SOUTHBRIDGE – Several parents and students of Southbridge High School are expressing outrage after one teacher was escorted from the building and another told it was her last day. Both teachers gave their notice to quit on Wednesday, with the intention to remain on the job until February vacation.
Olga Lopez, a teacher for 16 years who joined Southbridge Public Schools six months ago, notified the school of her notice to quit around 7 AM on Wednesday morning. She was escorted from the building around two hours later, after breaking up a fight with another teacher, Bethany Linton.
Linton, a math teacher, scheduled a meeting with Human Resources late in the day to express her concerns about the operations of the school. She formally gave her notice at the end of the school day, when she was informed Wednesday was her last day.
Both teachers expressed concern with the leadership of Director of Secondary Education Jeffrey House. House was previously the principal at Southbridge Middle School. According to Linton, he meeting with human resources on Wednesday was not the first she called to express her concerns about House.
Both teachers expressed concern for the way House communicates with both teachers and students, describing his demeanor as both authoritarian and traumatizing. Lopez said communication within the school is not trauma informed and shows no cultural respect for anyone. Linton said that those who have filed complaints about House have been moved under his direct supervision, enabling him to control their evaluations.
Anti-Semitic insignia has recently been seen on school grounds, including depictions of swastikas. Teachers alleged that an investigation by the school did not begin until reported to the human resourced department. The Board of Elementary and Secondary Education recently took up this subject at its meeting.
According to Linton, Dr. Jeffrey Villar, the school’s receiver, is aware of the management style of House and faculty concerns about his treatment of both students and teachers.
Several parents have expressed vocal support for both teachers, and outrage at House, in multiple online forums overnight and into Thursday. Student and parents were protesting the administration on Thursday to support the teachers.
Southbridge Public Schools entered receivership in 2016. Massachusetts law allows the board of education to assume control of underperforming districts and appoint a “receiver” – an individual, group, or organization who will oversee a turnaround plan. The first receiver of the district, Jessica Huizenga, went on administrative leave in June 2017 and later resigned. Dr. Jeffrey Villar, the districts current receiver, took over in February 2018.
The state accountablility report for 2023 says the school has made moderate progress toward goals, but is in need of broad/comprehensive support and is chronically underperforming.
Editors Note: This is a developing story that will be updated as further information becomes available.
Photo Credit: Southbridge Public Schools/ Facebook