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Suspicion Surrounds the Termination of High School Staff Members

      In the last two weeks, four high school staff members have announced that they will not be returning next year. These sudden lay-offs, "resignations", and "retirements" come as a surprise not only to the students, but also to the teachers. Journalism teacher Jennifer Moulton, who is the Highlights advisor, helps with the yearbook, and runs the Norman News Service is among those who have been recommended by Principal Dr. Dan Stepenosky to be "non re-elected". Dr. Stepenosky refused to give Beverly Underground, nor any other news source, a comment on his reason to lay Ms. Moulton off.  Ms. Moulton was astonished to hear that her contract had not been renewed for the following year. In the previous two years that Ms. Moulton has been on the staff, assistant principal Ms. GayLa Rabin has filed four teacher evaluations, all of which gave Ms. Moulton perfect scores and only contained positive comments. Her dismissal is not a budget issue, for the district is planning on hiring a replacement. According to Moulton, Dr. Stepenosky has never given her any real reasons to believe that she wasn't doing a good job as a teacher, much less that her job was in jeopardy. Moulton feels that the administration was "two-faced" in their dealings with her. When asked if there would be any reason to believe Dr. Stepenosky might have a personal vendetta against her, she said that at least to her face, Dr. Stepenosky has given her nothing but positive comments. What then, spurred the administration to recommend Ms. Moulton to be laid off? Ms. Moulton could only conjecture that perhaps the way she asserts herself and her policy of letting the students run Highlights and control its content might disagree with Stepenosky's feelings of how a newspaper should be run. Dr. Stepenosky claims however, that he supports Moulton's policy with Highlights. Unlike his predecessor Ben Bushman (who was in Ms. Moulton's office nearly every week trying to censor the paper and remove all references to the Oil Well), Dr. Stepenosky has only expressed concerns about a Highlights article once: their story entitled "district loses three staff members". Is it simply the threat of legal action, or is there something Dr. Stepenosky is trying to hide? Moulton and her fellow staff members are all bewildered as to why she would be non re-elected. According to junior Danko Krajisnik, Ms. Moulton's teaching ability, 13 hour work days, severe dedication to the job, and encouraging learning environment quite simply shouldn't add up to her being fired. "If Mr. Bushman would have still been principal, I would have packed my bags and prepared to be fired, but I had no idea that Dan would recommend me for non re-election," said Moulton. Indeed if Dr. Stepenosky's reasons for terminating Moulton were the same as Mr. Bushman's, Stepenosky, Ms. Moulton affirms, would not tell his reasons. When asked if he agreed with Mr. Bushman's apprehensions on the matter of Highlights being run by the students, Stepenosky, an assistant principal and close colleague of Mr. Bushman last year, claims he had no knowledge of Bushman's reservations to Moulton's program and his frequent talks with her about the content in the paper.

      At the Tuesday, February 24th board of education meeting, junior Tiffany Apel and senior Krystal Walker spoke on behalf of Ms. Rabin. They exemplified her dedication to the school throughout these last nine years in the district and her dedication to ASB. Before the board meeting they had heard that Ms. Rabin was recommended by administration to be laid off. They spoke with Ms. Rabin before the board meeting about what was happening to her. By the time the board meeting had started, the "official story" as student board of education member Andrew Steinberg put it, was that Ms. Rabin was to retire. As Apel and Walker spoke on behalf of Ms. Rabin under the assumption that the board was laying her off, notes were passed among the board members because the official story was that she was going to retire. Krystal Walker told Beverly Underground that she was approached for giving her speech and the board had deemed it disrespectful. Walker, however, finds the actions of the board as the truly disagreeable actions to this "caring" and "dedicated" assistant principal. One staff member who wishes to remain anonymous claims that Ms. Rabin had in fact been forced into retirement earlier than she had planned under the threat of being laid off. Stepenosky outright denies this accusation and Ms. Rabin responded saying she could "neither confirm nor deny" that the incident occurred. Beverly Hills Educational Foundation president and current history teacher Stewart Horowitz said assistant principals "serve at the whim of the administration" and that reasons for teacher lay-offs can often by "petty". Unlike teachers after reaching tenure, every year is a gamble for an assistant principal's job. Like Moulton, Ms. Rabin is a cherished staff member of BHHS and students and teachers alike are wondering if there are factors involved in Stepenosky's recent recommendations to release staff members other than actual performance. The reasons for the layoffs simply have not been given, and the board of education almost always approves principal recommendations for non re-elections of staff members.

      The list of staff members that are suddenly "resigning" continues. So far, counselor Elliot Bowles and physics teacher Kevin Kung have also resigned. This comes during a time when non re-election recommendations are being given, when in fact, teachers have until June 30 to announce their resignation. The March 15 deadline to non re-elect staff members is fast approaching, and the timing of the recent resignations are undeniably more than just coincidence. When confronted with the question of the peculiar timing of such "resignations", a smiling Dr. Stepenosky said he could not comment on the matter. In a similar fashion, Mr. Kung declared he was resigning for "personal reasons" but would not elaborate further. It is unknown how many more staff members will be fired, but according to Dr. Stepenosky, the school will inevitably lose more teachers this year for one reason or another. 

      Like so much that goes on behind closed doors at Beverly Hills High School, this is a topic that very few people are willing to talk about, and the secrecy just seems to make suspicions increase. As Andrew Steinberg so candidly put it, "it's something that's not supposed to be talked about."

- Zack Anderson


Coach Elford Attempts to Assault Student - Police Respond 

      It's Wednesday, February 18. There's a crisp morning breeze and the sun is hidden behind a few clouds. As PE students run the track, an explosive mixture is brewing between a coach and a student. An explosive mixture that would result in police intervention, disciplinary action for the student, and a mysterious leap of absence on the coach's behalf.

      An incident first occurred on Tuesday, February 17 when Sophomore Mani Merab punched
a girl during 3rd period PE class. The following day, Mani's coach Jeff Elford confronted Mani about the incident that happened the previous day. Within seconds, the discussion between the two became heated. Mani started poking fun at the coach. At that point the argument turned violent. In a fit of rage, coach Elford threw his clipboard to the ground and it cracked in two. As the student became more physical with his curses, motioning to Elford as he lashed out calling the coach names, coach Elford became increasingly raveled up in the heat of the moment. After Elford gave various warnings saying "I could take a swing at you!" with his fist raised high in the air, Elford hit his boiling point and made a threatening lunge at Mani. Coach Elford had his fists up and threatened to punch the student. As Coach Elford made a lunge at the self-assured student, coach Edelman and Vonzie Paysinger broke up the fight in time before Elford actually took a swing at the student.

      A crowd grew around the incident and various students could not believe what they were seeing. Tensions soon subsided however, and a squad car from the Beverly Hills police department responded to make sure tempers were in fact cooled. After a discussion with the parties involved in the dispute, the officer left. 

      Following the incident coach Elford took a leap of absence for over one week. Both assistant principal David Hoffman and Coach Howard Edelman refused to comment on Elford's actions that day and the reasons behind his prolonged absence. Mr. Hoffman could neither confirm nor deny whether Elford's absence was due to his being temporarily suspended by the administration. When asked about his absence, coach Elford contemplated for a minute and then said with a clear tone of voice that he had left due to a case of bronchitis.

Submitted by: Sarah Kim

This story was submitted by a freelance writer, Beverly Underground tried its best to verify all information contained herein

Edited and checked by: Zack Anderson


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