Tuesday January 1, 2013

DAWSON RASPUZZI Story Body:

DAWSON RASPUZZI

Staff Writer

BENNINGTON -- A well-respected, longtime Mount Anthony Union High School teacher apparently in the midst of a personal crisis has been placed on administrative leave after publicly criticizing school administrators, the teachers union and co-workers on the Internet Monday.

Steven Davis, who has taught science and math at the high school the past nine years, used social networking pages to post videos and e-mails to co-workers in which he accused school officials of negligence and illegal activities.

In one video Davis detailed his impending divorce and a restraining order against him. In another post on his Facebook page, Davis said he had been hospitalized in the afternoon.

School officials are aware of the posts and addressing the situation internally, Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Superintendent Catherine McClure wrote in a statement Monday evening.

"This morning I was made aware of a number of You Tube and Facebook postings authored by a tenured MAU teacher which caused concern among members of the community and employees of the SVSU and its member districts ... The teacher is currently on administrative leave from their teaching assignment," McClure wrote. "Personnel matters are sensitive. Although it may appear unresponsive, I must maintain confidentiality, and ask that those who have read these statements made in a public arena respect the confidentiality of the situation."

In one of his posts, Davis wrote that he is on medical leave.

McClure said the high school will offer support to those who may need it.

"The Mount Anthony administrators have always been responsive to student and staff concerns in situations like this and will have support to individuals available as needed," she said.

Davis could not be reached by phone Thursday afternoon.

In addition to posting videos and other material on his own Facebook and Twitter pages, Davis also posted them on the Banner's Facebook page. The Banner removed those posts soon after, citing potentially libelous accusations.

Davis, who said he has a master's degree in teacher leadership, wrote in an early morning e-mail to co-workers that he is writing a doctoral thesis about Bennington's education system in which he will detail his observations over nine years. That e-mail, which he also posted on Facebook, also said he is starting an "educational revolution for the good of the children" by working to decertify the teachers union.

Stephannie Peters, president of the local union, declined to comment on the statements and said she had not had direct communication with Davis Monday.

Davis also criticized Southwest Vermont Supervisory Union Chief Financial Officer Richard Pembroke, holding Pembroke responsible for a mistake in his paycheck. Reached while out of town Monday, Pembroke said he had not checked his e-mail and declined to comment on the situation until doing so.

Officials and parents said Monday Davis has a tremendous reputation as an educator. Students in his advanced placement calculus and physics class have annually scored much higher than state or national averages on the AP Exams.

Many current or former students "liked" postings Davis made on Facebook Monday and others made comments in support of him.

Contact Dawson Raspuzzi at draspuzzi@benningtonbanner.com or follow on Twitter @DawsonRaspuzzi

Editor's Note: Dawson Raspuzzi has an arms-length relationship with Steven Davis, which did not influence this article.