While the social media-fed soap opera was heating up over the transfer and ouster of beloved educator Mary Catherine Bradshaw from Hillsboro High and the International Baccalaureate program, Hillsboro principal Terry Shrader sent a missive on March 22 to school district officials in which he claimed, among other things, that Bradshaw was beginning a "job search."
In the administrative transfer letter, Shrader goes on to accuse Bradshaw, at the time the IB diploma coordinator, of inappropriately speaking on behalf of the school in a discussion with the director of the Vanderbilt University Center for Science Outreach, which brings university scientists into public schools.
Bradshaw, he wrote, "had no authority to represent Hillsboro" in the meeting, where she allegedly told Vanderbilt biologist Virginia Shepherd that the program "would not be compatible" with the Hillsboro IB program "unless exceptions were made to policy." This, Shrader claimed, "created a problem" for Shepherd.
Bradshaw has declined all along to comment. But those familiar with the situation question Shrader's narrative and wonder whether it's pretext for removing an outspoken champion of IB. Bradshaw, sources say, had known Shepherd for many years, and it would only be natural for her to approach Bradshaw with questions. Bradshaw was, after all, instrumental in developing IB at Hillsboro — a model for other programs around the state. The only problems as she saw it with implementing the Vanderbilt program at Hillsboro were easily resolved scheduling conflicts, sources tell the Scene.
Two days later, Shrader writes, he confronted Bradshaw about the discussion, assured her the VU program would be implemented next year, and asked if she was "committed to my vision for the school." Bradshaw, he said, indicated she was.
Shortly after, Shrader writes, he received an email from Bradshaw saying she would begin a job search because she felt like she didn't "fit in with the current political scene" among Metro schools officials. Bradshaw's alleged email seems to indicate she had one foot out the door. But according to those who know the teacher, she had always said she wouldn't retire until 2014.
Sources familiar with the initial conversation with Shrader say Bradshaw may have had good reason to question her job security. Shrader informed her that school administrators — particularly Jay Steele, associate superintendent of the high schools —were irked because she asked too many questions at a "transformational leadership retreat" about IB. Steele wanted the gathering to center on career academies — the new model, where workplace-focused schools-within-schools funnel students down high-demand career paths.
The next day, Shrader writes that Bradshaw came by his office, where he suggested to her it might be "time for a change." Bradshaw, he writes, expressed shock, believing she'd just been fired.
"I never mentioned her being dismissed from employment," Shrader claims in the letter.
Nevertheless, Shrader says Bradshaw agreed to leave Hillsboro. "I believe it would be in the best interests of the instructional program at Hillsboro for her to be transferred to a school better suited to her needs," he writes.
At around the same time, IB middle-years coordinator David Williams was approached as Bradshaw's replacement, but he declined the position. Within days, administrators issued a press release noting Sharon Chaney, advanced academics coordinator, had been selected to replace Bradshaw.
Meanwhile, supporters created a Facebook protest page that now has more than 2,000 members. On a brisk Sunday afternoon in late March, hundreds of students and parents demonstrated in front of Hillsboro High, waving placards and honking vuvuzelas at the passing motorists. A group of Hillsboro teachers later issued a statement, saying in part, "We have grown enormously under [Bradshaw's] leadership and example, and it will be us left to pick up the pieces of an unnecessary upheaval precipitated by a bureaucratic mistake."
And at a packed school-board meeting Tuesday night, an at-times-vocal crowd of teachers, students and former students derided Steele, called for his firing and issued ultimatums, demanding Bradshaw's reinstatement as IB coordinator and a reversal of her transfer. But the question on the minds of those who know the teacher remains: Would she go back?
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