Bourassa abruptly resigns
ASHLAND -- For the second consecutive month, the husband of a Hanover County teacher appealed to Hanover County School Board members to address the issue of classroom violence against teachers.
Clifton Parker previously recounted episodes of violence and personal attacks against his wife waged by a student in her class, and expressed his frustration at the lack of action by school officials regarding the assaults.
“I don’t understand why the administration would ignore teachers with multiple master degrees and not follow their recommendation for troubled students,” Parker said. “I’m shocked that Hanover County Public Schools does not have a Health and Safety policy, and it seems the policy is get back to work — no compassion or asking if you are OK,” Parker said.
“My next door neighbor was Teacher of the Year and was punched in the face in a middle school class a couple of weeks ago,” he told the school board. “Henrico has a special school for violent and troubled kids. I’m not sure why Hanover doesn’t.”
Parker said the code of conduct is not being followed, and teachers “are afraid to speak out in fear of retaliation or losing their job.”
Henry District resident Ashley O’Dell echoed those sentiments. “I’m here tonight because I’m extremely concerned about how discipline issues are handled within the schools system,” O’Dell said. “After hearing from teachers and parents from across the county I have discovered that the behaviors described by the teacher’s husband at last month’s meeting are a common occurrence in Hanover County.”
She listed a number of concerns raised by her inquiries. “Teachers are being physically and verbally abused by students and are being dissuaded from submitting office referrals,” O’Dell said. “This is unacceptable.”
O’Dell listed a myriad of objectionable behavior exhibited by troubled students, including slapping, biting, verbal abuse and physical threats. She said those behaviors are affecting every student exposed to the abuse and could become “desensitized” to the abhorrent behavior.
“This means the education and learning potential of 40-plus students is being interrupted and compromised because of one child,” O’Dell said.
Cold Harbor District school board representative Norman Sulser is urging school officials to take a close look at that Henrico County facility and study options available to address how to deal with troubled and violent youths in Hanover classrooms.
Perhaps the biggest news emerging from the school board occurred after last week’s meeting adjourned as chairman Roger Bourassa announced his resignation from the board effective Dec. 31.
Bourassa, whose term expires in 2022, took the leadership reins in January and also served as CodeRVA vice chair, and as a member of the Finance Committee and Joint Education Committee.
In a statement released Friday afternoon, Bourassa said, “It has been my sincere honor to serve on the School Board, and I am grateful to Mr. Peterson and the Board of Supervisors for this opportunity. I have been fortunate to work collaboratively and strategically with my fellow board members on many positive and meaningful accomplishments during my tenure, and I will miss them,” Bourassa said
He also acknowledged the dedication of staff and administration.
“I will also miss Dr. Gill and his staff, who dedicate their hearts and souls to meeting the complex and ever-changing needs of our students. Under such strong leadership, I am confident that Hanover County Public Schools’ tradition of excellence will endure,” said Bourassa.
Coupled with a vacancy on the South Anna seat, Bourassa’s departure leaves the school board with five members. The board of supervisors is expected to announce a public hearing to accept nominations for the open seats in the coming weeks.
“Mr. Bourassa has served our students and community with honor and distinction. I have enjoyed working with Roger and could not have asked for a more dedicated appointee to represent our district on the School Board,” said board of supervisors chairman Canova Peterson in a released statement.
“I am grateful for his many contributions to ensure our school division remains a leader in education. While I will miss him, I understand and respect his decision. He will be difficult to replace,” Peterson added.
“Roger Bourassa has the heart of a servant leader. He has been a passionate advocate for our students, our school division, and our county. I am thankful for the opportunity to have worked with him. He will certainly be missed,” said Dr. Michael Gill, superintendent of Hanover County Public Schools.
Also at last week’s meeting, the board recognized outgoing South Anna school board representative Sue Dibble as she embarks on a new assignment representing the district on the board of supervisors.
“During the past six and a half years, I have had the unique opportunity as a school board representative, to interact with, to get to know, and to truly care about our students and their families,” Dibble said last week. “I am leaving a job that I have absolutely loved! I am also very proud of the initiatives, policies and facility improvements that have been accomplished during my tenure.”
Dibble will replace Wayne Hazzard on the board of supervisors and said she is anxious to begin the next challenge.
“I now embrace this new opportunity to continue to serve South Anna and Hanover County in a much larger capacity and I sincerely thank my constituents for the faith they have in me to be a successful member of the Hanover County Board of Supervisors,” Dibble added.
In other news, Monday, Dec. 23, will now be a holiday for all county employees, including those on 12-month.