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School board votes against renewing contract of popular Red Lodge teacher

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Posted at 2:50 PM, Feb 03, 2022
and last updated 2022-02-04 10:51:55-05

The Red Lodge School Board voted Thursday not to renew the contract of a middle school teacher and coach, despite a show of hundreds in support of keeping him.

Trustees voted 4-1 against keeping Steven Morris, a non-tenured social studies teacher at Roosevelt Middle School. The lone dissenting vote, Trustee Wade Reynolds, asked the board to table the move until the next meeting, but his motion received no second.

Morris, a former Marine who's been with the district since 2019, has been on paid leave since the first week of January after the Montana Association of Schools Boards received a complaint against him. No details were released about the nature of the complaint.

More than 200 people packed into the Red Lodge High School gym for the board meeting, with the vast majority supporting Morris.

Morris spoke on his own behalf during the meeting, though he was stopped by Board Chair Elise Fouts from discussing the details of the complaint against him.

“I recognize the superintendent and the board are within their legal rights to carry out these proceedings and to terminate me without cause. Without fail, I will respect the process and conduct myself in a dignified manner, because as the words on my classroom door read and remind me every day, example is the best teacher," Morris said.

During public comment, 12 people lined up to speak in favor of Morris' dismissal. About 200 people signed up to speak in his favor. His supporters gave him a standing ovation after he gave his comments.

It was unclear whether Morris will finish out the school year. He told the board he plans to withdraw his two children from the district.