Tuesday, 16 August 2022

Kelseyville High students protest teacher's dismissal

KELSEYVILLE – Students at Kelseyville High School rejected the initial idea of a walk-out to protest the firing of a favorite teacher this week, opting to write letters and make phone calls instead.


Math instructor David Blair received the equivalent of a pink slip last week when Kelseyville Unified School District's board of trustees unanimously agreed to terminate his contract.


Time will tell whether the pen is mightier than the door.


Currently the board has no plans to revisit the issue, according to the superintendent's staff Thursday afternoon.


"We had to weigh things out," said school board member Valerie Ramirez about the decision. "We did that and we came to that decision as individuals."


Ramirez wouldn't comment about the board's direction but affirmed she would reconsider her vote if the issue were presented to the board again.


The issue itself remains cloudy as parents and district staff alike refuse to put their names to allegations that the math teacher is being fired because of a controversy regarding his decisions made as basketball coach, a job he held last year but no longer retains.


"Rumor has it it's a political thing about his being a basketball coach," said one parent. "The bottom line is if it is about basketball, guess what? He's not doing that anymore."


Parents Brad and Peggie King were willing to put their names on a letter to the board regarding the firing.


"Mr. Blair is teaching high level calculus to a group of very bright and dedicated students, some of the best in this year’s graduating class," the letter reads.


"Mr. Blair is dedicated, competent and concerned. He has set the bar high enough to challenge these students ... this is somewhat of a rarity in the current educational climate and these college-bound students will have an even greater appreciation next year when this becomes the norm."


The King letter goes on to urge the board to "make every effort to retain the teacher" despite the acknowledgment, "we cannot know all the facts leading up to the superintendent’s recommendation to the board to not renew the contract with Mr. Blair, as they may include confidential personnel issues."


But Peggie King thinks David Blair is being terminated because he is a good teacher.


"People don't like this teacher because he's passionate, he doesn't listen to excuses and he really pushes the kids,” she said.


King said of her daughter who is in one of Blair's classes, "She's had to work like a dog and she should be proud of herself."


She added, "They're wanting to dumb it down.”


Also enraged is parent Marc Yaffee whose two daughters have been in Blair's classes. "My daughter said he's the best teacher in the school."


Yaffee said he has been impressed with Blair's passion for math, noting that he tutored two students who were behind all summer – without pay – and also attended some training himself at Stanford "on his own dime."


Yaffee is calling for an emergency session of the school board to reconsider the matter.


Two other parents who didn't want to be identified echoed Yaffee's sentiments. All three cited the teacher's website (blairmathematics.com), challenging work ethic and dedication to the subject as well as to the students.


Yaffee noted that he counted 95 supportive students at the student-led meeting held during the lunch hour Tuesday. He commented that students at the top of the class as well as students who have not received good marks from the teacher all support the man.


Freshman Katie Murphy contacted all five board members by phone or via email according to her father, Phil Murphy, and heard back from all of them.


Katie's polite letter to school board chairman Peter Quartarolo stated, "In my opinion, Mr. Blair brings a higher level of education to our school.


"Mr. Blair is an exceptional math teacher," Katie's letter reads. "For me, he is the first math teacher I have ever had that truly helped me to understand and be interested in math. His teaching methods always get the concept across to me. His is also the most helpful and accessible teacher I have ever had; he has a website with help links and he answers questions by email every night of the week. He helps students who are not only in his math classes, but also in physics and chemistry. His door is always open to student who seek help and want to learn.


"Finally, " Katie Murphy's letter concludes, "the student body does not want to see this teacher leave our school. We want an emergency board meeting before March 15."


Superintendent Boyce McClain, who confirmed the next scheduled board meeting is March 22, said he was citing state law in explaining the process by which teachers are hired and fired.


According to McClain, teachers have a two-year probation period during which the school board can "see if the fit is good."


Because of the state's March 15 deadline regarding termination notices, the superintendent explained, that period is actually more like a year and a half, "so they have time to find a new job."


The school board met in closed session last week to evaluate pros and cons, according to McClain, then voted unanimously "not to re-elect Mr. Blair."


When asked to describe the evaluation criteria presented to make the decision, McClain said, "The high school principal and I went in and shared all the data we had."


McClain said Blair is fully credentialed for the position, but he would not rule out his performance outside the math classroom, repeating that the board evaluated "all the data of Mr. Blair."


McClain said confidentiality code prohibits his further comment on personnel issues.


High School Principal Matt Cockerton was unavailable for comment Thursday.


But McClain continued that "Mr Blair didn't like (the decision)."


McClain added, "It appears he has chosen to rally his students and peers."


The superintendent said "there will probably end up being a board meeting," and "one way or another the community will be heard.”


"The board always cares about what the community thinks," McClain said.


E-mail Maile Field at This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it..


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