In a board meeting with more than 70 “Porter Supporters” on Monday night, Keith Pedigo wanted to talk about someone else.
Pedigo, whose oldest daughter is in first grade at Sangamon Elementary, wanted to illustrate how the reassignment of Lincoln Trail’s Assistant Principal Courtney Porter impacts others, too.
Pedigo began his comments to the board with an overview of why people move to Mahomet.
“For the schools,” he said. “We have a great community, great houses, the park is here, taxes might be a little high, but hey, the school district is awesome.”
But Pedigo said that the thing that makes the school district great is the teachers.
Two days prior to the 2017-2018 school year, when the majority of students knew the name of their teacher, Pedigo’s daughter was still waiting on the name of her teacher because the district had not filled that position.
“We all get excited about who your teacher is going to be, right? We get giddy about it.
“And you’re always wanting what is best for your kid. But two days before school starts, who is my daughter’s teacher? We don’t know.”
Pedigo said that his daughter loves school. She wants to be a scientist when she grows up.
“But she needs good experiences in these young years,” he said.
With just two days until his daughter walked into Sangamon Elementary, Pedigo thought all the qualified and experienced teachers would already have jobs, so his daughter would have a teacher who wouldn’t fill her needs.
But then the Mahomet-Seymour School District turned to certified teacher Robin Holmes to be that first-grade teacher for the 2017-2018 school year.
Among Mahomet-Seymour teachers, Holmes has been described as a desired substitute. Many teachers have said when Holmes is in the classroom, they know their students are being taken care of.
Holmes stepped in as a long-term kindergarten substitute teacher for the 2016-2017 school year when a teacher had to take a leave of absence due to an illness.
Pedigo said that his daughter has had a phenomenal first-grade year because Holmes stepped up to the plate.
“Not only did she step in, but she stepped up,” Pedigo said.
“She is a phenomenal teacher,” he said. “She’s kind, graceful, patient, loving.”
“She came in there like nothing had ever happened. Two years in a row, she filled a void for you guys.”
“My daughter loves class.”
In a crowd filled with neon orange Porter Supporter t-shirts, Pedigo, who has never met Ms. Porter, turned to the crowd, asking “who is here for Ms. Porter?”
After everyone raised their hands, he asked who was there for Ms. Holmes?
A handful of people raised their hands.
“We’re like a silent minority,” he said.
“But what I’ve heard is happening, is that in order to find a place for Ms. Porter, you have to open up a place in first grade, and you displace Ms. Holmes.”
“You treat her like she’s nothing, when for two years in a row, she’s stepped up, she stepped in.”
“We’re here because of the school district. All of us are here, we moved here, I moved here twelve years ago because of the great schools. This awesome building (Middletown Prairie) wasn’t in the plans back then.
“But the teachers who fill these classrooms, that’s what’s going to make this place special for years to come.”
Pedigo noted that the Mahomet-Seymour School District has been ranked within the top 50 school districts in the state.
“And that number should keep going higher and higher and higher. And the way you do that is by keeping wonderful teachers.
“Diamonds. Not diamonds in the rough. Not potentially great teachers, but amazing teachers that can stay there forever.
And I have a feeling that Ms. Porter is a diamond.”
Pedigo acknowledged that Holmes might be able to find a job somewhere else, but he said, “she’s a great teacher. She’ll land somewhere, right? But we want her here.”
“You cannot let these diamonds go.”
The Mahomet-Seymour School Board “dismissed” Robin Holmes during the March 12 Mahomet-Seymour School Board meeting.
Holmes was a first-year non-tenured district employee.