Teacher resigns, spurring criticism | PostIndependent.com

Teacher resigns, spurring criticism

A popular first-year band teacher in Glenwood Springs won’t return to teach next year, leaving some parents and the teacher searching for answers.Parents wrote letters and students staged a sit-in in support of Tim Watt, whose district-approved schedule left other teachers covering his band class this year.Watt won’t work in the Roaring Fork School District next year, but says things may have been different if the district followed its own evaluation policy. Officially, Watt resigned May 11, when the school board of education accepted his resignation. “The administration doesn’t think I’m doing a good job,” he said last week. “I won’t stay anywhere where the administration doesn’t think I’m doing a good job.”Since the first part of May rumors and confusion have swirled regarding Watt, a first-year teacher in the district.”We’ve gotten to know him quite a bit over the year,” said seventh-grade parent Jim Hawkins.Hawkins’ wife, Sharill, is a longtime musician who marched in the Iowa State University band in the 1970s. “We were really thrilled with the job he’s done. … The band has made huge progress,” he said. That’s why the Hawkinses were “flat shocked” when they learned Watt was leaving. The reason, Hawkins heard, was that the school wasn’t renewing his contract.”I know he’s made a big difference in my son,” Martha Fredendall said of her seventh-grader, Wyatt Israel. “He’s just made him more enthusiastic about everything. … I see tremendous growth, and I attribute it to band.”Watt not only had fans among parents, but also among students – Fredendall’s son wrote a letter in support of Watt, and other kids staged a sit-in.”When you get kids wanting to do a sit-in in the office and kids writing letters … you have got to go, ‘What happened?'” Hawkins said.What happened, it seems, isn’t clear to anyone – parents or Watt. “I like my position here very much,” Watt said. “And I think that the students and parents and, up until a few weeks ago, the principals were very happy.”Watt said he doesn’t know what happened in part because he wasn’t evaluated twice during his first year, as per district policy. Watt was observed once during the year, but not twice, he said. Even then Watt says he hasn’t been given his first evaluation, only notified that it was complete. The notification came two weeks after the district accepted his resignation, he said.Roaring Fork School District policy prohibits officials from discussing personnel matters, but superintendent Fred Wall and Glenwood Middle School assistant principal Brad Ray said the district followed procedure for reviewing teachers. Watt said he could have fixed problems if only he’d been reviewed properly. So far, the only complaint Watt said he’s heard is that he’s been late because of splitting his job between the middle school and high school. Watt started his day at 8 a.m. at the high school, where he taught until 10:05 a.m. Then he had 20 minutes to drive – often through traffic and construction, he said – to Glenwood Springs Middle School. Class at the middle school lasted from 10:25 a.m. until 2:10 p.m. Then, every other day, Watt would have to be back at the high school at 2:30 p.m. for a class that started at 2 p.m. That schedule meant the high school had to find a way to supervise band students while Watt commuted 20 minutes from the middle school. Glenwood Springs High School principal Mike Wells confirmed that students lost out on instruction because of Watt’s schedule but said scheduling problems have “never been in any way held against him,” and added that the schedule certainly wasn’t ideal. Watt listed Wells on his résumé as a reference. “They asked way more of one teacher than should have been,” Hawkins said.Watt is an experienced music teacher. He earned a bachelor’s in music education from Bowling Green State University in 1977. He then went on to lead two Michigan state drumline champions, was a Michigan state marching band finalist seven years, and performed at Walt Disney World, Chicago Bears games and the Chicago Christmas Parade. He also earned a master’s in music education in 1988. He was the assistant conductor for the West Michigan Concert Winds, and was the head conductor on the group’s 1999 tour through Germany, Austria and Switzerland in 1999, according to his résumé. But he is also well-traveled. According to his résumé , which is undated, Watt has held seven jobs since 1980. Of those seven, including the Glenwood Springs jobs, at least five were for three years or less. Watt explained the frequent changes by citing the chance for professional growth, more income, personal and family reasons, and schools that were too small. Ed Wilson, owner of Roaring Fork Music and a high school band supporter, does business with many of the school districts on the Western Slope and was surprised by how few students left the music program after Watt took over. Generally, a new band teacher means kids leave the band program, he said. Watt was a probationary teacher, as all district teachers are through their first three years, said board chairwoman Susan Hakanson. Though the board approved Watt’s resignation, “It’s up to the discretion of the principals of the buildings to build the staff,” she said. The mystery of Watt’s departure remains, but one thing is clear: “A bunch of us were very happy with what he was doing and are disappointed he’s going,” Hawkins said.

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