The final decision: M-S district, Porter mutually agree to part ways

Dozens gathered in Middletown Prairie Elementary School's multipurpose room Monday to hear the Mahomet-Seymour Board of Education's final decision concerning the proposed reclassification of Assistant Principal Courtney Porter to a position in which she is licensed on Monday.

Individuals in orange "Porter Supporter" T-shirts among board supporters reconvened after the board took no further action after approximately two and half hours of closed-session deliberations on April 30.

Twenty individuals once again stood behind the lectern in their hour-long final plea for the administrator or to lend a comforting word of support for the board members' service.

Supportive commentators for Porter included sixth-grade student Brogan Hennesy, who recalled having the "pleasure" of being taught by the Lincoln Trail administrator.

"As I recall back to being in elementary school, two people stand out in my mind. Mark Cabutti (retired Sangamon Elementary School principal) is one and Courtney Porter is the other," Hennesy said. "I do not know how this is going to end for Miss Porter, but I would like to say one thing to her. Thank you. You helped me become who I am today, and I have always been a Porter supporter," he added. "Board members, I recognize your decision and I hope that the decision that you make is the one you truly believe to be correct."

Other students, such as eighth-grader Sophie Deck referred to Miss Porter as a "role model." Sixth-grade student Madelyn Grindley said she was "lucky" to have Porter as an assistant principal and hoped that future generations would, too.

Despite the praises, it was Lincoln Trail interventionist Diane Bollman who shared the reality inside the halls of the elementary school given its current state.

Bollman shared what should be a learning environment has turned into a school that is divided.

"Our staff and students are being encouraged to take sides where there should not be sides," Bollman said. "There is a definite split feeling when I come to work every day."

The interventionist said students would move through the hallways while pumping their fists in the air to state that they, too, were "part of the protest," and others entered the classroom chanting "Porter supporter."

Having questioned the chanting fifth-grader of his or her intentions for sharing the phrase, Bollman said it was obvious to her that the student was unaware of the entire situation.

"This truly makes me sick to my stomach," Bollman said. "What are we doing here? Why are we using 8- to 11-year-old children as pawns in something that they don't even understand, something that is a very adult situation?"

Bollman, like many others, thanked the school board and the superintendent for their willingness to hear each presenter and arrive at what was seemingly a difficult decision. More than anything, however, the interventionist cautioned community members to realize Lincoln Trail is led by more than one individual.

"It's my understanding that some feel that just one person is the face of Lincoln Trail or the heart and soul of our building. I'm personally offended by that," she said. "I wish people understood that Lincoln Trail is a team. The team includes administration, teachers, office staff, aides, custodians, supervisors, cafeteria workers, mentors and I certainly hope I didn't miss anyone that touches the lives of our students within our building every day."

After hearing the community's final say, board members entered closed session where they once again held discussions for over two and half hours. Once reconvened in the multipurpose room, board President Max McComb led his fellow members in their final vote concerning the two presented items.

Board members first tabled a resolution regarding the proposed reclassification of Courtney Porter for a position in which she is licensed. The board then approved a mutual separation agreement from Porter with a 5-0 vote. Board member Jenny Park abstained from the vote, and Merle Giles was absent.

McComb read a statement immediately following, which read:

"On May 7, 2018, by mutual agreement and settlement, the Board of Education of Mahomet-Seymour Community Unit School District No. 3 and Assistant Principal Courtney Porter have decided it is in the best interests of both parties to end their contractual relationship effective immediately.

"The board and Ms. Porter agree that the separation is in the mutual best interests of Ms. Porter and the school district. The board would like to thank Ms. Porter for her years of service to the school district."

The Mahomet Citizen contacted Porter's attorney, Ron Langacker, in an effort to provide further comment, but no reply was provided at press time.

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