Principal resigns following criminal investigation of teacher


by Crystal Cruz

Posted on March 14, 2013 at 9:46 PM

Updated Monday, Mar 18 at 4:44 PM

TONTO BASIN, Ariz. -- Brandy Cline recently pulled her four children out of Tonto Basin Elementary School in Gila County.

“There's a school one mile away that I don't feel safe that I can send my kids to,” said Cline.

The concerned mother made the decision after learning the Gila County Sheriff's Office is investigating one of the school’s teachers.

Sergeant Brian Havey told 3TV that teacher Kari McCleskey is being investigated for harassing and intimidating her students.

Havey would not share details as the criminal investigation is on-going.

“The children are supposed to be protected and safe when they're at school," said Cline.

While no charges have been filed against the teacher, Cline doesn't understand why McCleskey's allowed to continue teaching. She claims students are uncomfortable in McCleskey’s classroom.

"They feel like they're being threatened by this teacher,” said Cline.

Katy Taylor's kids also no longer attend the school. Taylor claims some staff members bully students, creating a hostile learning environment.

"I just felt like it wasn't a safe place to be,” said Taylor.

Shayla Rose feels the same way and recently removed her 5 kids. Rose was unhappy with the school principal and superintendent, Mary Lou Weatherly.

“The environment is not conducive with learning at all,” said Rose.

Both the principal and the school district's attorney, Jill Osborn refused to comment. 3TV tried asking McCleskey but got nowhere.

McCleskey said, “I don't have an investigation,” as she drove away from our reporter, Crystal Cruz, in her truck.

According to the State Board of Education, of the 200,000 teachers and administrators in Arizona, 500 of them are being investigated for criminal or unprofessional conduct.

Executive Director Vince Yanez said these teachers can continue teaching.

“Even though there's an ongoing criminal investigation the district has the authority to weigh the evidence, weigh what the allegations are and then make a determination as to whether or not that teacher needs to be removed from classroom, placed on suspension or whether that teacher can continue to teach,” said Yanez.

On Tuesday, Weatherly surprised parents at a packed school board meeting. She is resigning effective this June.

At the meeting one parent told Weatherly, “Your people skills need to be honed.”

Another parent told the audience, “Ms. Weatherly is trying to better the education of our kids."

Both Weatherly and McCleskey have clean teaching records.

Another parent who did not want to speak on-camera described McCleskey as a caring person and good teacher.

A few years ago the Payson Roundup ran a positive story about her teaching style.

Another parent told us McCleskey should stay in the classroom as she hasn't been charged with a crime.

The Gila County Attorney's Office requested more details from the sheriff's office before accepting the case.

We're told investigators gathered the information and plan on returning the case to the Attorney's Office this week.

The County Attorney would not comment citing this case as ongoing and pending.