Parents: Don’t rehire guilty teacher
FACTORYVILLE — A suspended high school English teacher who pleaded guilty to charges related to a domestic dispute could return to his job.
And residents raised concerns during a Lackawanna Trail School Board meeting Monday night about the type of role model he might serve for his students.
Michael William Petherick, 38, of Shickshinny, pleaded guilty on July 11 to simple assault and criminal trespass after Tunkhannock Twp. police responded to a domestic disturbance at a 27-year-old woman’s Falls residence on May 19, 2013.
“We haven’t received a request [for him] to come back,” said Lackawanna Trail’s solicitor John Audi, “we’re reviewing all of our legal options and exploring all of our avenues. We may never have to cross this bridge.” Audi explained that it would not be a re-hire since the accused teacher was only suspended from his position at the school. The school board members continue to monitor the situation and all their options.
Robert and Christy Clarke’s daughter would be in Petherick’s class next year. Mrs. Clarke said she can’t let her daughter sit in a class with him.
“He’s not a role model,” she said.
Petherick has not asked for his job back, said solicitor John Audi. After his sentencing the board must wait to see if he requests his job back, he said.
If he does, Audi said, “he does not have an automatic yes.”
“Generally speaking, if cleared, the district can challenge him,” he said.
Resident Tracy Wescott also told the school board she does not feel comfortable with Petherick teaching students.
“The issue you raised is not lost on us,” Audi said, adding that the district is exploring all avenues of the legal process.
Board President Mark Lombardi said the board continues to discuss this issue at great length and is investigating what its options are.
“We can’t make a definitive decision at this point,” Audi said.
“I have a lot of experience with domestic violence and it’s not what you want in your school,” said concerned parent Debbie Botchler.
He suggested the parents write a letter to the courts and the state Department of Education that they have serious concerns about Petherick teaching kids.
It was recommended that Brian Kearney be appointed next Monday as Assistant High School principal at a salary of $65,000 in compliance with the Act 93 contract. During next weeks executive session there are plans to interview for a new special education and elementary school music teacher.
Graduation requirements were approved for a second reading, however community member Cathy Strauch commented, “I really feel that if kids are in good standing with the school, doing everything they’re supposed to be doing, trying their best, it breaks my heart that they can’t walk with their classmates.”
“Graduation is a privilege and not a right” argued school board president Mark Lombardi. He feels the requirements are fair and that students are given enough time to meet them.
The list of approved bus contractors and drivers for the 2014-2015 school year was released. The board recommended that the following be approved at next Monday’s meeting: James A. Nichols, James Vasky, James Schirg, Mary Smarkusky, Gerry Philo, Sandy Fulkersin, Carol Otto, Timothy Sanko, Bonnie Gregory, William Smarkusky, Dale Shupp, Sandra Snyder, Susan Davidson, Mark Jarocha, Miler Dooley, Brian Kane, Wayne Beers, Corinna Kinney, and Robert Padula (contractor only).
Brittney Lopes contributed to the story.