The Alexandria City Public Schools’ board voted to reinstate a teacher overseeing a city facility for at-risk children known as Sheltercare after ACPS top management abruptly ended his contract.
“We’re pleased that the children are once again being served,” School Board Chairman Karen Graf told Patch.
The board argued that because the position is a line item on the budget, the superintendent and his deputy had no business removing the position without prior discussion with the board and public.
Dorothea Peters, who serves on the Northern Virginia Juvenile Detention Commission, testified on behalf of Sheltercare at the board’s Jan. 10 meeting, saying ACPS notified teacher Michael Casey on a Thursday in October 2012 that his last day would be the next day.
“There should be reasonable notice,” she said.
She described most of the juveniles who go to Sheltercare as “abused” and “traumatized” and often from difficult family situations. “We’re trying to transition them to a positive lifestyle,” she said, adding that Casey was a “great asset.”
One example that was raised of a Sheltercare student was a young girl who saw a MS-13 gang execution and had to stay in the care place for 24 hours for protection.
“A lot of these kids aren’t safe in the school system,” Peters said.
Casey had been with the program, which is set up similar to a dormitory and located in Alexandria’s West End, for about two and a half years.
The termination of the teaching position essentially disbanded the program. The children, ages 13 to 17, were sent back to their home schools, an ACPS satellite campus and elsewhere.
At the Jan. 10 meeting, ACPS Superintendent Morton Sherman said the Sheltercare change was not about a “personality or a teacher. It’s about how to best serve the kids.”
Deputy Superintendent Madye Henson said the children need a certified teacher there delivering academic instruction in a variety of subjects and “that wasn’t happening for these particular students."
After impassioned discussion, the superintendent suggested that “all players” in the discussion need to meet and the issue would be discussed at the Jan. 24 meeting.
At that Jan. 24 meeting, Board member Bill Campbell made a motion to reinstate the position for the remainder of the school year while a transition plan for altering the position is discussed. He also recommended that the position be filled again by Casey through the remainder of the year.
Board member Marc Williams opposed the motion with all other members in favor. He had offered an amendment that was struck down.
Graf told Patch Monday that she hopes ACPS and Sheltercare come up with a plan before June and “optimally they would get it to us before the budget.”