Despite impassioned protests by students and parents, a longtime teacher at Aragon High School was fired Thursday night amid rumors of alleged misconduct.
The San Mateo Union High School District board of trustees met in a closed session for what they described as a “personnel matter,” an hour after approximately 50 students and a dozen parents — many wearing T-shirts and carrying signs reading “Free Faustine” — gathered to rally for veteran teacher Bill Faustine.
Faustine, 58, who taught psychology, engineering and physics at Aragon High and has taught at various Peninsula schools for 34 years, was placed on administrative leave about a month ago for alleged misconduct.
District officials have remained mum on the specifics of the case, but Faustine said the complaints stemmed from comments he made in an Advanced Placement psychology class on the psychology of sex.
He said the district has mishandled the situation, due in part to one administrator’s “personal vendetta against me.”
District Superintendent David Miller would not comment on the specifics of the case, but called Faustine’s comment “nonsense.”
Since Faustine’s removal, students and parents said rumors have been rampant in the school about why the teacher — who many students say is among the best they’ve had — was removed. When they heard he might be permanently removed, they decided to take matters into their own hands, organizing a rally with the help of a Facebook petition, said 16-year-old Masha Arbisman, an AragonHigh student.
Lourdes Zolezzi, whose 17-year-old daughter Jackie is an Aragon High senior, said Faustine’s absence has hurt the students academically.
“We want the teacher back,” she said. “[His absence] has done damage to my daughter, to all students. Everyone is getting held back because of this.”
During the closed-door session Thursday night, students marched outside, garnering honks and waves from passing cars. When the board announced its verdict an hour later, some students began to cry and hold one another.
Among those who were angry and confused was Arnaud Dazin, 18, a former student.
“They shouldn’t have been holding a hearing about whether he should be fired — they should be holding a hearing on whether he should be California’s teacher of the year,” he said.
Faustine, reached after the board’s decision, said that he would not go down without a fight. He said his attorney will be appealing the decision.
Examiner Staff Writer Mike Aldax contributed to this story.