Part One; “Keep your head down and your mouth shut and in two years you can do whatever you want.”
MERCED, CA – Two years ago Mikendra McCoy came to Merced, CA with her family when she was hired by the Merced Union High School District and employed as a teacher. For her and her family it meant less time for her husband to commute and a small town with a great new school to work at and raise her family. “I thought I would retire here.” She said to MCNTV News in a phone interview.
But McCoy would quickly come to learn that the MUHSD rewards those teachers who “keep their heads down and mouths shut” and those with integrity and a real desire to help our children find their path to higher education… well, those teachers either conform or find themselves relieved of duty just without reason. And according to McCoy that is what happened to her.
McCoy began the first of her two years with MUHSD as a Speech and Debate coach with El Capitan High School in 2014. The school was recently built in 2013 at a cost of $85 million dollars and is hailed as Merced’s most technologically advanced school with a stat-of-the-art auditorium, WiFi and much much more. But according to McCoy, there are a lot of teachers who have been taught by their leadership to “keep your head down and your mouth shut.” McCoy said in a phone interview with MCNTV News. “For most of the year I was at El Capitan I sobbed and found it so disheartening that no one really cared about our students especially within my department.”
While at El Capitan, McCoy came across information that stipend monies were available for teachers to help cover extra costs associated with campus clubs, school newspapers, and even the speech and debate team. McCoy is an 18 year veteran teacher and mentor who taught speech and debate at Clovis East High School, which is part of the Clovis Unified School District. McCoy currently has a 4.52 rating based on 50 teacher ratings by parents and students at RateMyTeacher.com. She is also a very accomplished private speech coach and has helped young intellectual debaters like Chris Colfer go on from Clovis High’s Speech and Debate team to achieve the confidence needed as a Hollywood actor. Colfer became a speech and debate champion, with a then Ms. McCoy as his mentor. (She has a cameo in the film as Carson’s science teacher and has since married.) Read more about Mrs McCoy by clicking on this link – http://www.3pspeech.com/#!mikendra-mccoy/c10y6
McCoy said that she reached out to the speech and debate teachers who were receiving the stipends of nearly $3,000 per year only to find that the teachers were using the money for other than what it is listed for on the official “Personnel Report #5” dated November 18, 20145 and submitted to the IRS. One teacher, Tina Spurlock, who is listed as the El Capitan High School’s Speech and Debate team’s Director of Speech and Debate, but she apparently has never taught the course or prepared students to compete for full scholarship funds. Instead, it is alleged that Spurlock uses the money to fund a trip for herself to Holland and has students raise funds to go with her. Spurlock, along with 14 other teachers receive an extra $320.00 for “Active Threat Training Stipend.” Our calls to the school’s principal have not been returned.
MCNTV News called Atwater High School and asked why the school is paying $1,241.39 each in “extra duty stipends” to both David Svendsen and Nathan Braga for their extra duty as the school’s “Newspaper Advisor’,” when the school has not had a newspaper in at least 5 years. We were told by a Vice Principal that they may be a part of the Yearbook advisory and she would transfer us to that department. We left a message but no return call as of this writing. It is also important to note that there is a Yearbook Advisor listed for Atwater High School named Claudia Maravilla who earns an extra $3,475.90.
Other stipends include Merced High School, Buhach Colony High School, Golden Valley High School, Livingston High School, Merced Adult School, Yosemite High School and Sequoia High School in amounts of $11,000 to a couple hundred dollars. (CLICK ON PAGES BELOW TO ENLARGE)
MCNTV News has called the MUHSD and left messages for the superintendent to discuss the stipend funds and other discrepancies we found, but we have not received an email statement or a return call as of this writing.
“When I transferred to Golden Valley High School I just wanted to do things for the campus because it was such an amazing culture.” McCoy said. “I subbed in the band room in week three for one of the classes that couldn’t get covered and the band room was a mess. I got the students involved in a community service project and we were able to get Lowes and Home Depot to donate over $1,000 each in products. I got a contractor to donate his time and he came in and put up shelves for all the trophies that were on the floor or were being stolen by students for fun. We lined the hallway with plywood because when the band would take out their cases and wheel them out for concerts, the cases would sometimes hit the walls and they were getting banged up and looked pretty bad. We also painted the entire hallway.
I also started the Cougar Club and we collected clothing and warm coats and gathered them on campus where we gave them to our students and their families who needed them. It was a culture I wanted to be a part of and part of me is still so numb I still want to, but I don’t want to work for a district that doesn’t want me and truthfully the non re-elect says that is not even an option if I want to be here.”
