Parents Wage Battle for Fired Menlo Park Gymnastics Teacher

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    NEWSLETTERS

    This isn't the first time Michelle Sutton learned the community had her back. A year-and-a half ago, when her 19 year old daughter Cate Fisher was killed by reputed gang members in a case of mistaken identity, it took parents at the gymnastics school where she and her daughter taught to convince her to go back to work. (Published Wednesday, Feb 27, 2013)

    This isn't the first time Michelle Sutton learned the community had her back.  More than a year ago, when her 19-year-old daughter, Cate Fisher, was killed by reputed gang members in a case of mistaken identity, it took parents at the gymnastics school where she and her daughter taught to convince her to go back to work.

    Now after getting fired from the same program, parents were again showing their support. Two weeks after Sutton's sudden dismissal, 140 parents joined a Facebook group calling for her reinstatement.       

    "It shows what a profound impact Michelle has had on the families in Menlo Park," said parent Lindsey Fisher, whose son took Sutton's pre-school class. 

    Sutton had taught at the Menlo Park gymnastics program for five years. She loved teaching movement to pre-school children and marveled that she was paid to watch children "learning about themselves." 

    But in February, Sutton was let go from the city-run gymnastics program for reasons she's not exactly sure of. She believes it was related to a parent's complaint.   

    "Basically there was a letter complaint that came in at the end of January from an unhappy parent," said Sutton. "So I have to assume at this point that was the reason I was fired."

    Sutton said the run-in was over the program's policy requiring parents to wait outside the gymnastic classes. In an email to the Menlo City Council, the parent called Sutton "unprofessional" and expressed anger that Sutton "confronted" her during class. 

    City officials wouldn't comment on why Sutton was fired, calling it a confidential personnel matter. Attempts to reach the parent who filed the complaint were unsuccessful. 

    Sutton said the firing came just after she approached union leaders about filing a complaint against her supervisor. She said she was terminated before she could file the grievance. 

    Fisher said parents were sending emails to city council members and other department heads, urging them to bring Sutton back. The group planned to attend the next city council meeting to lobby for Sutton's reinstatement. 

    Sutton said just like when her daughter died, she was moved by the community's support.  

    "I miss my job very much," Sutton said. "I loved what I did, and ideally I'd love to go back."