Big crowd supports MRUHS teacher
By SANDI SWITZER
Correspondent | June 21,2013
CLARENDON — School directors heard emotional pleas from a number of citizens regarding the future employment of a longtime educator at Mill River Union High School.
A standing-room-only crowd of about 80 people packed the school’s library Wednesday in a show of solidarity for Don Markie, who has served as an educator, guidance counselor and even interim principal during his tenure at the school.
Markie is a counselor who assists students transitioning from Mill River directly into the workforce as part of a program at the high school funded by a grant.
School Board Chairman Brownson Spencer told the crowd at the outset of the meeting “no decision has been reached as of yet.”
He then opened the meeting for public input. Mill River alumnus Elliot Stewart called Markie “a valuable asset to the school” with extensive connections in the community to assist students in securing jobs.
Another alumnus, DJ Bidgood, credited Markie for helping him “through the roughest time I ever had in my life.” He called the longtime educator a role model, mentor and friend who would take “money out of his own pocket” to pay for a student’s lunch.
Recent graduate Brad Fiske said he came to Mill River when Markie and Peter Wallett served as co-principals. He said honor and integrity were the cornerstones of the school during that period.
However, Fiske said, subsequent administrators had abandoned those principles, creating an atmosphere of conflict and lack of respect. “Without honesty and mutual respect, we are no longer a community,” he said.
He urged the board to address the “broken communication” among the administration, faculty and staff so the school could “rebuild a sense of pride and community.”
Following comments, Spencer clarified school directors had offered Markie a contract and it was “up to him to accept.” The board chairman concurred Markie was an “exemplary person” with “a heart of gold.”
School directors were then asked if the contract offered to Markie would enable him to work with the student body. Spencer responded the program was being restructured, but he added Markie would still be working in guidance “if he chooses.”
Carolyn Raiford, a retired Mill River educator, was part of a group who met in executive session with school directors on behalf of Markie. The closed-door meeting took place prior to the public portion of the meeting.
She indicated “no settlement” had been reached between Markie and school directors.
“We’re here because Mr. Markie believes his rights have been violated,” Raiford said. She urged the board to consider all input before making a decision.
The board then proceeded to discuss a number of other matters and were about to move into executive session for contract negotiations when a school director offered a comment regarding the board’s offer to Markie.
“It’s not unanimous and a majority means majority. I just wanted to say that,” school director Diane Baker said.