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Rob Whyne

SELINSGROVE — The Selinsgrove school board Monday night decided to reinstate a popular guidance counselor — this time as a teacher — after a month of protests and petitions by students, parents and teachers, .

Rob Whyne, a 15-year district employee, was terminated by a 5-4 school board vote Jan. 4 for allowing a June graduate to return for additional coursework in July of last year — something he didn’t know was against the rules at the time, he said.

The board voted unanimously on Monday to grant Whyne a transfer from guidance counselor to social studies teacher, effective Wednesday. The transfer comes with an approximate $7,000 pay cut.

“As a board, we struggled,” said board President Eric Rowe. Monday, he said, was the first time Whyne personally presented his case and shared his story with the board, rather than have his lawyers talk. Whyne had passed up an opportunity for a hearing earlier in the process, Rowe said.

“Until we heard from Mr. Whyne, we went strictly by policy,” Rowe added.

After the discussion, the board reconsidered its decision. With the move to the classroom, the loss of pay and a month without a job, Rowe said: “We felt that was enough. We still feel that Mr. Whyne understands the seriousness of the situation, and we will take steps to ensure the type of thing that he did will not occur again.”

Since the board’s Jan. 4 decision to terminate Whyne, teachers had presented a petition with 150 signatures to the board, calling the dismissal unfair and requesting Whyne be returned to his job. Students walked the halls of Selinsgrove Area High School, wearing white T-shirts on which they wrote “I Miss Rob.”

A Facebook page, begun by Selinsgrove senior Scott Nace to protest Whyne’s firing, grew from 250 to nearly 750 members in a little more than one week. The controversy led parents and students to reflect on Whyne’s influence.

“He made a significant difference in our lives,” said Carolyn Shirk, a parent. “He has been an incredible guidance counselor.”

Her son, now a senior and enrolled in the pre-pharmacy program at Bloomsburg University, “will hopefully be a pharmacist now,” Shirk said. “My son couldn’t figure out what he wanted to do. He (Whyne) gave some guidance and recommendations, and the support that we needed. He went the extra mile — that’s what he does for everybody.”

In a letter to The Daily Item, Luis Tirado, a senior, said Whyne was one of very few teachers who proved that he cared by sitting down with the troubled students and helping them.

“I, unfortunately, was one of the troubled students,” Tirado wrote, “and because of Mr. Whyne’s wise words, I have a higher appreciation for the education that I have received.” He now wants to attend college, he said.

Another senior, Andrew Oreskovich, confronted the school board on Monday to voice his concerns. The 5-4 vote on Jan. 4, he said, was not in line with the school board’s 2002 policy requiring a super-majority vote.

Rowe admitted the board did unintentionally violate that policy when members voted, and said they likely would have had to deal with that violation had the case moved onto arbitration.

Whyne said on Monday he was comfortable with the decision. He had formerly been a social studies teacher in the district for 10 years. “It’s a little scary,” he said, to think about returning to the classroom after six years of not teaching. “But,” he said, “I guess it’s like riding a bicycle — you never forget.”

He will take the place of Lynn Aurand, who was appointed guidance counselor at the school board meeting two weeks ago.

n E-mail comments to tpursell@dailyitem.com.

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