Exeter school officials mum on retirement of longtime teacher
EXETER — A veteran English teacher at Exeter High School who was placed on paid administrative leave in March has retired, but school officials are keeping mum on the circumstances surrounding her departure.
After 34 years with the district, Katharyn Wheeler-Smith retired effective this month. Her retirement followed a campaign launched by students, former students and others who supported her and demanded an explanation for her removal from the classroom.
In a statement, Superintendent Michael Morgan said Wheeler-Smith retired “after agreeing to mutually acceptable retirement incentives” with School Administrative Unit 16.
He declined to provide more details about the retirement or the reasons behind his decision to place her on leave.
Wheeler-Smith began her teaching career in Exeter in 1978 and taught students at the former Exeter Junior High School and at Exeter High School.
Morgan has said he placed her on leave while the school conducted an investigation, but he has refused to provide details, calling it a “confidential matter.”
As questions surrounding her removal began to circulate, a Facebook page called “Operation: Retrieve Wheeler” was created to seek answers and build support. At one point, students collected nearly 200 signatures on a petition that was given to the Exeter Regional Cooperative School Board.
While students and parents described her as a demanding teacher who was outspoken at times, they also spoke of her passion for teaching and how she cared about her students.
Many people have returned to the Facebook page from time to time to share their thoughts after her removal from the classroom and her sudden retirement.
“Discouraging to hear about this. Certain people actually made that school worthwhile. Mrs. W-S was one of them. But I suspect there's a brighter future outside of that umbrella,” one person posted after learning that she would retire this month.
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