WEST YELLOWSTONE — The School Board here voted unanimously this week not to rehire teacher Katie Rehberg, despite her support from parents and students.
Katie Rehberg, who taught Spanish, government and English as a second language for the school since 2011, is a non-tenured teacher. The School Board decided not to renew her contract without giving a specific reason, which is allowed under Montana law.
Rehberg, parents, students, teachers and community members attended the meeting Tuesday to voice their opinions.
Rehberg, the daughter of former Republican U.S. Rep. Denny Rehberg, read aloud parts of a letter she had written to the board.
“I believe the recommendation for my non-renewal was premature, because I was given no formal feedback on what I should have improved in my teaching,” she read. “I would like to prove to the West Yellowstone School District that I am not just a highly qualified teacher, but highly effective.”
Rehberg said she has received four positive formal evaluations while teaching in the classroom and was given no information on areas that could be improved. She said she has a lot of learning to do to become the teacher she strives to be. She added that she teaches 14 different curricula a week, which has taken some time to adjust to the workload.
“I requested approval to attend professional development opportunities three times this year and was denied all three times,” she read from her letter. “This year has been frustrating for me because I know that I am not achieving my potential. However, I do not believe that what I have achieved is insignificant. I have done my best given my circumstances: 14 curricula, second-year teacher, and no professional development opportunities.”
Rehberg said she’s been actively involved with school functions such as working as the freshman and junior class sponsor and that she has been a member of the Montana Behavioral Initiative Committee for the last two years.
She said she is teaching Irish step dancing, tutoring English Language Learners, teaching conversational Spanish in last year’s Adult Education Program, while also jumpstarting the Spirit of West Yellowstone cheer team.
West Yellowstone Education Association president and English teacher Sherrie Williams asked the board to keep Rehberg.
“I believe there are other options that would heighten Katie’s teaching qualities and would provide her with techniques and strategies that could potentially enhance this outstanding teacher,” Williams read from her letter. “She’s only a second-year teacher and has many years to refine her teaching qualities if given the opportunity to do so.”
Shannon Klatt said Rehberg should not be let go because she helped start the prekindergarten program, teaches English to the Hispanic community two days a week for free, teaches cheerleading and dancing to children, while also restarting the Spirit Club.
“I started a petition around town for three days and had 146 signatures and 10 people that didn’t want to sign it. I believe we will be losing a young, talented teacher in our school and in our community,” Klatt said.
Three students also supported Rehberg at the board meeting.
Eighth-grader Bryce Loomis said he’s been a student at the West Yellowstone School for nine years and has never enjoyed Spanish until he took Rehberg’s class.
“Throughout that semester, I was enjoying the class, and I learned the most I ever have,” Loomis said. “I think she should come back.”
The day after the board didn’t renew Rehberg’s contract, students were out on the school football field, protesting the board’s vote.
Jillian Cree, mother of seventh-grader Arrianna Cree, said she supported her daughter’s decision to protest.
“I’m fully in support of Ms. Rehberg and the kids,” Jillian Cree said. “I don’t think what’s happening is fair.”
Students who did not return to school after lunch were counted absent.