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Misconduct investigation continues

One teacher resigns, second still officially on staff at Sunnyside High

Roses are red;

Violets are blue;

One teacher is gone;

The other's sticking like glue

A series of extremely graphic and sexually explicit poems that students at Sunnyside High School were given to memorize last fall led to two teachers being relieved of their duties in the classroom. Both staff members were placed on paid administrative leave, and both have been receiving their paychecks since then.

That arrangement will be coming to an end for one of the two teachers, however. Sacha Mike submitted a letter of resignation, which was formally approved by the Sunnyside School Board last Thursday.

It appears the other teacher in question, Maria Preston, isn't leaving without exhausting any and all means available to her. Sunnyside Schools Superintendent Dr. Rick Cole confirmed last Friday that district personnel have investigated all avenues to bring the matter to a close, including offering a settlement agreement to Preston.

Initially, back in October 2012, the school district hired an independent investigator to look into the allegations of misconduct. The results of that investigation, sought via a public records request, have not been disclosed because attorneys for the two plaintiffs convinced a Yakima County Superior Court judge to block the release of the documents, as well as other documents such as e-mail correspondence and lesson plans used by the two teachers.

Cole said the matter has been turned over to both the Washington State Office of Superintendent of Public Instruction and the local school district's insurance carrier for independent investigations. He also noted that Sunnyside Deputy Police Chief Phil Schenck has been forwarded the case against Preston, and is awaiting word from Schenck on whether or not criminal charges - related to introducing sexually explicit materials to minors - will be filed against Preston.

The other teacher, Sacha Mike, apparently wasn't using the controversial poems in her classes. She was drawn into the investigation, though, when complaints were lodged about a poster in her classroom that featured several sexually-oriented words deemed by some as offensive. The initial complaints against Mike also included her allowing, and encouraging, students to use profanity-laced language in her classes.

Cole said in accepting Mike's resignation last Thursday, the school board approved a settlement agreement with the teacher. He verified she will receive full pay and benefits through the end of the current school year.

Asked if there was other compensation agreed to, Cole said he couldn't reveal the nature of the settlement agreement "...until such a time it is publicly disclosable."

From a timeline standpoint, Cole said he's hoping to turn over all materials related to the investigations of both Mike and Preston within two to three weeks.

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