Former Burlington High School guidance director defends his conduct

Published: Dec. 14, 2018 at 12:46 PM EST
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Burlington High School's embattled guidance director took the stand Friday to defend himself against charges from the state.

We've told you about the charges Mario Macias faces ranging from falsifying a student transcript, creating a hostile working environment and being incompetent at his job. The Vermont Agency of Education wants to revoke Macias' teaching license.

Our Cat Viglienzoni has been at all three days of hearings. It is a very rare case to come before a hearing panel like this. Most cases get settled privately between the agency and the school staff member in question. But Macias has remained adamant he did nothing wrong.

"Surprised. Taken aback." That is what Mario Macias says his reaction was when he learned of the state agency of education's charges against him.

"I was offended," Macias said.

He has fought the charges all the way to the hearing where his license is at stake.

"Never had this happen before to me in my life," Macias said.

When the prosecution witnesses testified over the first two days of hearings, we heard three counselors say they quit because of Macias, saying he created a hostile working environment.

On the stand, Macias didn't deny that it was hostile but placed the blame on staff members who he says were set against him.

"It was a very toxic environment," Macias said. "It was a power struggle with one of the counselors from the beginning and it just continued on. And she led the rest of the group into fighting everything that I tried to do."

Counselors claimed Macias wasn't clear about policy changes within the department. But Macias testified that he was brought in by the administration to address issues and said his changes were met with resistance from current staff.

"A lot of it was the lack of wanting to change, lack of wanting to do anything different than they had done in the past," Macias said.

To the allegations that he made a substitute teacher feel uncomfortable with unprofessional texts, Macias said his conduct was above board. He also addressed a student's testimony that he allowed students to disrupt an AP test. He said he tried to maintain order and followed the test coordinator's direction.

"He gave the direction to let students out early if they completed the test," Macias said.

The hearing did not wrap up Friday, which means Macias' fate will likely not be decided until next year after the defense gets to make its full case.