Concordia teacher ousted after heated exchange over poisoned butterfly garden
CONCORDIA, Kan. (WIBW) - A middle school science teacher in Concordia has been ousted by a unanimous USD 333 Board of Education after he and another board member got in a heated exchange over the poisoning of a campus butterfly garden.
Concordia KNCK reports that the Concordia Public Schools USD 333 Board of Education unanimously voted to fire middle school science and horticulture teacher Bruce Jacobs at its Monday, Aug. 15, special meeting.
The district met a week after Jacobs and board member Tony Miller argued after the adjournment of the board’s Aug. 8 regular meeting. The argument reportedly included expletives that were yelled before the disagreement took to the street.
According to KNCK, Jacobs had been outraged over a decision during the summer to spray products which resulted in the poisoning of an on-campus butterfly garden. For his part, Jacobs said he regretted how the discussion played out.
“What happened last Monday night, I was backed into a corner that I felt no other way out. I do apologize, Mr. Miller. I do apologize that you were the target of that. I do not apologize for what I said. I just apologize that it was directed at a single person,” Jacobs said during the special board meeting.
In an email to USD 333 teachers, Superintendent Quentin Breese wrote, “the action of spraying weeds had administrative approval” and that “the district took action to ensure the grounds are maintained and presentable as we began our new school year.”
Breese indicated that the weeds around the building have been an issue since the greenhouse’s construction and that guests saw the weeds and butterfly garden as an eyesore. He said the administration’s repeated attempts to work with Jacobs to clean the area never came together to yield an acceptable result.
Breese also outlined a plan that had been discussed to relocate the garden - essentially starting over near the greenhouse - with district plans to build a fence to protect the greenhouse and garden while shielding it from public view. He said the district planned to supply topsoil and other materials needed to do so.
“This decision was my call, and I would have never anticipated this escalating to this level,” Superintendent Breese said. “I’m devastated that we are starting this year with noise that distracts us from our mission. We will, however, maintain high expectations for both student and staff behavior.”
However, Jacobs indicated this was an inevitable outcome.
“The things Mr. Breese read, it would have been nice if that had been shared with me, because there’s a lot of stuff in there that isn’t quite straight-and-narrow,” Jacobs told the board. “I keep being told that this was an inevitable outcome, the destroying of the butterfly garden. That I knew it was coming. That I was given the opportunity to move it. And yet all of this information came to my attention after (the butterfly garden) was killed. And therein lies my betrayal.”
“I want nothing more than to teach my students in my classroom,” Jacobs added.
Students and colleagues showed up in droves to support their teacher, with past students referring to Jacobs as “incredible,” “top-notch,” and “amazing.”
Junior Hattie Blackwood spoke during the public comment section and even grew emotional as she discussed how Jacobs worked with students in the garden.
“Mr. Jacobs taught us many things during that time, like how to use garden tools and what was good and bad for the garden. He also informed us about the different kinds of plants that were in the garden. We spent hours working together in that garden,” Blackwood told the board. “Us students of Mr. Jacobs worked for hours and hours on the butterfly garden. Every single day walking into school we would look at the natural garden. Now it lies as a pile of dirt. The students of USD 333 are heavily disappointed in the actions of the administrative staff of USD 333.”
KNCK noted that Blackwood presented the board with a petition full of 180 signatures to support Jacobs - along with a Google form with 50 more responses about what Jacobs meant as a teacher to the current student body.
“You can try and look for another teacher to replace Mr. Jacobs but I believe you won’t find many individuals that are as passionate about science, plants, and gardening as he is. Nor will you find someone who is as special as Mr. Jacobs because as us students say, ‘he is the true gem of CHS and the school will not be the same without him,’” Blackwood concluded.
However, the efforts did not prevail as the board voted to adopt the resolution to terminate Jacobs’ employment with the district after a 15-minute Executive Session for Non-Elected Personnel with Superintendent Breese.
KNCK also said the board held a 45-minute Executive Session for Confidential Business Data with the Superintendent, Director of Operations and Technology Director Kelly Struebing, Concordia City Manager Amy Lange and CloudCorp Executive Director Nicole Reed.
For more information, read HERE.
Copyright 2022 WIBW. All rights reserved.