PAnews.com, Port Arthur, Texas

March 25, 2014

Board approves non-renewal of PAISD teacher's contract

Erinn Callahan
The Port Arthur News

PORT ARTHUR — The Port Arthur ISD board of trustees needed only three votes to approve the proposed non-renewal of embattled teacher Ruby Gunner’s contract at a meeting on Tuesday.

Board president Lloyd Marie Johnson and trustees Dianne Brown and Greg Flores voted not to renew Gunner’s contract, with secretary Kenneth Lofton not present. Vice president Thomas Kinlaw and trustees Robert Reid and Tracy Thomas abstained from voting — the same trustees who voted not to terminate Gunner at a Jan. 23 meeting.

Gunner, a fourth-grade teacher at Robert E. Lee Elementary, was found not guilty of injury to a child by a Jefferson County jury on March 12. She was indicted in May 2013 after an 11-year-old student accused her of choking him.

Gunner said after the verdict that she intended to continue teaching. She criticized the district’s investigation of the incident, saying that PAISD attorney Melody Chappell and former superintendent Johnny Brown conspired to have her fired.

Superintendent Mark Porterie said in a statement that while the board respects the jury’s findings, it does not condone Gunner’s decision to confront the student in another teacher’s classroom. He said that it was her violation of the district’s corporal punishment policy that led to her proposed non-renewal.

“There were many other options for disciplining the student that she chose not to take,” he said. “We expect teachers to be role models for students, and confronting a student an hour later in a manner that escalated to physical violence is completely unacceptable.”

According to the Texas State Teachers Association website, the board must give Gunner written notice of the proposed non-renewal at least 45 days before the last day of instruction. Once receiving the notice, Gunner has 15 days to request a hearing before the school board concerning the non-renewal.

Email: ecallahan@panews.com

Twitter: @ErinnPA