2012-04-12 / News

BHS teacher resigns amid ‘disrespect’

By Marc Filippino
Staff Writer

In an unexpected turn of events, Biddeford High School English teacher Gerald Lemieux resigned after 46 years of teaching, due to his discontent with the school’s teaching environment.

In his letter of resignation, dated April 3, Lemieux stated he was unprepared for the severity of the challenges he faced during the school’s Freshman Academy pilot program. The school committee voted to discontinue the program at its March 27 meeting.

Lemieux wrote that there was a “total lack of disrespect” from students and criticized Biddeford High School Principal Britton Wolfe for unwarranted reprimands and Wolfe’s request to meet with Lemieux once a week for the rest of the year.

“(These events) have played a decisive role in my decision and they have taken its toll on my health both physically and mentally,” Lemieux wrote in the letter.

Lemieux spent the last seven years teaching English and Latin at Biddeford High School and recently took a place in Freshman Academy’s pilot program. Lemieux was one of four teachers involved in the project.

In the pilot program, four teachers of the four major subjects (math, science, English and social sciences) focused on 74 of Biddeford High School’s 120 freshmen to meet the individual needs of those students. The basis of the program was to establish strong communication between teachers, students and parents.

During the March 27 meeting, several committee members initially wished for the program to continue into a secondyear. However, after further discussion, members voted against the continuation of the program in its entirety after reviewing what committee member Anthony Michaud called “unimpressive data” in terms of grades and attendance. Negative comments were also heard during the public hearing portion of the meeting.

The committee received several complaints from teachers from Biddeford High School about Freshman Academy, many that outlined a division between those in the program and non-freshman academy personnel and students.

In his letter, Lemieux described his most recent experience teaching students as “disrespectful” and unlike what he has seen during his time at Biddeford High School.

“In my 46 years of teaching I have never experienced a task of trying to teach a group of students who demonstrated such a lack of respect toward teachers, with the exception of this year I have enjoyed teaching at BHS,” Lemieux wrote.

However, Lemieux is not the only one decrying Biddeford High School’s academic prowess. During the last school committee meeting, several students noted the ineffectiveness of Freshman Academy and Biddeford High School administration.

In one of this week’s letters to the editor, Biddeford High School Senior Matthew Dubois said “our education system is failing.”

Dubois went onto to write that the activities in the halls of Biddeford High School are “shocking and disgusting.” He alleged that the current administration “keeps disruptive kids in school, just to make themselves look good.”

Dubois, who is also president of the Biddeford Student Council and student body, also addressed Lemieux’s abrupt resignation, attributing the teacher’s decision to a poor working environment.

“Just this week, a teacher at BHS just up and quit,” Dubois wrote in the letter. “Word is, he’s just had it with the system.”

Lemieux and Dubois could not be reached for comment before the Courier’s Tuesday night deadline.

“I am close with many teachers here at BHS and I have heard of many instances where teachers have suffered from verbal abuse from students and many cases have even cried,” Dubois continued. “This is not a good working environment. Teachers cannot do their jobs.”

Lemieux’s resignation was glossed over at Tuesday night’s committee meeting until member Bil Moriarty asked to read Lemieux’s letter of resignation aloud.

Member James Emerson and Superintendent Sarah-Jane Poli said the letter could not be read at the meeting since it concerned personnel information. The letter became public information after the meeting concluded.

Staff Writer Marc Filippino can be reached at 282-4337 ext. 213.

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