Teacher alleges unfair treatment by Mahar supt.
ORANGE — A Mahar Regional High School social studies teacher says he was suspended without cause and without pay for 21 days. Now Michael Magee is speaking out against the unfair treatment he said he received from outgoing Superintendent Michael Baldassarre, and plans to take his appeal to the School Committee.
Magee was accused of insubordination by Baldassarre, but says he did “absolutely nothing wrong.”
Baldassarre stated in an email he is not allowed to speak publicly about personnel issues.
According to Magee, problems started when he was asked to provide a doctor’s note after a four-day absence. Magee, who has taught at Mahar for 14 years, broke his foot in January and required surgery.
His doctor faxed a note to the school, but Baldassarre told him it did not arrive in time and suspended him for several days.
Magee complained that the action was unfair. He was being disciplined after providing a note, while he said other teachers taking comparable amounts of sick time were not asked for notes.
After Magee filed an appeal, union president Matt Parsons told him to return to work.
At the end of Magee’s first day back, Baldassarre called Magee into his office.
“He screamed and yelled and told me I was insubordinate and defiant,” Magee claims. He said he sent notice of the appeal to Principal Ismael Tabales, who confirmed he received it.
But according to Magee, Baldassarre argued it didn’t matter whether Tabales knew of the appeal or not. “He said ‘we don’t have to communicate.’”
Magee said he found Baldassarre’s comment to be “absurd … I chuckled. We all have to communicate … we work in education.”
Baldassarre then suspended Magee for 21 days “for laughing and following the direction of my union president,” claims Magee.
Magee said Baldassarre “was trying to get back at me because I opposed school regionalization,” of Orange and Mahar, kindergarten through Grade 12, a cause the superintendent argued passionately for several years ago.
“That’s the one thing he wanted to do here and he failed,” Magee said. “He wanted that feather in his cap … and he didn’t achieve it … he’s still angry about it … He’s an angry man.”
Magee opposed the initiative because “I believe Orange should get itself together first … then regionalize.” Magee said that Baldassarre claims not to recall his stance on regionalization, “but he called me out by name in town meeting, and spoke directly at me; that’s not what you should do in town meeting … but he doesn’t care about our town meeting or any other towns’.”
Magee said that several days into the 21-day suspension, Baldassarre tried to bargain down the terms of the punishment. When Magee said “no deal” to 3 days, the superintendent made a lower offer.
Magee refused to accept the lower terms as he would have had to admit insubordination. “I would have to lie to do that,” he said.
Magee’s grievance will be heard by the Mahar School Committee. School Committee Member Peter Cross said he has heard some rumors, but the committee has not discussed the case.
Magee will request the appeal be heard in an open session of the school board.
He said he wants the public to know the details of the case because “I did nothing wrong but he did something terribly wrong … he could get fired for this.”
Baldassarre has accepted a new position leading CASE Collaborative in Concord, and will leave his post as superintendent of Mahar Regional, Orange and Petersham elementary districts at the end of June.