A divided Field Board of Education accepted the resignation of Superintendent Beth Coleman Monday, but not before more than a dozen residents addressed the board to tell them that they should be turning in their resignations instead.
The packed room had angry words for board members Terry Kettering, Allyson Westover and Donna Karg, leaving mid-meeting once the vote was taken. They applauded the speakers, who included trustees from both townships in the district, Brimfield's police chief, former board of education members and staff members of the district.
"I'm not sure this board could organize a trip to the bathroom," quipped Brimfield Chief David Oliver, the first of 13 speakers who encouraged the board not to accept Coleman's resignation.
Oliver said he contacted an area superintendent who was willing to mentor Coleman. He asked Coleman if she wanted to resign, and the superintendent shook her head no.
"If she doesn't want to resign, I'm imploring this board not to accept her resignation," he said. "Beth is homegrown. She's a Field kid. She doesn't have one foot out the door ... Do the right thing. This is a person you're dealing with."
Westover would not publicly state her reasons except to tell Oliver his offer to arrange mentoring was "too little, too late."
Other speakers included Brimfield Trustee Mike Kostensky, Suffield Trustee Tom Calcei, former board member David Gynn and numerous parents, residents and community members.
"We love working for Mrs. Coleman," said teacher Tina Kruse. "Can anybody tell me why?"
Resident Terri Lynn Reed said if Coleman resigns, the board can forget about passing its levy in May.
"Your levy won't pass, and I'll do whatever I can to make sure it doesn't pass," she said.
Westover said the decision was difficult for her because she grew up with Coleman and their families knew one another. Westover also claimed that she pushed for Coleman's hiring because "I wanted the local girl."
"If you don't think it would be easier to look the other way, you need to think again," she said. "It's a situation of separating personal from professional."
Board members Laura May and Larry Stewart cast the dissenting votes. Both gave statements in Coleman's favor, with May giving a PowerPoint presentation at the start of the meeting titled, "Time to Tell The Truth." In the presentation, she details emails from board members, phone logs, meeting minutes and a bill from Attorney John Britton who allegedly encouraged Coleman to take another job early in the school year.
Stewart said he used to hear respect for Field from other districts but now, other districts are instead hoping Field students will transfer through open enrollment.
"All I want to do is keep Mrs. Coleman and get on with the business of the board of education," he said.
Coleman, who made a quiet exit after the meeting, retains her status as a tenured teacher in the district, according to a statement previously released by the board.
Residents stood in the hallway to decide their next steps after the meeting.
Karg, Kettering and Westover's terms expire at the end of the calendar year. The deadline to turn in petitions to seek the three empty board seats is in August.
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