Originally created 07/03/97

Columbia schools refuse to hire back shop teacher



APPLING - Capping the longest personnel hearing school officials could recall, the Columbia County school board voted unanimously Wednesday not to give teacher Bruce Kueber his job back.

An auto shop teacher who split time between Harlem and Evans high schools this past year, Mr. Kueber's contract was not renewed for the 1997-98 school year on charges of insubordination and use of profanity in school.

Wednesday's hearing was the third installment of the teacher's appeal, which began with an all-day affair in late May and continued last month with another lengthy session. It was the longest appeal Richmond County school attorney Pete Fletcher, who represented Columbia County in this case, could remember participating in. Mr. Fletcher has been a school board attorney for 26 years.

"This is the toughest thing I've been through in a long time," said school board chairman Ray Hicks. "You're talking about someone's livelihood here."

Mr. Kueber's attorney, Jack Batson, portrayed him as a victim of budget cutting and retribution of school administrators who bristled at his independent nature.

Mr. Kueber accused school administrators of lying to him and ruling with "J. Edgar Hooverism." He also contends that he never signed a contract to work at both schools and only knew that he would be traveling between them a week before school started.

"There's no discussion anymore - just rule," Mr. Kueber said.

Mr. Batson said making Mr. Kueber, who began teaching in Columbia County in 1990, split time between two schools was an experiment to "see if Kueber could be Superman."

Mr. Batson said Mr. Kueber will probably appeal the decision in court.