17 resignations from Apache Junction school district approved in split vote

The resignations of 17 employees from Apache Junction Unified School District were approved in a split 3-2 vote by the governing board. Resignations, retirements and hires are usually part of a consent agenda approved with other items in one unanimous vote.

Voting April 10 to approve the resignations were President Jodi Ehrlich, Vice-President Dena Kimble and member Mike Weaver. Voting no were Cami Garcia and Christa Rizzi. In a separate vote, the board voted 5-0 to approve retirements for three employees.

“I think that these resignations indicate that we have problems more than the four-day, five-day that we should be looking at and focusing on. My heart hurts for these people who are leaving our family. I’m heartbroken,” Ms. Rizzi said before the vote. The board at a previous meeting voted to go from a four-day to a five-day academic calendar.

“We have experienced long-term teachers and support staff that are not happy in this district and we need to find out why. We can replace them but that’s not going to solve the problem,” she said.

“There’s a number of teachers on that list who have been here multiple decades,” President Ehrlich said before the vote.

“Those teachers have touched thousands of kids, including my own. So obviously it is an emotional thing. Those efforts need to be recognized and thanked,” she said.

“There (are) a lot of teachers that have taught our kids, that have taught some of us, and some of these people on this list is disheartening,” Ms. Garcia said before the vote.

“It’s hard to just let them go when you know the amount of commitment and friendships that have been built,” she said.

Several people at the meeting – including Ms. Rizzi – wore stickers with #LaPrise on them in honor of longtime AJUSD employee and Apache Junction High School Principal Larry LaPrise, who is one of the 17 resigning. His last day is in June, according to the agenda.

Other resignations approved were:

•Meredith Ann Andrews, certified occupational therapy assistant, AJUSD.
•Arturo Felix, custodian, Maintenance/Cactus Canyon Junior High School.
•Shawna Fox, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Joshua Garrison, teacher, Cactus Canyon Junior High.
•Ashlee Glahn, para educator, Peralta Trail Elementary School.
•Betty Ann Goodger, teacher, Peralta Trail Elementary School.
•Sarah Harrison, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Kristina Harshman, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Mark Hutzell, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Nancy Johnson, bookstore manager, Apache Junction High School.
•Amanda McGuire, teacher, Peralta Train Elementary School.
•Rebecca Miller, teacher, Cactus Canyon Junior High School.
•Amber Moore, teacher, Four Peaks Elementary School.
•Sabrina Reid, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Nichole Smith, teacher, Apache Junction High School.
•Krista Woodland, Title I para educator, Four Peaks Elementary School.

Approved retirements were:
•Connie Earl, teacher, Peralta Trail Elementary School.
•William Staylor Sr., driver, transportation, to SmartSchools.
•Susan Waugh, para educator at Peralta Trail Elementary School.

Prior to the votes on the resignations and retirements, eight people spoke during the public comments section of the meeting on a variety of topics.

Braden Biggs, who wore a “Red for Ed” T-shirt and a #LaPrise sticker, and who plans to run for AJUSD Governing Board in the fall, said he researched how many employees had resigned from the school district this year vs. the first six months of 2017.

“As of tonight, 47 staff members of AJUSD have submitted their letters of resignation; 60, if you include those with special conditions, retirement, medical reasons, etc.,” since the first governing board meeting of the year, Mr. Biggs said. A total of 24 leaving are teachers, he said.

“Last year, between the first board meeting in January 2017 and the first board meeting of June 2017, there were 67 resignations – 79 if you include those special ones,” he said, adding that 21 were teachers.

“Does this board not realize that we have another two months before your first June meeting? At this rate I see that 24 rapidly growing. I know more resignations are coming; contracts aren’t even due yet,” Mr. Biggs said.

Danielle Reynolds, who wore a “Red for Ed” T-shirt and two #LaPrise stickers, talked about the district’s plan to stop providing buses for for-profit businesses.

“It’s not necessarily about saving money, it’s by discontinuing transportation to the local child-cares, but about promoting the district’s child-care center to help bring in income,” Ms. Reynolds said.

“The last 25 years, my for-profit child-care has received transportation because we are all part of the same community,” she said.

The board later decided to continue discussion to the April 24 meeting on selling six buses and stopping transportation to for-profit businesses.

Editor Richard Dyer can be reached at rdyer@newszap.com

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