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Panel supports Messick dismissal, concludes shes fit to be a teacher
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RIPON - It has taken a state administrative law panel more than eight weeks to reach a decision on a 29-year-tenured Ripon High School teacher who had declined to take additional course work in support of teaching English learners.

The Commission on Professional Competence ruled against Terri Messick supporting her dismissal as a teacher in the Ripon Unified School District.  The panel disputed the school district’s claim that Messick was unfit to serve as a teacher but they did conclude her actions as being unprofessional.

“My soul and my identity are gone,” Messick said on learning of the panel’s findings.  She said she was put through a week of torture sitting through the questioning of the school district’s attorney and the testimony of those who took the stand in support of the district being called unprofessional and unfit to be a teacher.

Ripon Unified School District Board of Trustees President Larry Stewart said Saturday afternoon that his board will probably make its final decision involving Messick at a personnel session prior to Monday night’s regular school board meeting.

On the heels of the release of the panel’s ruling this week, Messick said she had now lost her position with the district and the possibility of ever being rehired or of obtaining a teaching position elsewhere.  

The longtime music teacher said she had completed all the required CLAD courses by the end of the recent school year that had been at the heart of her dismissal.

“They got me on the ‘failure to obey school rules,’” she said.

Messick said she had hoped to teach part-time in the Ripon Unified School District and had been scheduled to substitute this Monday at Ripon High.  She added that she had answered a job opening at Oristimba High School along with 48 other applicants.  Now that the findings are in from the state panel she will not be able to teach even part-time in the Ripon district, she said.

Messick said the board would not listen to her willingness to meet their demands after it had been established that the requirement was actually legal – a standoff that had continued over eight years.  She charged the board was only being “vindictive“ in their earlier decision after she made a personal plea to them last April.    

The board president said Messick was only speculating because the board hadn’t made its final decision yet after getting word of the panel’s findings last Thursday.  

“We just have to punt, wait a little while and punt again,” he said of the board’s intentions.  “It’s like all these teachers we pink slipped that we are bringing back,” he said.   “It’s like flying by the seat of our pants when we don’t know what the state is doing with our funding.”

The issues before the administrative law panel that met in the high school multi-purpose room the last week of May included:

• Was there unprofessional conduct on Messick’s part.

• Was there in fact persistent violations or refusal to obey school board regulations

• Was there evidence of unfitness for service within the Education Code based upon repeated failure to commit to complete a supplemental English Language Learner teaching certification.

Messick was actually laid off at the end of the 2009-10 school year but continued working while appealing an earlier reversal of the first of three court hearings on the matter which was in her favor.  Due to her lack of seniority and the school district’s reduction in force she has no job assignment for this 2010-11 school year.  

The longtime elementary schools music teacher is now teaching Messick’s six classes with no music being taught in the district’s elementary schools.

“The bottom line is that the kids lose,” Messick said. “They don’t even have an elementary band.

She normally taught six classes that she had organized and got approved by the district – teaching some 200 to 250 students per day.  Concert choir, music ensemble, music appreciation and high school band were among her assignments.  

She also led students in two theatrical performances in one musical and a play as well as four musical performances for chorus and band.