FLORENCE — School board members met until 3 a.m. Wednesday before agreeing to suspend a Florence Middle School teacher 75 days for allegations of neglect of duty and insubordination, officials said.
In all, board members met for more than 10 hours in a hearing before determining the fate of Beth Weir.
Superintendent Janet Womack recommended Weir be fired, but her motion died Tuesday night because it did not receive a second, which is required before a vote can be taken.
Instead, after a lengthy debate, a motion was made and approved to suspend Weir without pay until she is allowed to return to the classroom in January.
Weir’s benefits will remain intact during the suspension period, school officials said.
Weir is a seven-year employee of the school system and teaches math. She was placed on paid leave in mid-May and received a letter in July stating the superintendent’s intentions to fire her.
Weir disputed the allegations and filed for a hearing before the school board.
“My reputation as a teacher was and is my biggest concern,” Weir said Wednesday afternoon. “I’ve done nothing wrong. I just did my job every day in the same manner I’ve done it for 12 years. I’ve had a good record and good evaluations up until this.”
Weir previously taught in Madison and Sheffield school systems.
The original hearing was scheduled for Sept. 27 but ended abruptly after about three hours when the school board’s attorney had to leave to attend to a family emergency.
The hearing resumed about 4:30 p.m. Tuesday and ended at 3 a.m. Wednesday.
School officials said board member Maleah Chaney made the motion to approve Womack’s termination recommendation, but no one seconded the motion.
Board member Tom Wissert later made a motion to suspend Weir for the remainder of the semester without pay and return to her classroom teaching position Jan. 2, when the second semester of the school year begins.
The board voted 4-1 in favor of the motion. Chaney was the only no vote. Womack did not recommend the suspension.
Alabama Association of School Boards officials said the Students First Act of 2011 allows the board to vote on certain personnel issues without the superintendent making the recommendation.
The superintendent’s recommendation is required in most cases.
Board President Bill Jordan said he is comfortable with the board’s decision.
“We did what was right and what’s best for kids,” he said. “We, as a board, listened carefully to everything and asked questions. We all realized you don’t just speed through something of this magnitude. I’m pleased with our deliberative process and the fact that we looked at this situation from every angle. We felt the severity of suspension without pay for the remainder of the semester was sufficient.”
Jordan said there will be no restrictions on Weir when she returns to the classroom.
“I don’t want the public or our administrators to think (the board) has lost confidence in the administrators’ leadership, but as a board we’re challenged to look at the whole picture and do what’s best for kids,” he said. “I believe from the bottom of my heart that’s what we did. It took 14 hours (including the Sept. 27 meeting) to arrive at a decision, but we reached the best decision.”
Weir’s attorney, Tom Heflin, of Tuscumbia, declined to cite specific examples given that were the basis of the neglect of duty or insubordination charges, but he said they were based on her teaching methods. He said school administrators did not agree with those methods.
Weir said she appreciates the school board’s attentiveness to the case.
“I appreciate the board spending all those hours of their time and honestly looking and listening to the evidence,” she said. “That means a lot.”
Lisa Singleton-Rickman can be reached at 256-740-5735 or lisa.singleton-rickman@TimesDaily.com.