November 15, 2013

Weekday Religious Education program fires 36-year teacher

Program rep: Board wanted to head in new direction

by Mitchell Kirk Pharos-Tribune

---- — Organizers of Weekday Religious Education in Cass County are tight-lipped in their reasoning for firing an educator with more than three decades of service, a decision the teacher says was driven by “vicious” motives and personal grievances.

Robbin Mix was told by the Weekday Religious Education board she was “released” from her teaching duties at a board meeting Sept. 30, seven weeks into her 36th year with the program.

For decades, a Weekday Religious Education bus has pulled up to Cass County schools equipped with desks, school supplies and an educator to teach subjects like history, reading, writing, drawing and character building. Currently, the program holds 30-minute classes for third and fourth graders at Galveston, Caston, Pioneer and Thompson elementary schools.

Representatives of the program were reserved in their comments and declined to elaborate on the reasoning behind the decision.

“The board decided to make a change of teachers,” said Steve Farrer, president of the Weekday Religion Education board. “It’s a matter of we changed teachers and went from there. Just a matter of opinions — we wanted to do something different.”

Attempts to reach Joyce Leach, coordinator for the program, were unsuccessful. However, in a voice mail message, she said, “The board made a decision to make a change in our teachers this year.”

Leach added that was all she was willing to say on the matter.

Mix said she had been receiving emails from Leach that had grown increasingly heated since Leach took over the coordinator position in August. The emails included questions about the details of Mix’s classes, Mix said. Leach expressed frustration over not receiving responses, Mix continued, although Mix contends she replied in a timely fashion either through email or in person.

Mix went on to recall Farrer moving to “release” Mix from her teaching duties at the Sept. 30 board meeting, followed by a unanimous vote of approval by board members who were present.

“They were as vicious as they could be,” Mix said.

Farrer said there were 10 to 12 board members present the night of the decision. Each of the about 30 churches that contribute to the program has the opportunity to have representatives on the board, he said, though not all of them are always present for every meeting.

Mix said she suspects some of the members didn’t even have the right to vote at that meeting, as they hadn’t been present for at least three previous meetings — a breach of the board’s bylaws.

“I’m personally very hurt by this,” Mix said, adding she received no recognition for her years of service other than a brief thank-you in the program’s newsletter.

The newsletter goes on to state Julie Scales and Vera Ver Bryck, both teachers already with the program, will be taking over Mix’s classes.

Mitchell Kirk is a staff reporter at the Pharos-Tribune. He can be reached at 574-732-5130 or Follow him: @PharosMAK