It’s been three months since the firing of now former Mission Valley eighth grade science teacher Ryan Haraughty, yet the situation has yet to be resolved, as the reigns have been handed to an arbitrary court to decide the teacher’s future in the district.
Haraughty, a science teacher at Mission Valley for the past 11 years, was unexpectedly fired on Oct. 30 amidst allegations of a sexually hostile classroom. After what he had claimed was a heated feud with principal Susie Ostemeyer, two weeks went by without conversation between the two parties and Haraughty hoped that the situation had blown over.
Haraughty was fired on a Friday afternoon. Haraughty was monitoring a study hall in the cafeteria at the time when Kathleen Knopp came from the library to tell him to go meet with Ostemeyer.
The meeting would not go well for Haraughty. He was told he had been suspended and wouldn’t be returning to watch over his study hall. He was escorted out of the building by a National Education Association and was told he would get his belongings at a later time.
“They abandoned the kids”, Haraughty said. “I felt that I should have at least been able to finish the rest of the day; the rest of the year.”
Devastated, Haraughty walked out of the building. He was told he would be on paid suspension while his situation was pending with the board.
Just two days after Haraughty’s suspension, outrage struck parents and students alike as information slowly came from only one source to the school’s community, Haraughty’s colleague and English teacher, Samantha Feinberg.
“I just knew parents had lots of questions, so when I had Haraughty’s permission to speak to the details, I did so because there was a lot of confusion,” Feinberg said. “The district never asked the staff to refrain from discussing the situation amongst ourselves or with families.”
Since late October, agitated parents, students, and staff of Mission Valley have protested not only outside of the school but also at District Board meetings, which saw a size increase in attendance from the conflict.
Following a 30 minute recess at the board meeting that terminated the eighth grade science teacher, the board took a public vote.
After listening to 20 plus speakers that included parents, teachers and students, the board cast their vote to terminate Haraughty’s job. It was unanimous.
As of now, the district have put the situation into arbitration where a NEA attorney is now supporting Haraughty. Looking forward, there is most likely an arbitration date set for the tenth and eleventh of March, which will be overseen by a judge from Minneapolis.
“The board picked a judge from far away to stretch out the cost. The loser pays for the proceeding”, Haraughty said.
At this point, the process is slow moving, but Haraughty has still found ways to be happy. “I really do feel blessed by all the support I’ve received.”
Even more, Haraughty says he has to keep his hopes up and keep fighting. “I started something with those kids (at Mission Valley)”, he said. “I feel loyal to a community to which I’ve had a privilege of serving for the past 11 years and I want finish it. If I weren’t willing to continue to fight, I wouldn’t be a good example for those kids. I owe them that”.
Continuing his passion for teaching, Haraughty has started mentoring at Johnson County Library in Corinth Square where the students he was teaching at the beginning of the year can get help with their science homework.
The meeting, which is tentatively set for the March 10-11 at McEachen Administration building, will be followed up with confirmed dates soon.
Haraughty asks that anyone interested in science tutoring contact him at ryan.haraughty at gmail.com.
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