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Wantagh school board says it can't discuss transfer of popular teacher

Wantagh school board president Elizabeth Guber listens as

Wantagh school board president Elizabeth Guber listens as parents address the board about teacher Denise Burkhard, who was moved to another school, during the meeting Thursday. Credit: Howard Schnapp

Parents from the Mandalay Elementary School in the Wantagh district are pushing for the return of a popular reading teacher who was recently moved from that school to another elementary in the district.

District officials, citing a personnel matter, have not commented on why the teacher was moved, but said in a statement posted on the school's website Friday that the “administration followed applicable policy [and] thoroughly reviewed the facts and circumstances.”

A petition with about 1,000 signatures said Denise Burkhard was moved from Mandalay Elementary for alleged personnel issues unrelated to her abilities. Some parents have worn red in support and created social media pages while protesting her removal.

Jenifer Kramer, a parent whose child attends Mandalay, said Burkhard was moved in November to Wantagh Elementary without word, notification or an explanation to parents. 

"In the following weeks, our students deteriorated as she was not only a reading teacher, but a substantial emotional support for a tremendous amount of students at our school," Kramer said.

Richard Colavita, president of the Wantagh United Teachers, said he could not discuss personnel details, but added the union supports Burkhard’s return to Mandalay. She has worked in the district for at least two decades, he said.

Colavita said he has spoken to the school board president and superintendent about the issue.

"Our wish is for her to move back to Mandalay," he said. "She is one of our own and we are all coming out to support her."

Burkhard could not be reached for comment.
On Friday, the district and Board of Education members posted a statement saying many of the allegations made by some in the community have been inaccurate. There had been claims the district did not follow the rules in moving the teacher and that a replacement teacher did not have the proper credentials, district officials said.

“Unfortunately, those community members who have elected to post and/or otherwise circulate the aforementioned inaccurate allegations and information, have now exacerbated this situation by making what we believe to be unfair, inappropriate and defamatory statements,” read the notice signed by all five board members.

District officials also said they are frustrated they cannot release details of what happened and have been accused of not being transparent.

If an explanation could be provided, “the community would realize that the Superintendent, Central Administration and the Board have acted at all times in the best interests of the students, staff and parents," the statement read.

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