Tuesday, March 18, 2014

TOP STORY >> Fired teacher continues to tutor

Leader staff writer

The former Lonoke High School biology teacher fired on March 11 by the school board volunteered on Saturday, four days later, to help students prepare for their upcoming science tests.

An eight-hour study session with Boaz Cotton was held at the Lonoke County Museum. Cotton volunteered his time to help his former pre-advanced placement biology, advanced-placement biology and environmental-science students get back on track.

Cotton was suspended from the classroom in early February after school administrators investigated an alleged report of Cotton slapping a student in the gym.

The school board voted for Superintendent Suzanne Bailey’s recommendation to terminate him for the incident. Cotton was also accused of using profanity in the classroom, having inappropriate contact with a student, showing a graphic video in class and eating lunch with students in his classroom.

Parent Shannon Clement organized the Saturday class within two days. Word spread fast as 20 students were scheduled to attend the tutoring session. Plans are to have two more classes with Cotton.

“My child has fallen behind in AP biology. I thought the students could benefit for the AP and end-of-course exam. Our decision as parents was to put our children first despite the (school) board’s and administration’s decision not to do so,” Clements said.

Cotton said he was already planning to have a study group when a parent suggested it. He said the students are about three weeks behind and they can cover a week of teaching in one day.

“I give my phone number to anyone who wants, if they want to connect, if they need help,” Cotton added.

Parent Adam Sims said, “Very few teachers have the ability to impact a student’s life in such a way that they would give up their free time to learn.”

Laurie Sims, another parent, said, “I think God sends people like (Cotton) to help the kids succeed.”

Senior Mason Moody spent his Saturday helping Cotton with the students. Moody was one of Cotton’s teaching assistants. “I wanted to help these kids. I wanted to be here,” Moody said.

“I’ve known Mr. Cotton for three years. After taking his class, it leaves an impression on you. I came back year after year to be part of that,” Moody said.

He said, after Cotton was suspended, high school administrators pulled him and another teacher’s assistant from the classroom.

“I was told I could be a T.A. for anyone else, but not a science teacher. The science department is my second home. (I’m down) from four periods to one. I now have three periods of study hall. I would like to be re-instated as a science teacher aid for any teacher. I enjoy science. It is a big passion for me,” Moody said.

Several students took advantage of the extra learning time with him and Cotton.

Chloe Schell, a 10th grader, said, “I found this very helpful because in a large class. It’s hard to get one-on-one help. Mr. Cotton knows how to explain it so I can understand. He uses wordings and descriptions that can be related to other things.

“It’s hard to switch from one teacher to another so late in the year. (The new teacher) is different. She and Mr. Cotton have completely different teaching styles. She over-explains things. (He) describes it enough that it’s understandable without losing us,” Schell said.

Bailey Staton, an 11th grader, said, “It’s been really helpful because the teacher we have now is unsure where we left off.”

Cody Sims, a 10th grader, said, “Mr. Cotton made it a fun environment, not a classroom or jail. You wanted to be there.”

Sims said having study sessions helps him learn more on some basics he didn’t understand.

“You don’t feel stupid asking a dumb question. It’s more in-depth. We have hours instead of 52 minutes,” Sims noted.