Meeker School Board hires two teachers: Dorsett out once again

MEEKER I On the recommendation of Superintendent Mark Meyer, the Meeker Board of Education hired two new high school math and science teachers on April 21 to replace Don Cameron and Dr. Robert Dorsett.

Cameron has been the replacement this year for former math/science teacher Beverly Devore-Wedding. Cameron did not seek continuation into next year. Devore-Wedding, meanwhile, is pursuing her multi-year, Ph.D. in science education at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The new teachers are Michele Selle, the wife of the new superintendent from Westcliffe, and 2006 Meeker High School graduate Larisa “Reese” Merrell.
Meyer is extremely enthusiastic about these new hires. Selle earned her B.A. from the University of Northern Colorado, majoring in physical science and minoring in chemistry, with an emphasis in secondary education. She taught junior high and high school general science, math, physics, chemistry and physical science for four years in the Big Sandy School District in Simla, Colo. For the last three years at Custer County High School in Westcliffe, she has been teaching physical science, math, statistics, personal finance, and advanced placement physics.
Merrell majored in math with a minor in physics at Mesa State College (now Colorado Mesa University). She taught math and engineering at Northglenn High School last year. She previously was a LEGO instructor at Play-Well TEKnologies. For three years, she was a program coordinator for science lessons with an engineering bent at the John McConnell Math and Science Center of Western Colorado in Grand Junction. She holds a certificate in secondary education from the University of Colorado—Denver.
In a short discussion about the new hires, Meyer told the board that Colorado Northwestern Community College, under pressure from state and national accreditation authorities, is cracking down on requirements for concurrent enrollment (CE) teachers. CE teachers must have master’s degrees in their subject area. Neither of the new teachers have their master’s.
Meyer said CNCC would give the high school one semester of transition (until January 2016) to get their teachers qualified.
Donna Theimer, dean of instruction at CNCC-Craig and concurrent enrollment coordinator for the college, has looked at Meeker High School’s new hires with regard to the CE program. She said an exception can possibly be made for Merrell to teach a limited level of CE courses. The exception, she said, can be made due to her strong background in math, but only until Jan. 1, by which time she must have her master’s degree.
Theimer said all CE teachers must meet the same criteria as college faculty by January. She added that Meeker is very lucky to have Merrell who, she said, has the ideal blending of studies in education, math and physics.
Theimer, however, is concerned about Meeker losing CE capability in chemistry, anatomy and physiology. She said CNCC will continue to work with the district to find a solution to this “science gap.”
The college, she said, is working with the state to locate resources that will help high schools provide opportunities and incentives to hire master level teachers or to help current teachers return to graduate school to get the courses they need to qualify for CE. Meeker has been out-performing other community high schools in the classes they are able to offer and the high level of credentials Meeker teachers possess, Theimer reported.
Dorsett currently teaches five CE classes. They are statistics (alternated with calculus), physics, college algebra, college mathematics preparation, and anatomy/physiology. If the new teachers don’t qualify, all of these CE classes are in jeopardy for the next school year with Dorsett gone. Additionally, without Dorsett, Meeker High School has no qualified biology teacher and biology is required for graduation.
Meyer sent a letter to Dorsett in March stating that these new teacher positions would be filled and that, as a result, the school district would no longer need him or CNCC for their math/science curriculum. The board was asked, at its meeting on April 21 if they agree with Meyer’s letter to Dorsett. Board President Bill deVergie, quickly replied, “No comment, it’s a personnel issue.” No other board members commented.
Last spring, Dorsett refused to sign the contract he was offered by the school district. He argued that it was because of the toxic, “hostile workplace” created by MHS Principal Dr. Kim Ibach and Meyer.
On Aug. 29, it was announced that an agreement between Dorsett, the district administration and CNCC would allow Dorsett to teach Meeker High School students as a CE instructor for the college. His classroom, however, would have to be at Barone Middle School, forcing his students to travel between the two buildings. Dorsett would be supervised by Iris Franklin, coordinator for the CNCC Meeker Center. This has been the situation for the duration of this school year despite repeated requests by Dorsett to be allowed to return to his high school classroom, which was equipped for teaching laboratory science.
Dorsett said he took an approximate $63,000 pay cut, plus the loss of benefits, to accept this arrangement.
Dorsett told the Herald Times that Meyer’s letter, which stated that Dorsett was “voluntarily terminated” by the district, is wrong in terms of how the district has treated him and his employment.
“I would very much like to continue teaching and I have been unfairly removed from the high school faculty,” Dorsett said.