Students Seek Answers on High School Teacher's Suspension
Dozens come to school board meeting to show support for social studies teacher
Dozens of students and parents came to Monday’s school board meeting to seek answers why a popular high school teacher has been suspended.
Though students and parents referred to the teacher by his name, social studies teacher Jeffrey Kampf, board and administration officers say they were prohibited by the district’s personnel policy to confirm the identity or to disclose the reason for his suspension.
After the students and parents voiced their support for Kampf, the board voted 3-1 with five abstentions to approve the suspension, ordered last week by Superintendent of Schools Jorden Schiff.
At first, board president Thomas Kinst said the motion to back Dr. Schiff’s decision failed because a majority of board members did not vote to approve it. However, after administrators consulted with the school district’s attorney, Kinst said the motion passed because a majority of voting board members approved it.
Board member Lorraine Soisson, one of those abstaining, said she was “ill-prepared” to vote on the matter because she did not know the details of the suspension.
“I learned more about it tonight from the students,” she said.
Board member Judith Haas, who also abstained, said “board members knew less than the students” about the suspension.
Haas said she wanted the board to go into executive session to discuss the matter.
Guy Whitlock, the assistant superintendent for personnel, said the investigation into the matter will be finished this week. He said that the teacher has not yet been given a Rice Notice, the legal notification to a public employee allowing an exception to public meetings laws for personnel matters to be discussed in an open meeting if the employee consents to it.
Board member Chris Pulsifer said the suspension should be approved. “We have to believe the superintendent is doing his job,” he said.
Student after student came to the microphone during the public portion of the meeting to support Kampf, who teaches the “Genocide and Holocaust” elective, and each student’s remarks were greeted with applause.
Many students called Kampf “inspiring” and the best teacher they’ve had at the high school.They praised his teaching methods and said he motivated them to take study harder and become more aware of the world outside the classroom.
One student said Kampf was an “excellent teacher” who motivated him “to stay awake and learn."
Another said that Kampf treated his students like adults. Another said that Kampf produced “ah ha!” moments in his students.
Many students spoke about the annual trip to the National Holocaust Museum and other monuments in Washington, D.C. “We need more teachers like him,” one said. Kampf has also led summer trips for students to Europe.
One student, Isabella Santa Maria, was near tears as she described the impact Kampf had on her.
“He’s so great,” she said. “I love this man.”
Kampf has worked in the school district since 2003.