Students bring debate on teacher to Internet
By Amanda Lemon
CHICOPEE -- Middle school stduent Elvin Bruno wrote, "For once in a public school, I feel like I actually have a teacher who cares."
Bruno, of the Bellamy Middle School, wrote them on a Web site he created to rally support for his teacher Agustin Morales III.
Morales, who has been teaching eighth grade English at the middle school, is not being brought back for the 2010 school year.
The decision by Bellamy Middle School Principal Matthew Francis has been particularly ill-received among Morales' eighth grade students, as demonstrated by a protest arranged by the youths and carried out over an entire lunch recess.
Although the incident was ultimately dissipated by school authorities, the kid's enthusiasm in the matter remains strong.
Bruno's Web site at www.savemrmorales.webs.com
is a student-led haven for support and, in some cases, debate on the issue. Everyone from students to parents to teachers are able to weigh in on the matter, which seems to have attracted national attention thanks to the kid's efforts.
Concerned citizens from as far away as Virginia and Texas have caught wind of the protests and voiced their support in the Web site's guestbook.
At this point, Morales himself remains silent on the issue, choosing to speak through his attorney Ronald Gregson of Lenox. When questioned as to why the teacher was let go by Bellamy, Gregson maintained that there is still no real reason. He went on to recount how Morales was issued a mediation plan by the school in an effort to improve some aspect of his classroom performance. It is at this point that the real issue emerged.
"He never saw in writing what areas he needed to improve in. [Morales] was not given enough opportunity to know what was being criticized," Gregson stated.
Because the school did not feel Morales had improved his performance, they opted to not reinstate him for the upcoming 2010 school year.
According to Gregson, his client is "devestated" by the actions of Bellamy Middle School.
"He is a passionate teacher...demanding and effective ... and fully in control of his eighth grade students," Gregson said.
Numerous students of Bellamy Middle School have praised Morales on their Web site as "the best teacher ever" and their efforts to reinstate him remain strong.
Asked what steps Morales has taken against the school at this point, Gregson stated that a grievance had been filed. The school responded by denying his Level I grievance, at which point Morales countered with the filing of a Level II.
Gregson did not offer much hope for his client's case. "The School Committee has dug in- they're denying the renewal, " he said.
Gregson's final comment on the matter seemed to properly sum up the opinion of many of Morales' former and anticipated students. "The school has lost an extraordinary and gifted teacher."