Board rebuts ex-teacher’s claim

Unionville-Chadds Ford School Board President Vic Dupuis and Superintendent John Sanville aired some soiled personnel issues by publicly rebutting claims of an ex-teacher.

The pair, during the Jan. 25 school board meeting, said allegations made by former teacher Winden Statham Rowe that were posted on Facebook last week were inaccurate and misleading.

Rowe, a Spanish teacher at Unionville High School, said in a post shared by a third party, that on Dec. 18 she was called into a meeting with three administrators who, after asking several questions regarding her teaching, began asking questions about her personal life and whether or not she was sharing that information with students in class.

Specifically, Rowe said in the post that she was asked about her relationship with a gay male friend and whether or not she talked about those things with students during class time.

She acknowledged talking about her friend and other non-curricular subjects with pupils, saying in the post: “I wanted the students that I work with to know that I position myself as an ally in the school and in the community and that there still lies in our culture a racism against our gay, lesbian and transgendered community that is downright shameful. I have friends in same-sex relationships that have been spit on, kicked, bullied and have had things thrown at them.... because of who they love.”

Rowe added, “And it happens to questioning students in the school where I worked. I wanted them to know that they could come to me and that I would help refer them for services.”

She said she finally asked the reason for the questioning and was told, “‘Winden, we are concerned as to what kind of image you present to the kids.’"

Rowe said she took this as a sign that she should leave teaching for the district and begin working for herself.

The full post appeared on the Facebook group page Unionville High School Alumni, but has since been removed.

During the board meeting, Dupuis said Rowe’s statements and allegations suggested improper actions on behalf of the district, “actions that would severely damage the reputation of the organization and its leadership.”

He said Rowe was neither fired nor asked to resign and was accompanied by another teaching professional of her choosing during the interview process. He also said the interview had nothing to do with her or anyone’s sexual orientation or marital status.

“We’re disappointed in Ms. Rowe’s decision to make public statements that present falsehoods and misrepresentation of the actual witnessed and documented events,” Dupuis said.

Sanville read from his own prepared statement, one that was later emailed to district parents, saying in part:

“In December our UHS administration responded to student concerns that Ms. Winden Rowe, a high school Spanish teacher, had shared inappropriate topics with her class. Stories about how she spends her time out of school, including details about her dating and partying life, were the basis for meeting with her. We were concerned about the nature of these classroom discussions and the amount of time they were taking away from instruction.”

He said Rowe was asked to apologize to students and “change her instructional patterns.”

“Based on the positive performance evaluations she’d received in the past, we believed this was a lapse in sound judgment and could be easily corrected,” he wrote.

Sanville said the interview process stopped when Rowe said she wanted to resign. He reiterated Dupuis’ comments that the interview had nothing to do with anyone’s sexual orientation, “but rather the inappropriateness of discussing an adult recreational lifestyle with students during class time… We are a caring community that respects all individuals and fully embraces the varied beliefs and lifestyles of all.”

In a response posted on the Unionville alumni Facebook page on Tuesday, Jan. 26, Rowe wrote that it was time to move on. “I hope that I have initiated an internal dialogue that changes policy and procedure at UCFSD for the better – changes that will benefit both teachers and students, because it was largely uncomfortable for all of us involved,” the message said.

During routine business, the board, voted to approve a preliminary budget reflecting appropriations totaling more than $83.6 million. The board will hold hearings on the preliminary budget in early May, approve a preliminary final budget in mid May, and then vote on the final budget on June 20.

 

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About Rich Schwartzman

Rich Schwartzman has been reporting on events in the greater Chadds Ford area since September 2001 when he became the founding editor of The Chadds Ford Post. In April 2009 he became managing editor of ChaddsFordLive. He is also an award-winning photographer.

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