School district addresses teacher rumor

Krystle Wagner • May 19, 2017 at 10:00 AM

Spring Lake Public Schools administrators say they are working to clear the air regarding a rumor circulating in the community.

Superintendent Dennis Furton said he is not aware of any conversations regarding a Spring Lake school board member wanting an SLPS teacher to be fired or disciplined. Furton said the rumor is false.

When the rumor gained momentum, Furton said he emailed a letter to school district families as a way to provide information, ease everyone’s minds and end the discussion. In the email, Furton wrote, “No effort has been made by any Spring Lake board member to ‘fire’ or otherwise censure a Spring Lake High School teacher.”

Furton also explained that administrators oversee personnel matters, and the Board of Education isn’t “involved in the day-to-day management of district staff.”

“The Spring Lake High School teacher in question is not in jeopardy of losing his job,” Furton wrote in the email.

Social media posts named the individuals involved as Spring Lake Board of Education Secretary Rob Davidson and social studies teacher Jim Warren.

Davidson, who was elected to the school board in 2015, said there is “zero truth” that he’s made attempts to have Warren fired.

When parents brought concerns about Warren’s class to Davidson, he relayed those concerns to Furton and Spring Lake High School Principal Mike Gilchrist. Davidson said he felt he had a duty to share those concerns with administrators.

Davidson declined to share the concerns the parents had expressed.

As people show their “heartfelt support,” Warren thanked the many parents, current and former students, friends, and “those who brought this situation to light.” Warren said he’s humbled by everyone who has reached out “to express gratitude for the work” that he’s passionate about.

Warren said some people have contacted district administrators with “aggressive demands based on false accusations that made” him fearful for his career.

Gilchrist and Furton have been supportive of him “in the face of these unjust attacks,” Warren said.

According to Warren, Furton told the board member “that he was confident” in the quality of Warren’s teaching. Warren said discipline has not been recommended against him.

“At no time did the administration start any process to have me fired,” Warren said.

Davidson and Warren plan to meet next week to discuss and find “common ground for our goals of continued excellence of education of students at Spring Lake schools,” the high school teacher said.

Davidson said they have similar goals, and he wants to see Spring Lake be a great district, which is why he ran to serve on its school board.

Warren said he works with a family-like staff, and they’re all proud of the Laker community. He said his goal is to continue teaching and building relationships with students as he has for the past 29 years.

In regards to messages being shared on social media, Davidson said nobody contacted him to learn his side. Davidson said he has nothing against Warren, and he knows people love the teacher.

Although Davidson said he considers himself a strong person, he said it’s frustrating people might think ill of him given the information circulating around the community. He said it’s unfortunate he’s been accused of things that are “patently false.”

Before sharing information, Davidson said he hopes people will wait until they have all the facts because misinformation can damage reputations.

If someone has a concern, Furton encouraged them to start by addressing it with the individual involved. If needed, they should move up the chain of command.

Through that system, Furton said people have received answers and reached a positive and productive solution.

Furton encourages community members to do their due diligence and most often the issue can be addressed.

“One lesson in all of this is that once we click ‘send’ on an email or ‘post’ to a social media site, we lose control of the spread of that information and it’s too late, then, to verify the facts,” Furton wrote in the email to families. “This is a great discussion topic for tonight’s dinner table.”

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