Mike Woodlee, Chicago Park teacher, put on admin leave, not rehired for next school year | TheUnion.com

Mike Woodlee, Chicago Park teacher, put on admin leave, not rehired for next school year

Sam Corey
Staff Writer

The Chicago Park School Board on Thursday voted unanimously against the rehire of teacher Mike Woodlee, opting instead to place him on administrative leave, effective immediately.

The vote came after the board heard an outpouring of support from dozens of students, parents and some teachers, urging it to rehire Woodlee for the 2020-21 school year.

The board’s agenda stated that it would discuss the “discipline, dismissal (or) release” of a public employee. It held a closed-door meeting before voting.

Board members declined to give a reason for their vote, saying they couldn’t discuss personnel issues.

Thirty of Woodlee’s students signed a petition encouraging the board not to dismiss the teacher, and a large number held signs and yelled chants of support of the educator on Thursday.

“Woodlee’s a good guy and he’s inspired the kids a lot,” said seventh grader Kristen Day.

“Before Woodlee came here, school was not that great,” said seventh grader Grant Cinkel.

“He treats the school like it’s family,” said sixth grader Aria Merritt. “He’s like a dad to us.”

Although the board said it was not able to comment on “personnel matters,” Chicago Park School Board President Jeff Pare said he wanted what’s best for the students and parents.

“No matter what we do,” he said, “(our decision) is always in the best interest of the school.”

Students and parents spoke for about an hour in support of Woodlee, a number of them noting that they weren’t sure exactly why he as a teacher was being called into question.

Woodlee didn’t attend Thursday’s meeting.

After a break in the meeting, with much fewer parents and students in the room, a handful of teachers criticized Woodlee during public comment.

Chicago Park students and their parents discovered on Monday that Woodlee would possibly not be returning to Chicago Park the following school year, according to parent Erin Dean. Since then, students have been advocating to keep Woodlee, covering the school’s black top with messages of support for their teacher.

According to Dean, Woodlee, who is also a basketball, track and cross-country coach at the school, recently bought a home in the area and relocated his family.

“We know that the quality of life for our kids will not be the same if this person leaves,” she said.

To contact Staff Writer Sam Corey email, scorey@theunion.com or call 530-477-4219.

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