Kingston High School students, staff stand by Vice Principal Andrew Sheber
KINGSTON, N.Y. — Kingston High School students and staff members want their vice principal back.
In the wake of Andrew Sheber being placed on leave after he was charged last weekend with unlawful possession of marijuana, dozens of faculty members and students described the administrator as a special educator who goes the extra mile to make a difference.
Fellow educators regard Sheber, 45, as a bright spot in the school as officials try to bridge achievement gaps that led to the high school’s accountability status under No Child Left Behind falling to “advanced comprehensive restructuring.”
The district announced late Friday that Sheber will be allowed to return to work on July 2 but must pay a $5,000 fine and sacrifice 15 days of pay. Prior to the announcement, dozens of students and educators — and Sheber himself — expressed concern that the situation would cost the vice principal his job.
Kingston High School English teacher Lainie Silverberg said Sheber has been “a key player in the majority of the positive changes that KHS is making.”
“The Carnegie building? That’s his baby,” Silverberg said of the former city library on the high school campus that now houses innovative academic programs. “The implementation of small learning communities? He’s played a major role in establishing the criteria.”
Silverberg, who was a student in Sheber’s Shakespeare class as a Kingston High School senior in 2001 before joining him as a colleague seven years ago, said people make mistakes and that “what he’s done is more important than a mistake he made.”
Sheber, who does not yet have tenure as an administrator, was English teacher at the high school for 11 years before becoming an assistant principal in 2010 and vice principal in 2011. When he was a teacher, Sheber was known for his role as adviser to KHS-TV and for his Shakespeare class.
“As my former teacher, I can’t remember a day he wasn’t excited about what he was doing, which made us excited to enter the world of Shakespeare,” Silverberg said.
As an administrator, Sheber has shown a unique talent for advancing initiatives through the district’s bureaucracy, said KHS art teacher Lara Giordano. Continued...
“He builds bridges and makes things happen,” she said.
At its annual induction ceremony last week, the KHS chapter of the National Honor Society recognized Sheber as its honored educator for 2012, noted Betsy Jordan, a district parent who serves on the school’s Building Leadership Team.
Omar Mahmud, the senior class president, described Sheber in a telephone interview as a caring and attentive administrator. Mahmud also said that, judging from conversations and postings on social media websites, a majority of his peers appear to be upset about the situation and feared Sheber would lose his job.
There even was talk among some students of wearing “Free Andy” T-shirts to school, said KHS Student Government President Joseph Pugliese.
But support for Sheber is not unanimous. Mahmud said some students, particularly those who have been disciplined for having controlled substances, see Sheber as a hypocrite. (Sheber has maintained the marijuana found in his car when he was pulled over for failing to stop at a stop sign in Hunter was not his but belonged to someone he had driven to last weeked’s Mountain Jam concert at Hunter Mountain.)
KHS guidance counselor Alan Aidala used words like “tireless,” “hard-working,” “energetic” and “dynamic” to describe Sheber. Aidala said that during his 28 years with the district, he has seen many administrators come and go and that Sheber stands out as one of the best after just two years as vice principal.
Aidala recalled the case of one troubled student who bounced from home to home. “If you asked me if she’d be graduating in four years, I probably would have said she has too much baggage.”
That was before Sheber came along, Aidala said. He said Sheber reached out to the girl, pushed her to make up the academic ground she had lost and became “a father figure” to her in the process, like he has for many other students. Now, the girl is on track to graduate from KHS on June 22.
Evry Mann, executive director of the Center for Creative Education, which has collaborated with the district in the creation of the Carnegie Learning Center in the old city library building and is working toward leasing the building after school hours, also was among the chorus of people in the KHS community who did not believe “one mistake should wipe out (Sheber’s) many years of service.”
Mann described Sheber as a “visionary” who “really understands the need to transform public education.” When the plan for the Carnegie project still was in its infancy, “he was one of the first people to show up in a really big way,” Mann said. Continued...
Sheber has said he was on his way home from Mountain Jam when he was pulled over by a state trooper on state Route 23A in the Greene County town of Hunter.
According to state police at Catskill, Sheber was ticketed for the violations of failure to stop at a stop sign and unlawful possession of marijuana at 1:01 a.m. Saturday.
Sheber has said someone to whom he gave a ride to the music festival left the marijuana in his car and that he did not smoke any of it. He has not identified the person publicly.
According to documents filed in Hunter Town Court, Sheber had 1 gram of marijuana and a marijuana pipe in the car. (One gram is less than four one-hundreths of an ounce.)
Laurie Naccarato, president of the Kingston Teachers Federation, said Sheber has the support of teachers, parents and students.
“This should not be a career-breaker,” she said.
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