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Petition started for Joshua ISD superintendent to step down after 4 teachers resign

JOSHUA, Texas (CBSDFW.COM) -- Parents have started a petition for the Joshua Independent School District superintendent to step down, and are organizing opposition to a bond referendum after the resignation of four elementary school teachers over school lunches.

The United Educators Association was also involved with the issue Monday, characterizing the resignations as forced rather than voluntary.

The teachers resigned last week from North Joshua Elementary School after they were confronted with the results of a three-day investigation, showing students taking free school lunches that they didn't plan to eat to their teachers.

Mark Davenport, the husband of a second grade teacher who stepped down, said his wife and others admitted to having kids get them a lunch but had no idea there was any problem with it.

Led to believe there could be fines, criminal allegations of fraud, and threats to teaching certificates, he said the group decided to resign.

Steven Poole, executive director of the UEA, said his staff was still looking into the situation but also characterized it as teachers being forced into a quick resignation decision.

"If you're sitting in a room with an attorney and the superintendent, or deputy superintendent, and they're threatening all of this, a lot of them will just naturally resign and that's what occurred with these teachers," he said. "They had options but the district didn't allow them to explore it."

In a statement about the incident last week, the school district maintained the incident was serious enough to warrant termination, calling it fraud, abuse of official capacity and theft of federal funds.

A spokesman wrote in an email Monday that the employee handbook included information about the school lunch program, and that all employees have signed it and acknowledged they understand all the policies and procedures.

Chelsea Brashear, who has a daughter in one of the affected classrooms, has been helping organize support for the teachers, including having them reinstated.

"Every one of the teachers said, 'Yeah, we didn't know this was a problem,'" she said. "I would see that as an administrative issue more than that they're deliberately going out trying to get a free lunch."

Brashear said parents had raised more than $700 to buy food for lunches for teachers now, and delivered some of the items Monday.

An online petition calling for the school board to replace superintendent Fran Marek had more than 700 signatures.

Some parents are also now threatening not to support a $97 million bond referendum in May that would provide money for a new elementary school, and renovations and additions to existing schools.

Two sources said a fifth teacher is facing similar allegations over the lunches and is expected to meet with administrators this week.

EMERGENCY COMPONENT - LOCAL

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