BELOIT- The West Branch High School English teacher the school board non-renewed last week has been placed on paid administrative leave, according to school records.
Tracie McFerren was placed on paid administrative leave and reassigned to her home effective April 29. She is expected to coordinate her lessons with a substitute through Principal Brian Coffee for the remainder of the year and provide year-end grades for all students assigned to her classes.
According to a letter dated April 25, McFerren was required to attend a pre-disciplinary hearing to respond to allegations that she "violated standards of ethical behavior or engaged in conduct unbecoming a teacher by approving and/or seeking signatures from [her] current students on a petition opposing the nonrenewal of [her] contract." However, Superintendent Dr. Scott Weingart said she was placed on leave because her contract had been non-renewed.
"It puts the district in an awkward position and it puts her in an awkward position," he said. "We felt it was better for both parties that we affect this change."
McFerren was qualified for a continuing contract two years ago, but was instead granted a two-year extended limited contract despite averaging 14.7 absences, more than three times the district average for licensed employees, in the 2.75 years that she had been with the district. Of her 40.5 absences, 24 were for an illness in the family, a situation she blamed on "unusual family circumstances." During the two-year contract she has missed 15 days.
In addition to attendance concerns, McFerren's teacher evaluations revealed deficiencies that required corrective action, according to a letter to McFerren from Coffee dated Oct. 17, 2012. An observation and evaluation during December and January did not reveal any deficiencies.
Kevin Howell can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org