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Teachers plan second appeal

By Rose Laudicina
Staff Writer

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education chose to uphold the involuntary transfers of AP biology teacher Bert Wartski and honors English teacher Anne Thompson last week, despite a large outpouring of support for the teachers from the Chapel Hill High School community.

Both teachers say they will again appeal the decision, this time to Orange County Superior Court.

The decision to serve the two teachers with involuntary transfers was initially made by Superintendent Tom Forcella in early June to help enact a culture change at the high school.

According to Forcella, he chose to transfer Wartski and Thompson based on a year of observing and talking with past and present staff, administrators, parents and students. Forcella said he implemented the staff changes to help create a collaborative culture at Chapel Hill High (CHHS).

However, Thompson and Wartski, who have served a combined 45 years at CHHS, chose to appeal Forcella’s decision to the board of education.

Their chance to appeal came during a closed session on July 19, where the two veteran teachers were given five minutes each to plead their case to the board and prove why they should be allowed to stay at CHHS.

Thompson and Wartski maintain they have done nothing wrong and believe this transfer is a way to punish them for speaking out against the administration.

“A reason the school board uses involuntary transfers can be to deal with friction of faculty … but none of that is happening,” Wartski said. “You can’t just move people for capricious reasons.”

Just a week after their appeal, the board notified first Thompson and then Wartski that their appeals had been denied.

“I assumed that it was already a foregone conclusion,” said Trey Tanner, Wartski and Thompson’s lawyer, of the appeal.

“I fail to see how [the transfers] do the school system any good,” Tanner added. “Students and parents are really upset, and it doesn’t seem like a very good way to create a positive culture at the school.”

Before his first appeal, Wartski said that, much like his lawyer, he felt school board members had made up their minds before he had a chance to speak. Because of this, he said he was prepared to take the appeal to the next level.

As Wartski, Thompson and Tanner prepare for their second appeals, Forcella said the district already has applicants and is taking the necessary steps to fill the two vacant spots now at CHHS.

“We are going ahead with our normal hiring process, as the school board upheld the decision,” Forcella said. “We are moving forward.”

In accordance with the transfers, Thompson will go to Carrboro High School, while Wartski will move to East Chapel Hill High School to teach AP environmental science, a subject he has never taught before.

Wartski and Thompson have 30 days from receiving the board of education’s decision to file an appeal. Tanner said he expects to file with the superior court sometime in the next week.

“The onus is on us to show they either know what they were doing or it was the wrong decision,” Tanner said.

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