Long-time school volunteer asked not to return

John Thompson • Apr 16, 2013 at 9:31 PM

ELIZABETHTON — One of the Elizabethton School System’s longest-serving volunteers and activists has been told to leave Harold McCormick Elementary School because her stance against the system’s administration was “dividing our faculty and staff.”

Volunteer Susan Peters said she received the letter from Principal Brian Culbert on Monday when she reported for work as usual at Harold McCormick.

“He said I offended some teachers at the school and he was doing it to protect them,” Peters said.

Peters said no teacher ever told her she made them uncomfortable and she was in the school because of her interest in helping teachers educate students.

Peters is a retired teacher with 32 years of experience. After her retirement, she moved to Elizabethton to take care of her elderly parents. Harold McCormick was just a few blocks from her new home and she soon volunteered. After a background check, she was accepted and she worked in the school for the past 12 years, working three hours a day for four days a week.

Peters was active during the dispute several years ago that broke out when then Director of Schools David Roper moved Ed Alexander from his post as principal at Elizabethton High School. Peters said she was for Alexander at that time because she thought he was a good man. Since then she has been critical of some of Alexander’s policies as superintendent.

Culbert listed three instances in his letter of instances where he has had to deal with complaints about Peters. The first was in October when Peters circulated a petition to get Sharon Lynch on the ballot for the school board race.

Peters said she did not see that as a problem because a petition for incumbent school board member Rita Booher had already been circulated. She said since Lynch had children in the school, she thought it was only natural to offer people at the school a chance to sign the petition.

“All I did was offer them a chance to sign it.” She said she put no peer pressure on them.

The second warning came in November. She had written a letter to a local newspaper in which she said the overcrowding from the growing number of students had caused the art and music rooms to be converted to classrooms. She said in the letter that the music teacher “had to push her stuff in a grocery cart.”

“I did not write that to attack but to inform,” Peters said.

The final instance came recently when Peters approached some teachers about the recent controversies in the school system. Culbert wrote her that a teacher told her “you were shining a light on negative things she did not want to talk to you about.”

Peters said she did not recall that and said she has never been told by teachers that she made them uncomfortable.

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