August 27, 2014

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Vantage Board of Education hears from concerned teachers



VAN WERT – While the Vantage Career Center Board of Education was ready for a short Thursday meeting before a Christmas dinner, a group of teachers stood during the meeting to air a list of concerns to board members.

Leading the group was welding teacher Brent Wright who brought some of his frustration and anger to light as board members listened. Wright is still suffering the effects of an incident on Nov. 19 when he was taken to Van Wert County Hospital after eating a hamburger which contained lighter fluid.

Wright is convinced that he was purposely given a tainted sandwich by a student who had been cooking the food during a class Thanksgiving cookout. The incident burned Wright’s vocal chords, and he said that the doctors are unsure if his voice will ever fully recover.

“My voice should get a little better, but most likely won’t be normal due to the burning I encountered,” Wright stated. “After the doctor told me that, that shot my balloon down because now if I can’t talk to my fullest potential, how am I supposed to teach to my fullest potential?”

Three students were also taken to the emergency room that day and were treated and released. The entire class was checked over by medical staff as well.

The accused student was not suspended immediately, but was given a 10-day suspension a few days later.

Van Wert Police have been investigating the incident, but have not as yet completed a final report. At issue is whether or not the poisoning was intentional.

“Certainly the board and the administration are listening to the staff’s concerns. That was evident tonight,” assured Vantage superintendent Staci Kaufman.

“Details of the incident are still being investigated, and I’ve met with Detective Freeman as recently as this Thursday morning for an update on that. Staff is clearly concerned about the situation as are the administration and the board. We’ll work toward the very best outcome that we can.”

Board President Lonnie Nedderman added, “I think it’s very good to hear all the concerns the teachers have, and we will take that into consideration.”

Wright and the other teachers shared their feelings of a lack of communication in some of these types of incidents.

Kaufman noted, “We have a quarterly Administrative Advisory Committee meeting on Dec. 13, and our board has shown interest in having a representative there to listen to staff’s concerns and make sure they see that the board is also willing to listen and be a part of our school. Our board has been a very supportive board, and they do as much as they can to be present at our activities.”

“We’d like to have a little bit more communication, and that goes both ways,” agreed Nedderman. “And we’re looking into what we can do as a board to be more visible to them.”

Wright wants the student in question expelled, but that decision will likely depend on what the Van Wert Police investigation uncovers.

Meanwhile, Kaufman pointed out that there have been no changes in the procedures for staff or students if they do not feel safe.

“Naturally, anytime you have an incident, it’s natural for staff and students to have an amplified perception of what’s going on,” she related. “The building is a safe place. Our procedures are safe, and we expect staff and students to utilize the procedures that we have and communicate with us. We have not had concerns coming from parents to the administrative offices regarding safety of their children in school. Vantage continues to operate as it always has. It is a safe place to come to school.”