Teacher questions dismissal

By Tony Parra

Portales school board members met Tuesday to discuss the budget and bid concerns, but those issues took a back seat to discussion of the termination of a long-time Portales school teacher.
Kay Jilek, a teacher with Portales schools for 25 years, told the school board Monday she was given no reason for her termination, which she said occurred after she gave a student a zero on an exam for cheating earlier in the school year.
Jilek said she believes the grade may have been a reason for her termination, but hinted that an e-mail she wrote to administrators seeking change at the school may have also played a role.
Board members went into an unscheduled executive session prior to hearing Jilek speak. They took no action following her presentation.
“I am not an eloquent speaker, it’s difficult for me to do this,” Jilek said as she cleared her throat during the presentation. “I developed a professional development plan (for student improvement) which principal Melvin Nusser observed for one hour. There were three pages of observation and everything was great.
“On April 30th there were three areas of concern which developed for Mr. Nusser, all developed from one student very close to the principal. It’s not an overall outlook from all of the students. This student I caught cheating and I gave this student a zero.”
Jilek said a year after she got positive feedback from Nusser on the development plan she was given a letter of termination.
“There was nothing in between the observation and the notice. I asked Mr. (Superintendent Jim) Holloway to rescind it and two days later he wrote a letter not rescinding it. I asked for reasons.”
Murphy Quick, Portales schools finance director, said he could not comment on personnel issues. Holloway was on vacation and not present at the meeting.
Jilek said teachers were asked to respond to an e-mail from the high school’s administration at the end of the year with ideas on how to improve PHS the following year.
“We (teachers) received an e-mail to prioritize what needed to be improved in the school,” Jilek said. “We had to write down solutions to the problems and e-mail them to (a PHS teacher). I was one of only four teachers who responded to the e-mail out of 50. They didn’t really want to know what was wrong. I was criticized for stating solutions to the problems.”
Jilek said she received a letter of termination on May 6. Jilek said she worked as a math teacher for two years at the high school and taught another 23 years at Portales Junior High.
“I don’t know the reason I was not wanted back,” Jilek said. “I’ve been branded a poor teacher.”
Jilek told the board she received a good evaluation this year from her students, and was always willing to help them if she had any problems in class.
Jilek was also the coach of the junior varsity volleyball team.
In other business at the board meeting:
• Tillery Chevrolet dealerships in Albuquerque won the bid for a 2004 pickup for the maintenance department. The winning bid was $22,328.
Hamilton General Motors of Portales and Clovis entered a bid for $27,500. A Texas dealership entered a bid of $21,715, but Quick said state law prevents the board from accepting an out-of-state bid unless it’s at least 5 percent below the lowest New Mexico bid.