, Port Arthur, Texas

Port Arthur

May 21, 2014

Gunner's contract not renewed

PORT ARTHUR — The Port Arthur Independent School District board of trustees unanimously voted to uphold the nonrenewal of veteran teacher Ruby Gunner’s contract on Wednesday after reviewing the findings of hearing officer Larry J. Simmons.

Gunner appealed her termination after the board voted not to renew her contract shortly after she was acquitted of injury to a child by a Jefferson County grand jury in March. Simmons, the Beaumont attorney who presided over Gunner’s nonrenewal hearing on May 2, recommended that the board adhere to its original decision of nonrenewal.

PAISD attorney Melody Chappell said that the Robert E. Lee Elementary violated the district’s code of ethics when Gunner entered another teacher’s classroom to confront a student after she heard him boasting about an altercation the two had earlier in the day. The confrontation turned physical, but Gunner maintained that any injuries she inflicted on the fourth-grader were in self defense.

“I have defended teachers who were defending themselves,” Chappell said. “This was not such a case. There is a reasonable basis not to renew this teacher.”

Attorney Judith Sadler, who represented Gunner, argued that none of the three witnesses who testified during the hearing were able to agree on a specific policy that Gunner violated.

“They could not point to a specific policy,” Sadler said. “Your three witnesses can’t decide on a policy, yet her career is supposed to be ended because she acted imprudently in hindsight?”

However, board president Lloyd Marie Johnson seemed primarily concerned with Gunner’s decision to confront the student outside of her own classroom.

“Who’s the adult, and who’s the child?” Johnson said. “Kids react. Adults should reason.”

Gunner said she was unsurprised by the board’s decision. She referred to Chappell’s “obsession to incriminate her.”

“It was to be expected — I know the corruption in the district,” Gunner said. “It is what it is, but they can’t determine the next move.”

When asked if she intended to sue PAISD for wrongful termination, Gunner replied, “And everybody else involved.”


Twitter: @ErinnPA

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