MOUNT VERNON — Suspended Mount Vernon Middle School science teacher John Freshwater was the first witness when his contract termination hearing resumed Thursday. His attorney R. Kelly Hamilton asked him questions regarding items acquired from an anonymous source, whose identity is unknown to Freshwater. Freshwater did say there has been “a lot of speculation” regarding the individual, but the person is still unnamed.
Freshwater also briefly discussed other materials purportedly removed from Freshwater’s classroom by school officials. He said he was somewhat surprised with the “boxes and boxes” of material not previously disclosed by the school board/ school officials. He told Hamilton he would have used the worksheets, tests, quizzes and other items in his defense had he had access to them earlier (than Jan 15, 2010).
His testimony then was put on hold for other scheduled witnesses.
The first was Sherri Perry, who wrote an e-mail to Freshwater and to school officials in 2003. The missive concerned Freshwater’s proposed changes to the science curriculum, and was written in support of Freshwater’s desire to “objectively analyze scientific theory.” Perry said scientific theories other than Charles Darwin’s should be allowed to be presented and discussed in school. When queried by Hamilton, she also said she never heard Freshwater say he wanted to teach intelligent design or creationism.
Lorianne Hubbell, a caretaker for a second student allegedly harmed by Freshwater during the science experiment with an electrostatic device, expressed concerns about that student’s ability to effectively communicate accurately about the incident.
Upon cross-examination by school board attorney David Millstone, Hubbell said she did observe a red mark on the student’s body and recalled the student saying it was “an accident.”
Three former students of Freshwater were individually interviewed after the lunch break. Miranda Baer, Kayla Wells, and Tokala Redman Each said she liked Freshwater’s class and denied hearing him reference religion, his personal beliefs or the Bible in class. Each then described the Tesla coil experiment from her vantage point in the classroom. They stated Freshwater did not hold any volunteer’s arm down while passing the device over students’ arms, and said they heard no complaints of pain at the time.
Upon cross-examination, all three testified a red mark did appear on more than one volunteer’s arm, but was not evident immediately after the “experiment.”
Two of the student witnesses had attended Fellowship of Christian Athletes meetings, and said Freshwater did not actively participate in FCA meetings.
Thursday’s final witness was Ruth Frady, a paraprofessional with the school district. She said she had some concerns about the conclusion drawn by the investigators with HR on Call, especially regarding allegations that Freshwater overstepped his role as monitor/facilitator of FCA.
Frady regularly attended FCA meetings during the 2007-08 school year, she said, and observed students taking charge of the leadership meetings on Mondays and the guest speakers handling the Tuesday FCA general sessions. She said Freshwater was “neutral” in FCA leadership meetings and generally stayed in the back of the room during the general sessions. His reported “participation” in a prayer, Frady explained, was a vocal effort to close the meeting so students could get to their next class on time.
The hearing is scheduled to resume at 9 a.m. this morning.