ORONO, Maine — Orono High School students played string instruments near the entrance of the Orono Town Council chambers on Tuesday evening just before the start of a school board meeting. The students, dressed in white tops and black bottoms, were accompanied by parents and Orono High School alumni who passed out buttons and fliers in support of an instructor who may soon lose his job.
The students were showcasing the work of music teacher and orchestra director Waldo Caballero, who was notified by the school district’s superintendent that he would not be able to teach in the coming year if he did not obtain Maine Department of Education certification, Caballero’s wife, Anna Caballero, said.
That means Waldo Caballero needs to improve his score on the teacher certification exam, according to Anna Caballero. He has scored 524, but he must earn a 526 to meet Department of Education requirements.
Waldo Caballero, who also is the boys soccer coach, has been able to teach for 14 years in Orono schools because he has been “certified every year, but it’s always conditional or a waived certification,” said Anna Caballero, who also works for the Orono School Department.
“We’re all trying to stand up for an injustice that we don’t feel we have any power over,” said Julie Normand, 23, who graduated from Orono High School in 2009. She said she got to know Waldo Caballero because she and her brothers played soccer.
“He’s touched so many kids and had an impact on so many lives,” she said.
Sandy Cyrus, a parent, said she and other supporters of the music instructor would like Superintendent Joanne Harriman to sign an affidavit of employment asking the Department of Education to grant Caballero a conditional teacher certificate.
“Let the DOE determine eligibility for certification,” Cyrus said.
At the school board meeting, board member Jacob Eckert read parts of a policy on public participation at meetings, highlighting the fact that personnel issues could not be discussed.
He said that if members of the public spoke about personnel issues, he would ask them to stop. If they continued, he would ask them to leave. And if they did not leave, he would ask them to be removed by the two police officers who stood in the back of the room throughout the meeting.
Fiona Sorensen Hamilton, a parent of students who have graduated from Orono’s public schools, spoke during the public comment section of the meeting, saying she was “acting as spokesperson for a large group that’s here.”
She asked the group to stand up and about 30 people did.
“I actually don’t have anything further to say because you’ve heard it all before,” she told the board.
Harriman was not available for comment on Tuesday but said she would answer questions from the Bangor Daily News on Wednesday.
Anna Caballero said her husband would be retaking the exam before the end of the month.