Former Muscogee County educator challenges reasons for contract - WTVM.com-Columbus, GA News Weather & Sports

Update: The Tribunal sticks with the school district's decision to let former teacher go

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COLUMBUS, GA (WTVM) -

Muscogee County educators have been called to a reduction in force tribunal hearing as a former middle school teacher challenges being let go. 

Laquita Buckner, a former English/Language Arts teacher at Rothchild Middle School, is appealing the fact that she was not renewed as an educator this year. Buckner taught for Rothschild Middle School for 18 years.

The preliminary hearing is being held before the tribunal that will determine whether her termination was warranted.

On Friday's preliminary hearing, the Tribunal affirmed with the school district's decision to let Buckner go. The session started at 9:30 a.m. on August 29, 2014. After hearing multiple testimonies from Buckner, Buckner's witnessess as well as the school district's witnesses, the tribunal decided to let Buckner go instead of renewing her contract for 2014.

Buckner told News Leader 9 she expected this turnout, but she will fight to appeal.

Superintendent David Lewis, Assistant Superintendent of Education Rebecca Braaten, and Chief Human Resources Officer Kathy Tessin are among those called to testify in the preliminary hearing. 

According to testimony, Buckner was put on a professional growth plan in 2002, due to her lack of professionalism and performance. Tessin says witnesses saw Buckner belittling children. She also says Buckner was uncivil to children and coworkers, insubordinate and the way she communicated with her class was incompetent. There were numerous complaints by students, teachers, children, and parents about her professionalism, also according to Tessin.

The District's Attorney says that due to budget restraints, and the reduction in force plan, teacher scores were reviewed. Buckner came in second to last in her field, and that's why she was let go.

Veronica Collins, the chief academic officer for Muscogee County School District recalled the time she visited Buckner's classroom for observation. Collins said Buckner had an inappropriate and aggressive tone and the atmosphere of the classroom was uncomfortable.

"At one point, Buckner asked a male student why he didn't have his assignment with him. He was suppossed to get the paper signed by an adult," Collins said. "He said nobody was home, then Buckner said, ' no body is home? did they move? did they leave?' then she laguhed at the student. At this point, all the students were looking at him, and the boy was embarrassed. I wouldn't want my child to go through something like that."

Collins also said when Buckner left the classroom for about five minutes, Collins was talking and teaching the students about a book they were reading. When Buckner came back, Collins said Buckner threw her room keys into a microwave and sat in her desk chair.

"I told her to get up and teach," Collins said. "I told her this is your classroom."

When it was Buckner's turn to testify, she denied most of the claims made by the school district's witnesses. She explained herself saying she didn't call students stupid; she said some students were acting stupid. She denied yelling at co-workers, students and parents as well as other statements as well.

One of Buckner's students from 2009 to 2010 spoke as one of Buckner's witnesses. Damien Brown had Buckner as his 8th grade teacher, and he is now enrolled in Columbus State University.

"To me, Ms. Buckner was a fun teacher," Brown said. "People often saw her as a tough person. I'm glad she was tough because now I see so many young students doing the wrong things. Teachers need to be tough sometimes. Ms. Buckner helped me. I know lot of teachers are not as tough as she is, but she helped me so much."

Shortly after 6:30 p.m. the Tribunal went into a separate room for deliberation.

Around 7:00 p.m. the Tribunal's suggestion was to stick with the school district's decision to let Buckner go. The Tribunal made their decision based on all the testimonies they heard on Friday.

Now that the tribunal's suggestion has been reached, the suggestion will go to the board for the next level of hearing.

WTVM News Leader 9 will continue to follow the process and provide more information as it becomes available.

Copyright 2014 WTVM. All rights reserved. 

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