As a Music Teacher on Administrative Leave at SFHS Faces a Closed Session on Thursday That May Decide His Future, At Least 30 Letters of Support Have Poured In
The decision to remove Schmollinger was sudden. He was asked to leave in the middle of a school day, according to one student.
This coming Thursday is a school board meeting and reportedly Schmollinger’s fate will be decided during a closed session. Five days ago, Stephenson asked people who had been influenced by her husband to write letters of support. Former students, parents of students, former fellow educators, and community members have been writing letters in an attempt to influence the outcome. Over 30 have been received since the request was made.
In the letters, Schmollinger is described repeatedly as passionate about his students and an excellent teacher who frequently worked beyond the normal school hours to help his students.One student wrote, “If Music wouldn’t have been available to me for those last 2 years of high school, I doubt that I would have graduated with a 3.5 GPA or graduated at all for that matter. Paul allowed me to take grief counseling during one of my band classes after my mother passed. He cared about my state of mind and my well being as a person.”
A second said that losing him would not be good for the school. He explained “Paul has been fighting hard for his students as long as I can remember with a constantly dwindling and ever under attack budget and always did the best with what was given. Losing him would be utterly [to] the detriment of the school, let alone the music and drama departments.”
A former exchange student from Switzerland, Johannes Köppel, (pictured above) who later received a Fulbright Scholarship and is now a CEO of a tech startup said Schmollinger “transformed” his life.
Another former student wrote, “He taught us that on our own we were instruments but together we were music. I had played organized sports from youth through high school, but Paul taught me more about teamwork and leadership than sports ever did.”
Lonny Whitlow, a Miranda businessman and former student, said, “If someone asked me to describe Paul in one word, it is “passion…I’ve known Paul for 22 years and in those 22 years I’ve only seen him build up the character of kids…the guy goes above and beyond his duty. Hours and hours in that music room without any pay.”
Whitlow said that Smollinger is “unorthodox…He wears a spider earring and black clothing…He is a topknotch teacher….He has had a stellar career. He is probably one of the most respected teachers at South Fork.”
Last year, Lonny Whitlow in the middle presented an envelope full of cash to Saundra Stephenson and Paul Schmollinger for the South Fork High School’s music program. [Photo provided by Lonny Whitlow]