Emotions run high after WRB principal reassigned

Emotions were running high among community members at the Burton School District Board meeting Monday evening upon hearing the news that William R. Buckley Principal Matt Baxter will not return next school year as the school’s lead administrator. According to Irene Ortega, Communication and Community Engagement Officer for BSD, Baxter is still employed by the district.

“He will remain as elementary principal until the end of the school year until June 3,” said Ortega. “His contract continues until June 30.”

The district statement regarding last night’s board meeting said, “We appreciate parents, staff and the community voicing their concerns at last night’s board meeting. At this time we are unable to disclose information regarding personnel matters. We understand the concerns that this creates for parents and staff, however we would like to respect the employee’s privacy rights.”

Former Burton administrators, parents, grandparents, and community members met outside the district office in support of Baxter. Many of the people did not know what had happened, and were concerned and very upset. They wanted answers from school board members and administrators and said they felt let down by the district.

Parents, teachers, and community members spoke in support of Baxter and said how he inspired them, helped their children, and he knows everyone by name.

One woman said he helped her and her family when they had a traumatic loss in their family, and she broke down in tears when she described his compassion and kindness to her family. A few of the parents said they had heard about Baxter and transferred their children to William R. Buckley Elementary specifically because they had heard of his reputation from other people. Parents expressed their concern with comments like “He welcomes children by name,” or “This is a man I admire,” or “Our children are crying about Mr. Baxter not being there.”

One woman spoke passionately about the principal and the school and said, “Parents rely on him for his leadership. And parents and children are happy to go to school because of the principal. The parents and teachers are happy. This is devastating.”

Another woman spoke about the district and school being “open.” She said,“WRB staff and parents, we want your voice to be heard. Come be a part of the school. We want you to be involved. But no one was asked in the community, not one teacher or parent was asked for their voice to be heard (about Baxter). Every day, staff look forward to something better than themselves at WRB.

“I’m a parent of two children. Mr. Baxter was there when my daughter was in kindergarten, and he always treated her kindly. He was there in the morning, he was there at the end of the day. Please, for the sake of the children and the teachers, with Mr. Baxter as their leader they can perform their jobs.”

Another woman asked, “What did he do wrong? We as parents are asked about all of our private information. We are asked every day to disclose our lives, but you are not comfortable telling us why he is asked to step down.

“Our children think he’s not just their principal, he’s their friend,” she said, trying to hold back tears.

After each impassioned speech in support of the principal from teachers, community members and parents, people clapped in support.

A father with children at WRB said Baxter had welcomed him and his family to the school with open arms. He said, “When the crossing guard was out, Baxter was out there standing in the street as a crossing guard. The children trust him. We don’t have to worry about our children while he’s at the school. If you make him step down, it’s just not fair.”

Another woman addressed the room in Spanish about the principal and what was happening at the school. A board member asked for a translator. Some of her translated words were, “You are creating fear in our teachers. This is not okay. Mr. Baxter is the best principal we’ve ever had.”

In the audience were five former vice principals from Buckley.

A woman in the audience spoke about inconsistencies in the high schools being a problem, claiming students need to be proud of their schools.

“There is no love, and they need high school culture. It all starts with the district,” she said.

After the meeting outside the building, a woman speaking on condition of anonymity said everyone was shocked the school board voted on reassignments or other personnel measures regarding ten employees at one of the previous meetings. She read the board minutes and said the board’s actions are creating unrest in the district because “no one knows what is happening.”

Patricia Haas is a teacher at Monache High school, and says her son, who is seven, loves Mr. Baxter, and Baxter’s children go to school with him.

“It’s unfair to him and to our students,” she said. “Baxter’s priority is student education and we are pleased with his leadership and kindness.”

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