East Williston teacher, school district agree to terms of settlement

The East Williston school district and suspended teacher Matthew Haig agreed on the terms of a settlement on Wednesday, putting a hold on disciplinary hearings against Haig.

Neither side would discuss the terms of the agreement, and it would not be final until the East Williston school board votes on it Aug. 26. The board’s approval would bring an end Haig’s case said his lawyer, Andrew Costello, which has caused a four-month outcry in the small, closely knit school district.

“My sense is he’s relieved that this is finally going to pass, and his goal all along was to be back in the classroom on Sept. 1, the first day of school,” said Wes Berkowitz, a retired Wheatley guidance counselor and close friend of Haig’s.

But because the settlement is confidential, it’s uncertain whether Haig would actually be in class that day, Berkowitz said.

The agreement came after seven hours of talks at the Wheatley School on a day when supporters of Haig, a 30-year social studies teacher, expected the start of hearings in which the district would have sought his termination. Stuart Bauchner, the independent hearing officer in Haig’s case, “pulled the two sides together” in the negotiations, Berkowitz said.

Talks started in July, when Haig and the district agreed to some terms of a settlement on which the district reneged, Haig said Wednesday morning. School board President Mark Kamberg rejected that, saying the two sides only agreed to continue talks.

“I’m pleased that there’s an agreement in principle, and that’s a good step towards resolution of the issue,” Kamberg said Wednesday evening.

The district charged Haig in May with insubordination, neglect of duty and conduct unbecoming a teacher, stemming from incidents in which he physically touched students and discussed his personal life in class after being told not to. The district also alleged he failed to keep proper track of textbooks and submit weekly lesson plans to administrators.

Wheatley School students, parents and alumni say the school district has unfairly targeted Haig. The district cannot legally discuss the details of his case but says it protects teachers’ due process rights and is obligated to respond to all concerns brought to its attention.

Haig and the district had previously discussed a letter of reprimand being placed in his personnel file to which he could respond, and whether he would serve a paid suspension in addition to the time he has already been suspended.

By Noah Manskar

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