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A service of the Bradford County Telegraph, Inc.

Clay school board fires Oakleaf teacher

Bullock votes against termination

 McRae instructor defends colleague

By DAN HILDEBRAN

Monitor Editor

The Clay County School Board terminated the employment of Oakleaf Junior High School teacher Mike Ford Thursday night.

Superintendent Charlie Van Zant recommended the action after Ford was accused of putting a student in a choke hold.

Clay deputies arrested the P.E. teacher following the April incident.  Ford was later released on a $753 bond.

Before the school board vote, 11 parents and teachers spoke in support of Ford. One of them, McRae Elementary School teacher Smitty Huffman, said he worked with Ford at Oakleaf Junior High.  Huffman said when he taught at the school administrators practiced lax student discipline and often sided with students when adjudicating disciplinary actions.  He said administrators routinely changed, reworded  or destroyed referrals written by teachers without notifying the referral writers.

“Often minimal consequences were given to students at Oakleaf, which only empowered students to continue inappropriate behavior and cause more safety issues at the school for students and staff,” he said.

Board members Tina Bullock and Johnna McKinnon voted against the termination.  Bullock said that although the allegations against Ford were serious, she thought a suspension through the remainder of the school year would be a more appropriate sanction.

McKinnon  expressed concerns about declining student discipline.

School board attorney Bruce Bickner said he has been in contact with Ford’s lawyer and said he anticipated the teacher would appeal the termination.  If Ford does so within 21 days, his case will come before the school board again.  During that hearing, the accused teacher will be able to present his own defence.  The board will then vote again on whether to uphold or to reverse its decision to fire the teacher.

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