News

Former teacher paid $40,000

For more than 10 years Michael Wright was a teacher at Oak Harbor’s Midway High School. Now it’s as if he never existed. Except the district is $40,000 poorer with his departure.

In late September the school board approved a check for that amount to be issued to Wright as part of a settlement, but district officials say they are legally prohibited from revealing the details surrounding the former teacher’s departure.

Wright left no forwarding address or phone number, and numerous calls to his attorney’s office in Everett have not been returned.

Schools Superintendent Rick Schulte said the terms of a settlement reached with Wright bar them from discussing details. In justifying the $40,000 expenditure he said, “We had to balance what we expected in terms of significant litigation costs, which would have been equal to or higher than that amount.”

He said the district’s attorneys advised them it was a reasonable offer. Wright’s annual cost to the district was approximately $60,000.

The settlement agreement states that the district was to withdraw a “Notice of Probable Cause” for the nonrenewal of Wright’s contract, and that Wright in turn would withdraw a “Notice of Appeal” filed in response.

Both of these documents were purged from Wright’s personnel file, and prospective employers can be told only when Wright worked in Oak Harbor and what position he held.

Cynthia Shelton, Midway principal, said she could not comment on the situation.

Retired teacher Ray Taylor worked with Wright at Midway High School since its inception in 1990. It was then called Outreach. Taylor, who had taught in the district for 47 years, was working under the state retire-rehire law, which requires previously retired teachers to reapply every year.

This school year he was not rehired, and Wright was let go; Taylor doesn’t know why.

“It surprised the daylights out of me,” he said. “In my estimation he was a very fine teacher.”

Taylor said Wright got along well with the students, and there was quite a bit of interaction in helping the students with their work.

The subjects were taught using computer-based instruction, cassette tapes and and workbooks.

“We got into the subject matter with the students,” he said. Wright taught history and English, while Taylor taught math.

Before Shelton took over as principal last year the school had a reputation as being an easy place to make up credits, but Taylor said that was not true.

“They worked for their credits,” Taylor said.

Wright worked full time at Midway, while Taylor worked half time. Although the two worked together for a decade, he said Wright did not discuss any problems he might have been having, and he has not heard from him since his departure. He remembers him as well dressed and professional.

“I will miss him,” Taylor said.

You can reach News-Times reporter Marcie Miller at mmiller@whidbeynewstimes.com or call 675-6611.

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