Science teacher loses her job for going to the Grand Canyon
Alisa Felton fought for her job as a science teacher until last Friday.
After a hearing the Park City School Board decided to uphold her firing.
Felton’s job was advertised in late August after she left to go to the Grand Canyon. She said she applied for leave twice, but was denied because the trip coincided with the first eight days of school. She decided to go anyway.
The rafting trip was on a private permit, something that can take more than ten years to obtain. The opportunity was especially appealing to Felton, who has her Master’s degree in geology. She was accompanied by eight other geologists on the trip, and she said geology was a focus while there.
Felton, a teacher in the district for three years, said she arranged for a substitute and left lesson plans for the eight school days she missed. Felton returned to find her job had been posted and received a termination notice in the mail the day after Labor Day.
The reasons the board gave for the termination, she said, were neglect of duty and insubordination.
"I’m really, really sad," Felton said.
Since her return she met with interim Superintendent Tom VanGorder to discuss the possibility of getting her job back and most recently exercised her option to have a hearing with the School Board. They decided to uphold her termination.
"I did make a mistake, I’ll admit that," she said.
Felton added part of her frustration is how little leniency they demonstrated for her, given that in three years she has only taken two sick days.
She said the School Board acknowledged this and added they had a difficult decision to make.
"They’re trying to uphold their policies and I can understand that," Felton said.
Upon her return, Felton said she was ready to go back to school and continue classes with the lesson plans she outlined early in August. Instead, since her termination, Felton reported, the students have had as many as four substitutes while the school works to find a replacement.
Science teachers with field experience are not always easy to find, she said.
Felton said she may give up on teaching, and will look for jobs in the geology industry in Salt Lake City.
"I loved (teaching) up until now," she said.
Several teachers in the district have rallied around Felton. She said many of them wrote to the School Board on her behalf.
Her termination could hurt students. Felton said she has gone through the Teacher Induction Training Program and learned how to differentiate instruction and impact students still learning English.
She was at the high school prior to the realignment and said she understands how to prepare ninth-grade students for a more rigorous curriculum after leaving the middle school. Felton is also familiar with the International Baccalaureate program and understands how to bring those concepts into the classroom. A replacement could lack a lot of the same training and cost the students, she said.
"Students liked my classes, I had a really good time with them," she said.
School Board President David Chaplin declined to comment.
"Personnel issues are so desperately delicate," he said. "I wish I could be more forthcoming, because it’s important for people to know how we deal with these interests."
Human Resources Director Tim McConnell also declined to comment.
Felton is continuing to look for another job.
"I just want the students and other teachers to know I’m sad about what happened and I wish I was there with them," she said.
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