Maxwell students rally to keep popular teacher

Teachers and students rallied to keep a popular high school teacher at the April 11 meeting of the Maxwell Unified School District Board of Trustees. 

The school board last month had voted not to re-elect Paul Gadbois, the high school’s English teacher, which sparked protest from the Maxwell Teachers Association and his current and former students. 

The teachers union met March 27 to discuss the board’s decision not to grant tenure to Gadbois, who has taught in the district since 2016. California law requires school boards to notify teachers after just 16 months of teaching that they will be out of a job the following school year. 

“After discussion, the Association is requesting that the non-reelect be rescinded immediately,” said representative John Patterson, who teaches English at the middle school. 

Students filled the high school library for last week’s meeting. During the public comment period, they read letters they wrote or letters written by former students. The school board also received a number of letters directly.  

“Teachers that genuinely care for their students and show up to work every day with the goal to better the lives of his or her students are hard to come by,” wrote Wyatt Charter, a 2017 Maxwell High School graduate. “Our school unfortunately lost one of those teachers last year in Mrs. Molchen and I feel that it would be foolish to let another one leave following this school year. During my senior year, Mr. Gadbois volunteered to coach our basketball team, along with photographing multiple events for the yearbook and local newspaper. He showed up to work every day with a smile on his face and a positive attitude. He taught us not only English and writing, but valuable life skills that often go untouched in our public education system, such as doing taxes, operating under a budget, job interviews, CVs, resumes – real life skills that translate into the real world. He managed to do all of this while filling out the stacks upon stacks of WASC forms for the school district. And of all the subjects that I have taken so far in college, English is the subject I feel best prepared for. And I know several of my classmates feel the same way. Mr. Gadbois was one of my favorite teachers, and I believe that it would be a big mistake to let him go.” 

Charter wasn’t the only student to express that Gadbois is a favorite at the high school. 

“I am not going to be here next year but my sister will be a junior, and after her I’ll have two more sisters and a little brother who will be in high school,” Bailey Wilson told the board. “I can only hope that they will get the privilege of being taught by Mr. Gadbois because he has taught me so much, and I’ve only had him as a teacher for a year.” 

About a dozen students submitted letters, with most in agreement that Gadbois is an amazing teacher. 

“I think everything that has been said is more powerful than anything I can possibly say,” Gadbois said, after his students spoke. 

Gadbois said his first visit to Maxwell was to attend the Maxwell Rodeo with his family, and he was impressed with how everyone worked together to put out an event that is beyond measure. 

“When folks come together in this town we do wonderful things,” he said. “The Maxwell Rodeo is one. The WASC project was another. It was suppose to be a two-year process. The coordinator is supposed to be trained. I volunteered to do it with six months to do it, no training, and we pulled it off because our staff came together and everybody did their part and did a wonderful (job) on behalf of the board. We came together and got a six year accreditation, which is not that common.”

Gadbois said that he would like to see similar teamwork on other matters in the district. 

“I want to get back to that,” he said. “I want to get back to everybody working together. Realizing who it is that we represent: the students, families, the community. When we are standing together great things happen.”

Gadbois said he comes to work everyday for his students, and that he would like to continue doing that for the rest of his career. 

“This is where I want to be: Maxwell High,” he said. 

Although California open meeting laws prevented the school board from discussing and taking action on Gadbois’ position, Board President Cristy Edwards said she was proud of the students for standing up and speaking. 

“It showed courage,” she said. ■

Editors Note: Paul Gadbois is a sports contributor and independent contractor for the Pioneer Review.