A northwestern Ohio school board has fired a longtime teacher after an investigation concluded she frequently slept in class and repeatedly arrived late.
The firing of 71-year-old Carol Smith by Perkins district officials this week, was recommended by a hearing officer and mediator in the matter who said her actions were "totally unprofessional" and threatened the safety of her middle and high school students.
School board vice-president Steve Schuster said Wednesday's vote to terminate the 34-year veteran teacher was unanimous and followed lengthy deliberations.
The Sandusky Register reports students had testified class was "unruly" when Smith was late and that they played computer games when she slept.
Smith told the board that she was late a handful of times and admitted falling asleep in the past, but not in a few years, and said it was due to her diabetes. She also testified during the hearing that she wanted to teach one more year before retiring because her pension would be $900 more per month once she reached 35 years. She said she has health problems, including a sensitivity to light that requires her to rest her eyes, according to the Register.
A student aide Danik Kumar said. "She did not fall asleep during class," She'll close her eyes occasionally when she doesn't have a class but that's because her (blood) sugar's low."
Multiple Facebook pages have been created by former students and friends of Carol Smith. PHS Alumni in Support of Carol Smith posted this message:
Carol Smith has been a business teacher for a lot of years at Perkins Schools. She's worked hard, motivated many of us, and made classes interesting when we might not have thought so otherwise. She deserves better than the administration of Perkins talking to the newspapers. We, who join here, support her and demand that the school system show some understanding and compassion.
JoAnn Cummings, a 1988 graduate of Perkins High School who signed a letter of support, said Smith was voted favorite teacher when she was a student.
School leaders should set an example in compassion, she said. "She's an older woman who, instead of helping her across the street, they threw her under the school bus," she said.
Allegations arose in the spring of 2010, which later proved to be grossly exaggerated, that she discussed pornographic magazines with a freshman history class, in a discussion on 'yellow journalism'. Smith had only mentioned "Playboy" magazine by name during the discussion.
Student-aide, Kumar said, she told the class it was an example of sensationalism peddled to young men but did not get explicit.
Smith had been suspended with pay since the March incident.
With a salary of $75,513, she is one of the highest-paid teachers in the district, said school board treasurer Lisa Crescimano.
Superintendent Jim Gunner said that's not a factor. "It has nothing to do with salary, benefits, years of experience," he said. "It's solely predicated on the allegations that we've acted upon for the last year-and-a-half."
The school board went into executive session during their meeting to privately discuss the matter with their attorney a final time before voting.
"Whenever you have a termination of a teacher, it's a very serious thing," board vice president Steve Schuster said. "Mrs. Smith's been with us for 34 years, and it's something that we have deliberated for a long time.
When the executive session ended, the results of the vote to fire the teacher was announced to a large crowd of former and current high school students and supporters, who have stood by Mrs. Smith throughout the career ending ordeal.
Reports say they were less then pleased by the board's final decision.
While board members and school officials have publicly commented on Smith's situation she has respectfully declined requests for interviews and does not plan to provide a statement on the firing.