“When I asked if I could help coach the team at El Capitan after I had already transferred to Golden Valley, I was told by the assistant principal Mr. Shaw, “Yeah, I think it’s better that you don’t come on campus. We have our teachers doing that.”” McCoy started and trained the debate team last year.
On March 15, 2016, McCoy was told that she was unfit for Merced Union High School without telling her what made her unfit. She believes the district could not give a reason, which would have given her the ability to prove that she was more than fit to be a MUHSD teacher.
MCNTV News was able to speak with several teachers and parents, but most wished to remain off the record except for one brave mother and daughter from Merced, CA. “My daughter Stephanie is a senior at Golden Valley High School,” said Patti Moore. ” I don’t know why the district is letting her go and so I cannot speak about that. But I can tell you that Mrs McCoy is considered the best teacher my daughter ever had by my daughter and that’s saying a lot.”
Stephanie Moore recently won a $1,000 A. Dale Lacky/CSEA Scholarship and considers McCoy a big reason for her success. “My daughter had to write an essay and then present it in front of the judges.” Patti Moore said. “Mrs. McCoy, who taught my daughter’s AP Government class, worked with my daughter personally for a month. She broke down her speech and taught my daughter to deliver a winning performance.”
Stephanie also has a 4.28 GPA making her number one in her class at Golden Valley High School. “My daughter and I are extremely sad that the district is letting her go, especially because Steph’s younger sister, who is a sophomore now, wont get the opportunity to have Mrs McCoy as a teacher. She has always gone above and beyond.”
Many Speech and Debate Teams enter competitions around the nation and have the opportunity to win scholarships that can pay for their entire education.
MCNTV News has seen McCoy’s employment reviews from December 2015 and found only positive comments. One 21 year Advanced Placement Government teacher from Golden Valley said this in a letter of recommendation for McCoy dated March 11, 2016;
“Mikendra is unique from any teacher I have worked with. She seems to have an unending bank of knowledge on many subjects. She is quick to learn and unafraid to tackle any task laid before her. She taught English last year and this year took on the difficult assignment of teaching AP US Government. As I teach the same subject, I found my first year of teaching Advanced Placement to be quite challenging. Mikendra was always prepared with an interesting and thought-provoking lesson and had a great feel for the pace and direction of the class. She spearheaded new clubs on campus like the Debate Club and Speech Club that have attended and won numerous awards in our region. Mrs. McCoy is excellent when it comes to relating with the students she serves. She displays patience in dealing with students who struggle with classroom assignments and is able to challenge higher level students to go above and beyond the minimum standards. In an amazingly short period of time, Mrs. McCoy has gained the respect of the students in her classroom and colleagues on our campus.”
Over 50 students and parents attended the School Board’s April 13th meeting and spoke on behalf of McCoy in the hopes that the board members would reconsider their decision to let a great teacher go. Parents also wrote many letters attesting to McCoy’s character and dedication to their children’s education. A Twitter account was started by the students called GV News McCoy.
But none of that would matter to the MUHSD School Board and within 12 hours of the board meeting they returned a verdict that she would not be reinstated and her dismissal without reason would not be overturned.
“My issue is not that I am being let go.” McCoy said to MCNTV News, “but I do have an issue like the way they didn’t even follow their own internal protocol. My concern is that as an educator I told my kids that their voice matters, so I am devastated when the system that I tell them to believe in, legitimately just shuts them down. So what are we actually teaching our students? That it isn’t the rules and it’s not the structure and that we don’t have integrity?
I really am not a feminist but I really do think it’s a good ole boys club. People told me “keep your face down, keep your mouth shut, keep your head down, don’t talk about this, you’re on your probationary time.” And I kept thinking you know, I live by Popeye’s motto, “I am what I am.” I’m not going to be something I’m not and what district would want a teacher that’s going to fake it for two years and then turn into this horrendous thing that they can’t get rid of? Why would they want somebody to lie about who they are? I was in Clovis District and the rule was “Don’t win? Don’t stay.” Like I understand the politics but I have never been exposed to something that is just so shady.”
MCNTV News believes that the district has lost another great teacher that could have led our students and other teachers around her to great achievements in education. But as what happens to people who are educated and question their department chairs, principals, and superintendents when they see misappropriation of funds or cover-ups of teachers drunk or under the influence of illegal drugs at work, they are no longer needed by the district and released to achieve greatness for another school district and their students.
Coming next Monday in our two-part series regarding MUHSD