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Burlington school guidance director fights to keep teaching license

(WCAX)
Published: Nov. 15, 2018 at 11:55 AM EST
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A Vermont guidance counselor facing the loss of his license is not going down without a fight.

Burlington High School Guidance Director Mario Macias is accused of falsifying student records, creating a hostile working environment and other acts of professional misconduct. Investigators with the Vermont Agency of Education are questioning both his temperament and his competence. The secretary of education is recommending that Macias' teaching license be permanently revoked.

Thursday, Macias was able to face his accusers in a hearing before a state licensing panel. Most of the morning was spent in executive session, as witnesses testified about confidential student information.

The hearing started at about 10 a.m. and wrapped up shortly before 5 p.m. But after seven hours of testimony, the prosecution hasn't even finished its side of the case.

The morning session was largely held behind closed doors because the testimony concerned student records. We know the investigator for the education agency testified, as well as the former Burlington schools superintendent, along with others. In the afternoon, we heard from two witnesses for the prosecution. One was a school counseling expert hired to assess Burlington's program and Macias, and whose report concluded Macias was not qualified for the job. We also heard from a former substitute teacher who said Macias made her feel uncomfortable by repeatedly texting her.

"If a school district hires someone for their director of guidance requiring a master's degree in school guidance and they choose someone who doesn't have that, it's not necessarily all of Mr. Macias' is fault," said Roger Forando, who was commissioned to study the BHS guidance program.

"I felt uncomfortable. I felt like I didn't even work for Burlington High School at the time and I felt... It didn't even make sense to me that an administrator would be having any sort of relationship with me and I certainly wasn't looking for that sort of relationship," said Mollie Bachner, a former substitute teacher at BHS.

The defense questioned the experience of the school counseling expert in conducting surveys that ultimately led to his report concluding Macias was not competent. And they questioned why text messages would have made the teacher uncomfortable.

The prosecution still has a couple more witnesses and the defense has yet to make their case. It will resume again Dec. 13.

Hearings like this one are not common. The agency's investigator told our Cat Viglienzoni that he believes there have only been two cases including this one in the last decade that have made it to this stage. Usually the educator and agency come to another agreement before this, so that it avoids going to hearing.