CONWAY — Embattled Kennett High School teacher Andy Shaw, who was charged last November with hosting a drinking party with underage guests and threatened with being fired by the SAU 9 school superintendent, was suspended following a hearing by the Conway School Board on Thursday night.
About 80 people of all ages appeared at the hearing. They were not allowed to speak.
The hearing was held at about 6:30 p.m. in the Conway Professional Development Center at Kennett Middle School.
Superintendent Kevin Richard had recommended that the school board fire Shaw.
Shaw’s attorney, Don Ekberg of the Ekberg Law Firm of North Conway, was seated beside Shaw, who appeared relieved and was thronged by well-wishers following the announcement of the board's decision.
Ekberg, who had called for Shaw's termination hearing to be open to the public, told the Sun earlier this week that the board didn't have to fire Shaw and encouraged members of the community to come show their support for the popular metals and machine shop teacher, who had pleaded not guilty to misdemeanor charges lodged after a video made by students appeared on the internet.
At the hearing, Ekberg reiterated that the board didn't have to fire Shaw and should at least wait until he was found guilty or not by a court of law.
The hearing began around 6:30 p.m. It came after a “non-meeting” with the school district’s attorney, Matt Upton of the Drummond Woodsum law firm of Portland, Maine.
Shaw teaches at the Mount Washington Valley Career and Technical Center at Kennett High School. Thanks to his tutelage, many students have built parts for NASA as part of the HUNCH (High schools United with NASA to Create Hardware) and have interned at the Johnson Space Center in Houston.
The school board went behind closed doors for a brief time to review video footage from the house party where Shaw allegedly allowed minors to drink.
The board also went into a "non-meeting" with Upton prior to making public its decision. The "non-meeting" lasted almost an hour, from 6:55 to 7:47 p.m.
When they came back into an open meeting, school board member Joe Mosca made the successful motion to suspend Shaw for more than three months without pay, effective immediately, until May 15.
In addition, Shaw was placed on a three-year, last chance improvement plan with conditions to be established by the superintendent.
Board member Mark Hounsell seconded the motion, which was unanimously approved.
Member Courtney Burke recused herself.
According to the Conway police complaint, Shaw had been charged with holding an underage drinking party at his home. The alleged offense occurred Nov. 3 at Shaw’s home at 33 Southview Loop, off East Conway Road in Center Conway, at about 10:33 p.m.
The complaint, written by Conway Police Detective Dominic Torch, said Shaw had knowledge “that people under the age of 21 possessed or intended to consume alcoholic beverages” during a party that he organized at his residence, and, while he was present at the residence, at least five individuals unrelated to him were present and under the age of 21, while at least one individual under the age of 21 consumed or possessed alcohol.”
The mother of a party guest who was turning 21 at midnight on the day of the party was charged with providing alcohol for three under age party guests including her son.