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Three Barnstable High administrators may be dismissed after school trip blunder

From: www.yahoo.com

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story misspelled the name of Barnstable School Superintendent Sara Ahern.

HYANNIS — Newly graduated Barnstable High School student Ewerton Decastro tearfully spoke on Wednesday at the Barnstable School Committee meeting about two school administrators, Alik Taylor and Hope Taylor, who have been on administrative leave since April 8.

“They were always there and they took me as family,” said Decastro, who wore a white T-shirt that read: ‘We Support the Taylors.’ Graduation and prom wasn’t the same without them. It felt like a piece was missing for a lot of us.”

Alik Taylor is a Project Excel and Dual Enrollment Program Director at the school. Hope Taylor is an associate principal, and Raffaella Almeida is a guidance counselor. All three are currently on leave because they are alleged to have left two students on April 6 at the Belle of the Ball prom dress selection event at the Hynes Convention Center in Boston, according to School Committee member Andre King.

Tanaya Taylor asked Barnstable School Committee members on Wednesday for leniency for her parents, Alik and Hope. The two adults, staff members at Barnstable High School, face dismissal along with another staff member after two students were left in Boston on April 6 during a school trip to pick out prom dresses.

Tanaya Taylor asked Barnstable School Committee members on Wednesday for leniency for her parents, Alik and Hope. The two adults, staff members at Barnstable High School, face dismissal along with another staff member after two students were left in Boston on April 6 during a school trip to pick out prom dresses.

Following an investigation, according to King, School Superintendent Sara Ahern recommended dismissal for all three administrators in a letter on May 20.

In a future meeting, said King, the Taylors will have an opportunity to meet with Ahern, along with their attorneys and union representatives. At that time they can submit any evidence they feel could support their reinstatement.

King said he only has information on the Taylors’ status, and does not have information about the status of Almeida.

Ahern declined to comment in an email to the Times on May 30, but spoke during the School Committee meeting.

A longtime educator and former member of the Barnstable School Committee Debra Dagwan spoke at Wednesday's School Committee meeting and implored the School Committee and Superintendent Sara Ahern to increase recruitment and retention efforts for teachers of color.

A longtime educator and former member of the Barnstable School Committee Debra Dagwan spoke at Wednesday’s School Committee meeting and implored the School Committee and Superintendent Sara Ahern to increase recruitment and retention efforts for teachers of color.

“As a teaching institution and to fulfill our mission, we must put students’ academic, social and emotional growth at the center,” said Ahern. “There is a well-defined process from investigating thoroughly to whatever an outcome comes to be, by which due process rights are protected.”

Alik Taylor and Hope Taylor declined to comment. The couple has been working at the school since 1995. Almeida did not immediately respond to emailed requests for comment.

A trip to find prom dresses to wear

According to King, the Taylors and Almeida took 22 high school students on a school bus to Boston to the prom dress event. It was a Saturday. The students were intending to choose dresses for themselves.

Three students also drove to the event in a personal vehicle.

For years, said King, Hope Taylor has held a local annual prom dress drive for students. This year she didn’t receive enough donations, he said, which is why the trip to choose dresses in Boston was scheduled.

Belle of the Ball, part of the nonprofit Caring Partners Inc., cleans and distributes prom dresses and provides related accessories at no charge to high school junior and senior girls who would otherwise not have the opportunity to attend their school’s prom, according to the website.

The return trip to Barnstable

The school bus returned to Barnstable with students on board.

But two were left behind.

Belle of the Ball staff gave rides home to the two students left behind, King said.

None of the administrators were aware that students had been left behind until Principal Elizabeth Freedman called them to her office the following Monday, King said. They were informed about the situation and told that an investigation would take place, said King. “They were then placed on administrative leave.”

Belle of the Ball staff didn’t return emails seeking comment.

Arianna Roberts, an older sister of Shantelle Roberts, 18, one of the students left behind in Boston, said at the Wednesday School Committee meeting that she doesn’t advocate firing but that the administrators need to be held accountable.

“There’s a way to remedy this with compassion, training and a way to not hurt the community,” said Arianna Roberts. “But it’s unacceptable to leave two young girls in the city by themselves.”

Shantelle Roberts declined to comment to the Times.

‘Out of the kindness of their heart’

About 100 people showed up to the School Committee meeting, many wearing ‘We support the Taylors’ T-shirts.

“They don’t do things for people to pat them on the back. They do things out of the kindness of their heart,” said Barnstable coach Rone Ferguson. “No one is perfect. Mistakes happen.”

Maria DaLuz Reid, a retired Barnstable art teacher, said she’s watched the Taylors make a difference in the lives of students over the last 30 years.

Lucy Teixeira, 25, moved to the Cape in 2014 from Boston. For a multitude of reasons, Teixeira told the Times over the phone, she had a hard time finishing high school. It was only because of the Taylors, she said, that she graduated.

“They easily could have just let me drop out.” said Teixeira. Teixeira spoke to the Times by phone because she said she was unable to attend the School Committee meeting.

‘Retain educators of color’

Danielle Hill, a 30-year-resident of Barnstable and a parent, said at the School Committee meeting that she’s concerned that the loss of the Taylors will contribute to the health and safety of students of color at the school.

“In order to maintain the right trajectory, we need to retain educators of color,” said Hill.

There are 8.5 African American teachers at the high school, and 15.5 Black teachers in the entire district, according to state records. In contrast, the agency reports that roughly 50% of students at the high school identify as non-white.

Former School Committee member and teacher Debra Dagwan of Hyannis said she and other Black professionals helped recruit Black teachers in the 1980s and 1990s along with former high school history teacher and human and social rights activist John Reed, and George Spivey of Falmouth.

But many of those teachers have since retired, said Dagwan. And others have “been done away with,” she said. “You have tough decisions to make but we have to change and find a way to hold on to those teachers to be more diversified.”

NAACP Cape Cod President Lynne Rhodes said the local chapter worked with the Barnstable school system and other schools on the Cape in the 1970s and early 1980s to increase the number of teachers of African descent.

In a statement, Rhodes told the Times that Ahern has shown a pattern of dismissing Black teachers and staff, and teachers and staff of color, bypassing diversity equity and Inclusion committees and progressive discipline processes.

“The message is being sent to other Black and brown employees to stay quiet, otherwise their careers will be destroyed,” Rhodes said.

During the School Committee meeting, Ahern said her record stands for itself.

“I’d like to think that I’ve proven during my time to be measured and thoughtful,” said Ahern.

Daughter asks for leniency

Tanaya Taylor, the Taylor’s daughter, asked School Committee members for leniency for her parents.

“My parents are taking responsibility for what they’ve done,” said Tanaya Taylor. “They continue to dedicate their time to this community.”

She asked committee members to consider what would happen to their family and community members if they were dismissed.

Rachael Devaney writes about community and culture. Reach her at rdevaney@capecodonline.com. Follow her on Twitter: @RachaelDevaney.

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This article originally appeared on Cape Cod Times: Three on leave at Barnstable High after bus trip misstep. What is next?

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