers told acting Gov. Vargrave Richards, acting Attorney General Alva Swan and the officials from the Education Department who attended the meeting.
Rogers made a voluntary decision to relinquish her role Wednesday as the school's principal after Kendall ordered on Tuesday that a 17-year-old student who had reportedly violated school regulations on several occasions be allowed back into the school. (See "Protest At High School Continues, Meeting Called").
The teachers, with the support of parents and students in attendance, called for a march 8:30 a.m. Friday morning in protest of Kendall's order. The group will march from the parking lot of the now nonexistent Grand Union Supermarket and make their way down to Government House, the Senate building and the Court House.
Richards told the group he had met with Swan, Education Commissioner Noreen Michael and Superintendent William Frett Thursday afternoon to work on the requests of the faculty. They had requested an injunction of Kendall's decision, but Richards told the group this was not possible.
Swan said the other options are for Kendall to reconsider his decision or for the group to appeal.
"I personally don't believe the judge will reconsider the order," Swan said. He added the best option was to appeal. "The problem [with] appealing is that it takes too long," Swan said.
Those in the audience sounded their disapproval at Swan's statements.
Richards said the Turnbull administration supports the appeal and was heading in that direction.
"Know that this administration is doing everything possible," Richards said. "In the interim, we have to get these students back to school."
Amelia Crooke, a Eudora Kean parent, protested that the student in question had not followed any of the school's requirements.
Crooke said allowing the student back would set a bad precedent. "If he doesn't keep the requirements, you need to send him home."
Attorney Douglas Dick, who presided over the case involving the young man, said he was ordered to comply with the rules of the school or else he would be charged with contempt of court.
"I have not seen that he has been violent to other students," Dick said.
Frett told the group, "There is another factor you must consider." He said Rogers had said if the young man's parent could show certification from a doctor that he was capable to attend the school, she would allow him back. Frett said on Oct. 5, a letter certifying the young man's mental state was faxed to the school.
"Since the document was provided, the school had no right to prevent the student," Frett said.
But the parents, teachers and students in the group shouted their opposition to Frett's statements.
Melissa Bump, a teacher at Kean, asked Frett when he had last spoken to Rogers, to which he replied Tuesday.
She said things have changed since then. "Where does the court's responsibility lie and where does the Department of Education's responsibility lie?" Bump asked. "If we don't deal with this now, we're setting a bad precedent. In the future it could be another school, perhaps an elementary school."
Frett said, "Because we recognize that there may be many implications with this case, we did decide for an appeal. I do believe that Judge Kendall's decision was incredible."
The superintendent said further, "While the appeal process is not immediate, we still have a court order. Do we stop the entire process just for one? I say don't sacrifice the education of 913 students for one." The teachers did not relent, however.
Stephanie Hermaiz, Family and Consumer Sciences teacher at Kean, said their issue is getting Rogers back.
"If they can get Dr. Rogers back in, we will get back to the classroom," Hermaiz said. "It's the teachers that run this school."
Hermaiz said she has taught at Kean for 29 years, and since Rogers took leadership the school has progressed. She said before, police cars were driving to the school every week. Now she feels safe and happy to be a teacher to her students once more.
"The management we've received since Dr. Rogers got here, I can't describe in words," Hermaiz said. "The Kean faculty is once again a unified body."
Hermaiz said the teachers acted independently of the local American Federation of Teachers chapter and without Rogers's knowledge.
"We have decided to take a stand behind her," Hermaiz said.
AFT President Vernelle de Lagarde, who was present, verified that the teachers acted independently.
"Personally, I appreciate the fact that they're taking a stand for a cause that they believe in," de Lagarde said.
Michael said she would not say what action the Education Department would take if the teachers did not go back to work Friday.
"We cannot disregard a court order simply because we disagree with it," Michael said. "Just like the parents feel the student should follow the rules, we too have to abide by the law."

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