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Raymond kindergarten teacher gets award for work, but no new contract

Union Leader Correspondent

June 23. 2018 1:58AM

RAYMOND — A kindergarten teacher and teachers’ union representative at Lamprey River Elementary School is fighting to keep her job with growing support from parents and other faculty members.

Michelle Blum isn’t expected to return next school year after learning in April that her contract wasn’t being renewed.

The reason for her non-renewal hasn’t been made public, but the head of the teachers’ union said she believes Blum’s work as a union representative at the elementary school for the past two years had something to do with it.

“During that time, Michelle has been a strong advocate for others and has always conducted herself with a firm but respectful demeanor in her interactions with administration. Nevertheless, she and many other outspoken female teachers have regularly found themselves under special scrutiny,” said Liz Downes, president of the Raymond Education Association.

Several parents spoke in support of Blum at a school board meeting on June 13. Ironically, Blum also earned a “You Make a Difference Award” at the meeting after being nominated by several of her peers.

Superintendent Tina McCoy recognized Blum at the meeting and shared comments from the nomination letters. She described Blum as a “positive, uplifting coworker” who made people “smile and feel good” no matter how challenging things were at times. McCoy also said Blum had a passion for education that continued beyond the classroom, was flexible, caring, considerate and supported all teachers in the elementary school.

“Michelle, for everything you’ve done, thank you so much,” McCoy told her at the meeting.

But the praise wasn’t enough to get her a new contract, and according to Downes, Blum hasn’t been told why she’s not returning.

“She has had an impeccable teaching record. Yet administration refuses to explain why, in the face of this and other evidence to the contrary, they non-renewed her,” she said.

McCoy declined to comment on Blum’s contract this week.

Downes said Blum’s contract wasn’t renewed by principal Bryan Belanger on April 6, and that on the same day he gave her a critical performance evaluation, which she added was the only negative one she’s received during her several years working for the district.

Downes said the evaluation contained a “number of errors, and was in direct conflict with many elements of Michelle’s performance portfolio as well as the fact that its issuance was in direct violation of the district’s protocol,” she said.

Since then, Downes said the union filed a grievance with Belanger, then McCoy, and finally with the school board. She said all were denied.

The case is now being appealed for arbitration and the union is awaiting notification, Downes said.

Belanger could not be reached for comment.

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