Despite the protest of several hundred students at Glendale High School, officials of the Glendale Unified School District this week declined to hold a staff position for an English teacher who will spend two years teaching at a missionary school in Africa.
The district's decision came after a school board meeting last week when student leaders handed officials a petition signed by more than 400 students asking that teacher Paul Burghdorf be guaranteed his job when he returns to Glendale.
The students said Burghdorf is an excellent teacher who is able to motivate them through challenging assignments and classroom techniques that "make you want to learn," said Bob Mulcahey, senior class president.
After conferring with board members, Supt. Robert Sanchis said in a letter to students Monday that the district cannot change its policy on leave of absences. Under that policy, which has been agreed to by the Glendale Teachers' Assn. in collective bargaining, teachers' jobs are guaranteed for a maximum of one year when they are away on unpaid leave.
In his letter to students, Sanchis praised Burghdorf's ability but said any policy allowing two-year leaves must be worked out with the teachers' union during contract talks.
"We have the utmost respect for Mr. Burghdorf and the outstanding professional qualities he contributes to the Glendale High School faculty," Sanchis stated. But, he added, "By law, the board does not have the authority to act unilaterally by taking action on its own to modify the policy."
On Staff Since 1967
Sanchis said the district "will make every effort" to rehire Burghdorf, with no loss in seniority or salary, if there is a job opening when he returns.
Burghdorf has been a teacher with the district since 1967.
Students said they were disappointed but not surprised by the district's decision.
"We were hopeful the district would make an exception because he is an extremely creative and unique teacher, but we were sort of expecting this," sophomore Kim Anderson said. "I think what the district is doing is close-minded, going by the textbook. The district is going to be losing a lot."
Students said that Burghdorf will be leaving sometime this summer to teach in Kenya and possibly other African countries.
"Future students are going to miss out because he is really an inspiration to everybody," Mulcahey said.