Accused teacher support strong among parents, community members
In an act of solidarity and backing for suspended Environmental and Spatial Technology (EAST) lab instructor, Mila Floro, a group of parents, current and retired teachers, former and current students and community members amassed past and present letters of support, as well as recommendations. Representatives from the Arkansas Department of Career Education, EAST lab facilitators in other schools, and individuals including Gov. Mike Beebe, Rep. (now Sen.) John Boozman (R-AR), Sen. Mark Pryor (D-AR), retired Eureka Springs School Superintendent Wayne Carr and Eureka Springs City Attorney Tim Weaver, were on the extensive list of supporters.
The forty-plus letters also included a petition signed by 17 current Eureka Springs High School teachers.
Signed letters were collected and copied for presentation to the Eureka Springs School Board, and included a cover letter from MIT InvenTeam 2011 parent, Gayla Wolfinbarger, which explained the group had been gathering the letters when they learned Floro had resigned.
"We want to express how upset we are that Ms. Floro resigned," the letter reads. "These letters show how much Ms. Floro is respected in Carroll County and in the State of Arkansas. She has been shamefully treated and we sincerely request your help in clearing her name."
The teacher was placed on paid leave after a state audit revealed discrepancies in how money collected for a student trip to MIT was handled.
The school board convened in a special meeting Tuesday evening and chose a new superintendent for the district and decided to accept Floro's resignation.
Because the date for Floro's hearing before the school board was granted an extension due to lawyers' request, she has not yet had the opportunity to make her case.
One letter among those given to the board explains that parents themselves came to a decision about how the money was to be handled, and Floro agreed. The letter also specified the money never belonged to the school district, but to parents and supporters of the InvenTeam Robotics team.
The letter also acknowledges that mistakes were made, and, like many other letters in the packet, claims there was no reason to take things as far as the school did.
Some letters cited a lack of communication and support from the high school principal.
Because the case has gone into litigation, neither school principal, Kathryn Lavender, nor Floro, can make any comment. Floro's attorney, Tim Snively, did not return repeated calls from the Citizen Tuesday.
"This could easily have been, and should have been, solved in-house," parent Janna Jones told the Citizen. "It was not a big deal, but no-one from the school came to any of us who were involved and nobody knew anything until Mila was put on leave."