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The global underground 

On Earth Day, as we are all inspired to ponder the influence of humankind's effects on our globe, it is serendipitous to consider this week's disgraceful shenanigans at District 11's GLOBE charter school.

On Monday, Dina Wood, who teaches high school English and drama at GLOBE, was placed on administrative leave for the remainder of the school year amid vague accusations that she had harassed another teacher, and maybe a staffer.

Just three months ago, Wood was on top of the world. In a seven-person race to serve on the school's governing board of directors, she won the most votes. Her campaign theme called for more transparency in how the K-12 school, in east-central Colorado Springs with a current enrollment of just under 200 students, is being run.

Wood's popular platform also endorsed the need for more community input. Her concerns, she says, have also centered on perceived favoritism as well as nepotism. The school's director, Michelle Leggitt-Fein, has hired relatives without going through an open application process, Wood says. Finally, Wood was concerned that the school was veering away from its focus, a charter dedicated to cultural diversity and global awareness.

Wood's election to the board, however, put her in a bit of an awkward position, as she found herself overseeing her own bosses, the people who run the school.

Since the election, director Leggitt-Fein has announced her retirement at the end of this year.

Meanwhile, a week ago Monday, without warning, Wood -- who during her three years teaching at GLOBE charter school has received high performance evaluations -- was suspended. The next day, Woods' own students were reportedly forced during the school day to "rearrange" her classroom. "Their excuse was, my room is messy," said Wood. "Well, we have a lot of books, there's a lot of writing, we have a fence covered with haiku.

"The students were told, 'Isn't it nice to have a nice clean room?' Well, my students called me and they were very upset."

The day after that, Wood and her husband arrived to retrieve her personal belongings, which had been thrown into a trash can along with dirty Kleenex's and other crumpled up refuse. Wood's daughter's lunchbox was on top of the heap. Her daughter, by the way, is a student at GLOBE.

By Friday, a revolt was underway. Several high school students were on hand when parents arrived to pick up their children from school and distributed a newsletter titled The Global Underground. The flyer alerted the parents to Wood's situation and notified them about a specially called board meeting on Monday to discuss Wood's status. The Global Underground also included numerous unrelated allegations of scandal at the school -- ranging from unclear accusations of sexual harassment to possible misappropriation of school funds. At least one student has since been suspended for distributing the unauthorized newsletter.

"I respect the students to have the courage to speak out, but it was inappropriate because they didn't run the letter by the board or by the teachers," said board member Marilyn Borom.

On Monday night, the school lunchroom -- where the meeting took place -- was packed with the largest crowd ever to attend a board meeting for GLOBE Charter School.

"People were mad and confused," said parent Erin Finley. "We wanted to know what the heck was going on." Most of the speakers, Finley said, were on Wood's side.

"One student spoke about how much Dina has inspired her and motivated her to go to law school; another boy said he hates teachers and school and English and has not always gotten along with [Wood] but he was still there because she made learning fun. He said her teaching methods had played a large part in his success."

Oh, and by the way, in addition to Wood's being a teacher, a parent and a board member, she is also the school's college guidance counselor. For the first time in the school's nine-year history, all five graduating students are planning to attend college.

Ultimately, after listening to dozens of parents and students, the board excused themselves for a three-and-a-half-hour personnel-related secret session that lasted until after midnight. The upshot is, Wood's official status is she is on paid administrative leave for the remainder of the school year. It is unclear exactly where her five college-bound students will get their guidance as they prepare for graduation.

Wood doesn't plan to go down without a fight. After all, she remains on the board of directors. After her paid administrative leave, she hopes to return as a teacher.

As for her confused students: Welcome, graduates, to Real World 101.

--degette@csindy.com

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