BEEBE, Ark. – A 70-year-old Beebe special education teacher is requesting a public hearing to fight the district’s recommendation to terminate her contract after she said they changed her job description during the pandemic.
For 15 years, Paula Heffington has stood at the front of the same classroom teaching special needs kids at Beebe Middle School. This was the first year she wondered if she should continue.
“I’m a 70 year old woman, 71 next month. I have a heart condition, I have asthma,” Heffington said.
Despite those concerns, she decided to return. Just a couple weeks from the first day of class, she said the district changed her schedule and was requiring her to teach at two different campuses in two different towns every day. She believes this would just increase her exposure to COVID-19.
“They were double exposing me to two different environments. For me to take the risk is just crazy,” Heffington said.
She met with the principal asking him to change his mind and even sent a doctor’s note. She said they wouldn’t budge and when that first day rolled around, she did not show up.
“If I went back I would be saying ‘yes I’m going to go between two schools.’ My life, what life I have left means more to me to take that chance,” Heffington said.
Heffington said both the principal and superintendent asked her to resign in person and in a letter but she said no. They then sent her another letter, recommending the board terminate her contract and advising she could request a public hearing in front of the school board.
“I’m going to stand up for what I think is right because I’m not the only teacher that’s been done this way and I won’t be the last teacher ever done this way,” Heffington said.
Heffington sent the letter requesting a public hearing Monday. No date has been set.
When asked about the termination and public hearing, The Beebe School District released this statement:
“The Beebe School District’s top priority is student and staff safety. The district is proud of the 415 employees who come to work every day and serve our students. The district has followed and will continue to follow all guidelines from the Arkansas Department of Health, CDC, and Department of Education concerning safety for students and staff. Due to this being a personnel issue, under state law, the Beebe School District has no comment concerning the situation.”