The Ketchikan Gateway Borough School Board met in regular session last night. It was a productive session in terms of policy, but the citizen comment portion of the meeting grew heated.
Family members of a teacher at the Ketchikan Charter School appealed to the board to not fire her.
Deborah Merle has been on administrative leave from the district and was not allowed to attend the meeting herself. But her brother, Doug Andrew, gave the Board a warning during citizen comments.
“If you go to fire my sister tomorrow, you better be ready for a dog fight,” Andrew told the Board.
Merle’s mother also spoke at the meeting, drawing attention to her daughter’s nearly two decades of service in the School District. She notes that the family might take the district to court over the controversy.
The teacher is at the center of a School District investigation into her alleged attempts to help students cheat on state tests.
After the alleged cheating incident, some parents reported that their children were called into the principal’s office for one-on-one interviews about the testing. According to parents, their children were then told to not discuss the nature of the interviews with anyone.
The topic came up at a School Board meeting in April, when Tom Volpi protested interviews his granddaughter had with the principal. He simultaneously defended Deborah Merle and chastised the school district.
“This whole thing stinks, it’s nothing short of a witch hunt in my eyes,” said Volpi at the April meeting.
In an interview with KRBD after the meeting, Superintendent Robert Boyle said he could not comment on the specifics of an ongoing investigation, but said that Merle was not going to be fired immediately, contrary to what Doug Andrews had said.
Boyle says the District is following procedure with the investigation, but he encourages a fair hearing, including through public comment.
“I understand people being very concerned the actions the district has taken in response to any allegations,” said Boyle, “but we are obligated to follow state regulations when allegations come about, and we try to handle those as well as we can. Wetry to be sure that people can be heard fairly and in completeness.”
Boyle also says the investigation will be completed as soon as possible.
Deborah Merle could not be reached for comment by deadline for this story. At the School Board meeting Wednesday, her brother and mother noted that their attorneys had advised them against saying too much publicly.
The School Board also voted last night to hire five new teachers for next year, and it approved the purchase of 60 laptop Apple computers for the elementary program at a cost of $60,000.