Fired Merrill teacher could return to work

A Prairie River Middle School teacher fired last year after he was charged with marijuana possession could return to work next school year, the Merrill Area Public Schools Board of Education decided Monday.
The following statement was read at the board meeting: “The Board of Education, the Merrill Teachers Association, and Mr. Jay Peterson have reached an agreement which could result in the reinstatement of Mr. Peterson to a teaching position in the Merrill Area Public Schools beginning with the 2013-2014 school year. In lieu of his employment being terminated, Mr. Peterson will serve a one-year leave of absence without pay for the 2012-2013 school year, will fully satisfy the terms and conditions of a deferred prosecution agreement following his plea of no contest to the charge of possession of THC, will reimburse the District in the amount of $5,000 for compensation that he received while on administrative leave with pay, will participate in a drug assessment and any recommended treatment or drug counseling, will be subject to random drug testing, and will withdraw with prejudice his union grievance challenging his termination, as well as waive any and all claims. By reaching an agreement to reinstate Mr. Peterson, the parties avoided a costly and uncertain arbitration process, and instead, amicably reached a mutually agreeable resolution to their dispute.”
The board approved Peterson’s reinstatement on a 5-4 vote, with board members Chuck Bolder, Gene Bondioli, Meredith Prebeg, Jen Seliger and Lin Kautza voting in favor and members Loretta Baughan, Kelly Collins, Brad Geiss and Brad Kanitz voting in opposition.
On June 6, 2012 the Board of Education voted to terminate Peterson’s employment, effective immediately. A statement from the board stated that the termination was “based upon his conduct as a school district employee.” The Board of Education made its decision after reviewing the results of an investigation by the administration.
Peterson was among a number of Antigo and Merrill teachers and retired teachers implicated in an investigation of marijuana distribution in Langlade County. He was charged in Langlade County Circuit Court in February with one misdemeanor count of marijuana possession. He pleaded no contest to the charges and entered into a deferred prosecution.

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