Corporation suspends teacher

Friday, June 1, 2007
Residents along U.S. 40 have started announcing they will take part in the Historic National Road Yard Sale, which officially began Wednesday. The annual event takes place along U.S. 40 from Baltimore to St. Louis, beginning May 30 and ending Sunday.

A long-time North Putnam teacher has been suspended from the classroom and barred from other activities at the school after corporation officials say she violated the policy regarding teacher e-mails.

Jennifer Porter, who has been employed at Bainbridge Elementary for 13 years and recently as a second grade teacher, had nothing to say to the media after members of the North Putnam School Board handed down their decision during a special meeting Thursday evening.

But in a "findings of fact" document issued by the school board at the end of the meeting, Porter admitted to sending electronic mail messages from her corporation-issued computer "not consistent with the educational mission, goals and objectives of the North Putnam Community School Corporation."

School officials allege in the document that Porter violated policy 8410 of the teacher handbook by sending e-mails containing adult humor during scheduled work hours and while students were under her direct supervision.

Porter is also accused of making or receiving personal telephone calls during work hours while students were present, an accusation which she denies in the findings of fact document.

The official disciplinary charges levied against Porter include immorality, insubordination and neglect of duty. She has been on paid administrative leave for several weeks, awaiting the school board's decision.

At the school board's April meeting, parents with students in Porter's class pleaded with officials to reinstate Porter, even signing a petition which was distributed throughout the community.

Porter had no prior disciplinary problems, according to the finding of facts document, and in fact received glittering reviews by her supervisor, Bainbridge Principal Dean Cook. Parents of children in Porter's class praised the teacher for her instructional methods and ability to promote student learning.

Superintendent Murray Pride recommended that Porter's contract with the corporation be canceled, but the school board voted to suspend her from teaching, without pay or benefits, for the first semester of the 2007-08 school year.

Also Porter is denied access to a computer in her classroom for a period of two semesters and cannot coach or instruct extracurricular activities for five years.

Porter was the assistant coach of the North Putnam High School varsity cheerleading squad which received honors by the Indiana House of Representatives for winning the Class 2 A state championships last year.

On Thursday night, members of the squad sobbed uncontrollably and embraced Porter who also cried outside the high school library where the school board meeting was conducted. Family and friends of Porter also attended the meeting to show their support.

Porter would not answer questions posed by the BannerGraphic after the meeting, but her attorney, John S. Capper IV said his client accepted the board's decision.

"I think the board was fair," Capps said, declining to comment extensively on the matter.

School board members Charlie Boller, Mark Fordice, Carl Blau, Jon Buser, Andy Beck and Dale McGaughey all voted to suspend Porter from teaching. Their brief meeting was delayed from starting for an hour while they deliberated in a private meeting, which the law allows under these circumstances. They said nothing about the matter in the public meeting, except to vote.

Debbie Sillery was the lone board member to vote against Porter's suspension. After the meeting, she declined to comment on her decision.

School board attorney Gene Hostetter, who along with corporation officials has been mum about Porter's case, said the teacher will have an opportunity to appeal the board's decision.

Porter's attorney said he did not know what his client's plans were regarding an appeal.

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