Saturday, April 22, 2000

School board moves to fire second-grade teacher

'Financial irregularities' cited as factor in Fairfield

BY Sue Kiesewetter
Enquirer Contributor

        FAIRFIELD — A second-grade teacher could lose her job over the disappearance of $781.81 from a Student Council account at Fairfield West Elementary School.

        Following an almost four-hour closed-door meeting Thursday, the Fairfield Board of Education unanimously adopted a resolution to consider the termination of teacher Heather Stickler's contract. Earlier in the evening, the board voted to accept Ms. Stickler's resignation as one of two Student Council advisers at the school.

        A letter and copy of the resolution will be sent to Ms. Stickler next week. She will then have 10 days to request a hearing, said John Clemmons, the school board's attorney.

        All five board members declined to comment, referring questions to Superinten dent Charles Wiedenmann or Mr. Clemmons.

        “Financial irregularities are part of the grounds for terminating her contract,” Mr. Wiedenmann said after the board meeting. “She handled money that is now missing. The money was not handled in accordance with state law and school policy.

        “I don't know where the money is,” he added.

        Fairfield police are investigating and have filed no charges, Lt. Ken Colburn said.

        “She is a suspect in the case. Our investigators are still conducting interviews,” Lt. Colburn said Friday.

        Attorney John O'Shea, who is representing Ms. Stickler, denied that his client is responsible for any missing money and said she had passed a lie detector test.

        “They called her a thief to my face. We don't even know if $700 is missing,” Mr. O'Shea said, noting that students, teachers and others have access to the school's safe. “The bottom line is, my client as a Student Council adviser is being made a scapegoat.”

        Ms. Stickler, a 1990 graduate of Fairfield Senior High School, has not been in the classroom since the second week in March, shortly before West Elementary School Principal Roger Martin filed a report with the Fairfield Police Department. Her attorney said Ms. Stickler's absence is a medical leave, unrelated to the investigation.

        Parent Sandy Clay, who is co-president of Fairfield West's parent-teacher group, said Mr. Martin has not talked about the missing money with parents.

        “I know Heather. I know the rumors. I think it's an unfortunate situation on both sides. I don't think it's fair to comment.”

        Just three weeks before Mr. Martin filed his report with police, he wrote a letter of recommendation for Ms. Stickler, who was nominated for a 2000 Ashland Teacher Achievement Award. In his recommendation, he described her as a “superior second-grade teacher” and called her “an established leader.”

        Ms. Stickler was hired as a substitute teacher in the district in August 1994 and was hired as a first-grade teacher a year later. She has taught first or second grade since.

        During her tenure at West, Ms. Stickler has been very active, including serving as a Student Council and cheerleading adviser, a summer school teacher, unit leader, English-as-second-language tutor and summer latchkey leader.

        All evaluations in her personnel file were positive except for one. On March 15 she was issued a verbal warning for using profanity.


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