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New Parker-Varney Elementary School principal has 'short fuse' says union for fired Raymond kindergarten teacher

Union Leader Correspondent

August 07. 2018 10:24AM

RAYMOND — The Raymond Education Association is continuing its fight to keep a kindergarten teacher who was let go at the same time she was recognized for her dedication to teaching.

The union alleges the contract for Lamprey River Elementary School teacher Michelle Blum wasn’t renewed at the end of the last school year because of her work as a union representative.

The teachers’ union has now filed an unfair labor complaint with the state’s Public Employee Labor Relations Board after the administration denied a request to have Blum reinstated.

“The district’s termination of Michelle Blum is retaliation for Ms. Blum’s union activity,” said the complaint, which was provided to the New Hampshire Union Leader by Liz Downes, Raymond Education Association president.

Alison LaCasse, who was vice president of the Raymond Education Association when Blum was let go and a colleague during her time at the elementary school, said she and other staff members were stunned to learn her contract wasn’t renewed.

LaCasse said there was “nothing in the previous four years of administrative evaluations that would indicate that her skills as an educator were even remotely in question.”

LaCasse said she and others feel the decision to not recommend her contract has more to do with her accepting a union leadership position in the building than it does with her evaluated skills as an educator.

“We believe, without question, this teacher has made a positive difference for the students of the Raymond School District and is exactly the kind of skilled, dedicated professional that we need to be trying to keep rather than remove. Her evaluations over time prove it, as well as the testimonials from families throughout the district,” she said.

According to the complaint, former elementary school principal Bryan Belanger, who recently left to become principal of Parker-Varney Elementary School in Manchester, gave Blum a non-renewal notice on April 6 that terminated her employment for the upcoming school year.

The complaint alleges that Belanger is “known among employees for his short temper and his dislike of criticism.”

Blum began working as a substitute teacher in 2012 and became a full-time teacher in September 2013, the complaint said.

She became a union representative in October 2016 and occasionally met with Belanger and Assistant Principal Laura Yacek to discuss employment concerns, the complaint said.

The complaint referred to several employee observations and evaluations that were performed on Blum by Belanger and Yacek that were mostly positive. It did mention one of Belanger’s observations in October 2017 that listed 19 items in an “unsatisfactory category,” but on April 5 he gave her a 2017-18 summative evaluation that had zero items in the unsatisfactory category, 17 items under basic and five under proficient.

She was informed that her contract would not be renewed the following day.

The union also noted a disagreement between Blum and Belanger in May 2017 after she asked him to “reconsider his decision to not allow kindergarten students’ families inside the school to celebrate the students’ successes.”

The union claims Belanger told kindergarten teachers that parents couldn’t enter for safety reasons, but teachers in another grade level were allowed to invite parents into school classrooms for a pancake breakfast.

The union claims Blum’s contract was not renewed by Superintendent Tina McCoy based on Belanger’s recommendation.

The non-renewal came at the same time that Blum was recognized for her commitment to students.

In June, several parents spoke in support of Blum at a school board meeting where she was given a “You Make a Difference Award” after being nominated by several of her peers.

McCoy honored Blum at the meeting and shared several positive comments from the nomination letters.

“Michelle, for everything you’ve done, thank you so much,” McCoy told her at the meeting.

McCoy has declined to comment on the reason why Blum’s contract wasn’t renewed.

Belanger could not be reached for comment.

Education Labor Raymond

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