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March 4, 2016

Teacher’s ouster protested

DRYDENBob Ellis/staff photographer
Laura Daly, a parent of a Dryden Central School District student, pickets outside Dryden High School this morning to show support for high school chorus teacher Krista Easton. She was placed on administrative leave for undisclosed reasons on Feb. 25.

BY LEANN HLEBICA
Staff Reporter
lhlebica@cortlandstandardnews.net

DRYDEN — Standing in 20-degree weather this morning holding purple signs reading “Easton: A culture of excellence,” were Polly Cator and other parents.
Cator was one of a handful of parents who stood across from Dryden High School this morning picketing in support of music teacher KristaEaston.
Easton was removed from the school and placed on administrative leave on Feb. 25 with school administrators refusing to comment, saying that the issue is a personnel matter.
Students were sent home with a letter last week introducing a new substitute teacher for the remainder of the year.
In two weeks, Easton was set to direct her second musical for the district, “Zombie Prom,” so her sudden removal shocked parents and students.
“From the kids’ perspective, the news is heartbreaking,” Project Easton member Teri Tarshus said this morning.
Easton won the hearts of many students and parents throughout her two years working as the chorus and drama club teacher at the high school.
At two consecutive board meetings, student, parents and other music teachers spoke and sang Easton’s praises, saying how much she has changed them for the better.
The group, Project Easton, was formed after Easton was denied tenure.
Her contract expires in May, and the group felt that if it showed its support, it could help influence the Board of Education to reverse itsdecision.
At the board meetings on Feb. 8 and 22, student after student gave testimonials on how Easton has inspired them.
“Sing to the Ducks” is the theme of the group, which is written on the brightly colored T-shirts members have worn to board meetings. The saying stems from sixth-grade student Julian Speight, who spoke about how Easton’s advice helped him work through his difficulties with chores at home by singing to ducks on his family’s pond.
Cator said Easton’s contract ends in May, and district officials have to give her a60-day oral notice and a 30-day written notice prior to that. If Easton was to be terminated, her first day of notice would be March 14. March 14 is the date of the next scheduled board meeting.
Superintendent of Schools Sandy Sherwood could notbe reached this morning to explain the reason whytenure was not granted, and why Easton was placed on leave last month. Easton did not attend this morning’s rally and could not be reached for comment.
Cator said she believes Easton may have been placed on leave due to Project Easton fundraising efforts.
Project Easton members have purchased, “ProjectEaston: Sing for the Ducks,” T-shirts that they have worn at the last two boardmeetings. Easton had purchased a T-shirt for herself as well, Cator said.

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