Teachers express support for Newell

Published on Thu, Mar 31, 2005 by Jack Kintner

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Teachers express support for Newell

By Jack Kintner

Last Monday night the Blaine school board met for the first time in the new educational services building, and they needed the room the more spacious quarters provide. Eight Blaine high school teachers supported by at least 20 of their colleagues showed up to speak in support of principal Dan Newell, currently on administrative leave after being charged with two gross misdemeanors in connection with a smuggling incident on the Point Roberts-Blaine school bus in February of 2003.

Bob Gray spoke first for the group, saying afterward that, “I wouldn’t be able to live with myself if I didn’t say something before the board. I know if it were me, if the roles were reversed, Dan would certainly be here for me.” John Freal, Neal Nix, Rob Ridnour, Jim Nelson, Rick Shockey, Vivian Bleecker and Kathy Wright all spoke in Newell’s behalf. “We all appreciate what administrators do for us,” Bleecker said, “and as a principal Dan can’t pick and choose his battles. He has to deal with homeless kids and kids too poor to eat. His heart doesn’t have boundaries.”

School board member Barry Hull responded by saying, “Three of us board members are graduates of Blaine high school, me in 1953. We put in 30 to 50 hours a month on this board and we don’t operate in a vacuum. We care, too. My phone number’s in the book if anyone wants to say more. I appreciate your coming in to speak to us.”
Mr. Newell’s first or “omnibus” court date has now been set for May 17 in Whatcom County District Court, to be followed by the trial on June 7.

In other business, the board accepted the resignation of Don Lotze as manager of the performing arts center and honored his request for a leave of absence for a year, renewable for a second year. Lotze has been offered a two-year teaching opportunity in China.
The board honored the District Teacher of the Year Award winners, primary school teacher Terre Shapiro and high school English teacher Jeff Worthy.

Continuing, the board presented academic improvement awards in all three Washington Assessment of Student Learning (WASL) categories to principal Randy Ellsbree for Blaine middle school in math, English and writing, and to acting principal Scott Ellis for Blaine high school’s improvements in math and reading.

Finally, the board received a letter of concern as part of a packet from Linda Hughes of Point Roberts, who said she represented 200 other Point Roberts residents. The letter, which she read to the board, outlined several things the Point Roberts primary school Parent Teacher Organization (PTO) is doing to increase enrollment at the school. Parents are concerned that lower enrollment may lead to teacher cutbacks at the school.