At 8:10 a.m. on Monday, April 15, sixth-through 12th-graders in the Winfield-Mt. Union School District quietly filed out of their classrooms in support of several teachers who have been asked to resign.
As residents drove by, they cheered, “Way to go kids. Way to stand up for what you believe,” said Juli Thomson, a parent of a student at W-MU who was in attendance at the walkout.
Thomson said students gathered “peacefully” outside for 10 minutes, and at 8:20 a.m., they returned to class.
“I know not everyone is supportive of this ‘protest,’ but I feel the majority was,” Thomson said, whose Facebook post on April 12, about one teacher who was asked to resign sparked over 200 people to comment in support of the staff at W-MU.
Multiple sources have confirmed that Kathy Mullin, a language arts teacher at W-MU, was asked to resign allegedly because of taking too many sick days. According to school records, Mullin took 30.25 days off between sick time, family sick time and personal days during the 2018-2019 school year. Teachers are allotted a standard of 15 sick days at W-MU and two personal days per year. Those hired before Jan. 1, 2017, can accumulate up to 120 days of sick leave. After that, the maximum number of accumulated days is 90.
Mullin could not be reached for comment.
Thomson wrote on Facebook that she is “outraged” that Mullin was asked to resign. Mullin taught Thomson 20 years ago and now teaches Thomson’s 13-year-old daughter.
“To get rid of a stinking patriarch of our school and community makes me think someone else’s resignation needs to be asked for,” Thomson said in her Facebook post.
The W-MU School Board approved of one “staff reduction,” one staff member resignation and another staff member to be put on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the school year and will resign at the end of the year, superintendent Jeff Maeder said. This is a total of three staff members the W-MU School Board has approved to either eliminate or who will resign. However, according to sources within the school district, an additional two staff members have been asked for their resignation.
The teachers who will not be returning for the 2019-2020 school year did not wish to comment.
“It is a personnel matter. I can’t get into the details,” Maeder said. “Students are upset with some personnel decisions that we have made. Some parents are upset as well. It’s obvious some of these people are very well thought of in our community and among our students. These decisions aren’t easy. They are, however, decisions made in the best interest of the students, and that’s not always popular.”
Maeder said that students who walked out on Monday will not be reprimanded for their actions.
“They deserve to be heard,” Maeder said.
Maeder said that one of the positions is being eliminated because of “budget adjustments.”
“It does have to do with enrollment, like all school budgets do,” he said.
Enrollment at W-MU for the 2018-2019 school year was 321 students. During the 2017-2018 school year, they had 339 students, and from 2016-2017 there were 355 students. A decade ago from 2008-2009, it was 388 students.
Tiffany Sammons, a resource teacher at W-MU, commented on Thomson’s Facebook post that “all jobs are at risk.”
“I have been asked to leave, and so have three others and now Mrs. Mullin,” Sammons said in her comment. “So many of us are being let go, including myself, and it hurts and saddens us.”
Jennifer Hudson, a parent of a W-MU student, commented that Mullin being asked to resign is “absolutely ridiculous.”
“She is the heart and soul of the school and keeps (our) kids where they need to be when life is overwhelming,” Hudson wrote. “This is a horrible example of (what) our school has become. I’m all for going forward to fight for Mrs. Mullin.”
Melanie McCreight also commented on the Facebook post, saying she was going to send an email to the superintendent on Mullin’s behalf.
“Not only does (Mullin) have a big influence on the students at W-MU now, she also maintains that relationship after we graduate,” McCreight wrote. “She is part of the reason why I am a teacher today. The love and passion she holds for the community, the school, the staff and the students is amazing.”