Just hours after calling off his plans Tuesday to fire a Boca Raton High School teacher, Palm Beach County Schools Superintendent Robert Avossa sent the school district’s roughly 12,000 teachers an email addressing the case head-on.
Without using her name, Avossa announced to the county’s teaching corps that teacher Samantha Major “will be returning to the classroom,” a reversal of fortunes for the young teacher who had been slated for termination after being accused of violating district policies while she informally mentored a mentally troubled student.
Avossa also used the email to underscore the need for schools to have better guidelines for teachers “going above and beyond your duties to meet the needs of our students and taking on responsibilities you were never intended to fill.”
The takeaway, he said, was “not to overstep your role as an educator,” a reference to Major’s efforts to counsel and mentor a troubled teenage student that left the popular teacher accused of violating district policies and nearly losing her job before a large-scale campaign by parents and teachers to reverse the decision.
“The recent incident has made it clear that we, as a district, must do a better job in providing clarity, training, and resources for our teachers who are compelled to help students in need.”
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Here is Avossa’s complete email to teachers:
I am writing to thank you for the role you play every day in the lives of our students. After dealing with an important issue this week, I feel compelled to write to you to address the growing complexities of our work.
I know that many of you are frequently going above and beyond your duties to meet the needs of our students and taking on responsibilities you were never intended to fill – from counseling students on navigating important life decisions to assisting with their social and emotional issues.
There is no denying schools are meeting greater needs for their students and families than ever before, from assisting parents seeking money to pay their electric bills, to providing students with backpacks filled with food so they have something to eat during the weekend.
It can be difficult to know when, where, and how to maintain healthy boundaries with students and families.
This illustrates a larger problem and provides an important reminder to not overstep your role as an educator. The recent incident has made it clear that we, as a District, must do a better job in providing clarity, training, and resources for our teachers who are compelled to help students in need.
I will be having additional conversations with Principals about this in the very near future.
If you have questions about how to serve your students and families, it is important that you seek guidance from your school’s Principal or School Counselors to avoid the potential for professional risk.
The District also has skilled professionals who can provide valuable support to school personnel on how to assist students and families with their social and emotional needs.
Finally, I would like you to know the issue with the Boca High School teacher has been resolved and she will be returning to the classroom.
I appreciate your continued dedication to student success. Thank you for what you do.
Robert M. Avossa, Ed.D.
The School District of Palm Beach County, FL