After more than two decades at Greenvale Elementary, Julie McQueen left her teaching job, she said, because of a growing feeling that she was going to be fired.
“I felt like they were just adding up paperwork to fire me and I didn’t want them to have that power. I wanted it to be my choice,” McQueen told News 9.
McQueen was still battling cancer when she left the Western Heights School District. She was diagnosed with the disease in 2018.
Throughout the start of the 2020-2021 school year, McQueen admits her attendance was not perfect. Doctors' appointments and sudden illness led her to take off multiple days.
In the fall semester she missed four days, two came from her bank of personal time off and 2.5 days came from sick leave.
In December, Western Heights administration flagged her absences and put McQueen on a Personal Development Plan, which stated her position could be terminated if her attendance did not improve.
McQueen said the notice symbolized a lack of compassion from the district, a sharp change from the previous administration.
“I understand you know not wanting staff to miss a bunch of days, I absolutely understand that,” McQueen said. “But I mean, I’m not going on vacations. I had cancer.”
Sharon Teague, the head of the district’s teacher’s union, said McQueen is not the only staff member to feel a lack of care from administration.
“Her case is not isolated,” she said. “There has been no care and compassion showed by administration to anybody.”
The district’s staff of fulltime teachers has shrunk by about 11% between September 2020 and February 2021, according to the Oklahoma State Department of Education.
The operations, human resources, and athletics directors are all set to retire at the end of this year along with other administrative staff and teachers. While some turnover at a district is to be expected, McQueen said teachers and staff are working under “cut-throat” conditions.
“I never imagined not being at Greenvale. I thought I would retire from there,” she said. “But I just couldn’t do it any longer.”
WHPS Superintendent Mannix Barnes denied commenting unless it was via a live broadcast interview. News 9 did not accommodate his request.