Trumbull high students to rally around fired substitute teacher

A racist Facebook post, a fired substitute teacher, and a student body aggravated enough to make a stand — that's what members of the public can expect to hear about at Tuesday night's Board of Education meeting when officials review the case of former Trumbull High School substitute Joe Rodgers.

THS senior Steven Stanton, the board's student representative, is organizing students and others planning on attending the meeting through a Facebook group titled "Stand with Mr. Rodgers" that has more than 1,400 supporting members who would like to see the dismissed substitute teacher hired back.

Like he does at every meeting, Stanton plans to speak to the board. And this time around, he hopes to get its decision on Rodgers repealed.

The high school student called the recent firing "a huge loss for the Trumbull Public School systems."

Rodgers, a Columbia University graduate and a United States veteran, served as a United Nations interpreter before retiring and working on and off at Trumbull High School over the last 13 years.

"He was incredibly well liked for his character and intelligence," Stanton told the Times over the weekend.

In a post written on the Facebook group Sunday night, he addressed those who additionally like to speak at Tuesday's meeting which will be held at 6254 Main Street.

"Please get there at 6:45 to insure your name gets put on the list; as BOE rep, I know they start at 7:00 sharp," he said. "I will be at the door by 6:45 telling you what to do once you enter.

"Please bring a written out statement so that you can get it published to the minutes in the event they stop accepting public comment," he added.

Stanton told student speakers should bring enough copies for each member of the board and plan to speak no more than two minutes.

"Only talk about how Mr. Rodgers has positively affected you/Trumbull High," he wrote. "Do not bring up specifics of the situation; do not mention names; do not attack other people, including board members or any political parties."

According to Stanton, Rodgers was fired for asking a student to “please not circulate” a Facebook post that he shared which was racist towards President Obama.

"Mr. Rodgers messaged the mother to ask her son to not pass along the message which made her her angry and led to her contacting the school board and getting him fired," Stanton said.

The senior added that the mom was a town councilwoman.

The issue has sparked enough student frustration that seniors at Trumbull High School are passing around a petition at school on Monday, according to a member in the Facebook group.

THS alumni, including Tom Cole who started the Facebook group, are also speaking out against the board's decision to let go of Rodgers.

"Mr. Rodgers has qualities that many educators lack these days; compassion and positivity," said THS graduate Jake Rudolph in a Facebook post. "With these two characteristics being the foundation of my relationship with Mr. Rodgers, I only have positive thoughts and memories with my favorite substitute teacher.

"While some substitutes can be pushovers and not get their job done, Mr. Rodgers had the respect of everyone in the classroom simply because he was fair and nice to us," he added. "I was a class clown and I never wanted to work for substitutes who treated us as if we were less than them. With Mr. Rodgers, I felt respected and felt that my only option was to treat him the same way. During class he made sure everyone was doing work and exerted his best efforts to help any student achieve their best work. I remember him helping a student with their Spanish homework after we completed an assignment. He went above and beyond to be a great teacher."

Rudolph said that Rodgers truly cared about each individual.

"No matter who it was, he always approached us with an open mind and a willingness to make us better people," he said. "Every time I saw him in the hallway or sitting in the front of a classroom, I could count on a big smile and an energetic 'hello' from Mr.Rodgers.

"Whether it was to impress us by the many languages he spoke, told us a silly story from his youth, or kept us on track and doing work in the classroom, he always had something to make our time with him, extraordinary," he added. 

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