Supporters’ pleas for school district to allow Jordan High chorus teacher to continue virtual instruction prove unsuccessful
Late last year, Corrine Huber gambled big when she decided to accompany her husband to Denmark for his work.
At the time, it seemed like a safe bet for the Durham Public Schools’ chorus teacher. The Board of Education had implemented remote learning for the rest of the school year. That meant Huber didn’t have to physically be in Durham to teach her classes. So, she settled into the Scandinavian country more than 4,000 miles away and began to teach her Jordan High School chorus and musical theater students remotely.
By most accounts, Huber has done remarkably well.
“Ms. Huber has steadfastly continued to teach, inspire, innovate, and just care for her students,” Suze Bear, a Jordan High School parent and Theater Arts booster, said in a letter to the school board. “How do you teach high school chorus and theater arts online? There was not much guidance about that, of course, and now Ms. Huber could write a book on it.”
Despite such accolades, the move to Denmark has not ended well for Huber. The school system asked her to resign because she’s either unable or unwilling to return to Durham to teach in-person. Jordan High School Principal Susan Taylor began advertising Huber’s job March 8.
Huber resigned, effective March 31, according to a statement released by DPS on Tuesday. “Our principals have extended flexibility to our teachers and staff where they could, subject to the needs of the schools,” the statement said.
Attempts to reach Huber for comment were unsuccessful. She did not respond to messages sent to her DPS email account.
Huber’s supporters cite travel restrictions because of the COVID-19 pandemic for her decision to remain in Denmark.
Despite the previous school board vote to stay with remote learning, it was understood that if the district moved to in-person learning that teachers would have to return to school.
Huber’s plans to finish the school year in Denmark were further upended by a sustained push by Gov. Roy Cooper, Senate Republicans and COVID-19-fatigued parents to reopen schools. In early February, Senate leaders filed a school reopening bill, SB 37, which required school districts to provide parents and students with a remote-learning option. The measure proved contentious; Gov. Cooper vetoed it. A GOP attempt to override the veto failed.
Two weeks ago Cooper did, however, signed its successor, Senate Bill 220, The Reopen Our Schools Act of 2021, after the GOP agreed to allow districts to bring older students back using a mix of in-person and remote learning and to give them the flexibility to change course if there were an outbreak of COVID-19.
The district’s elementary school students returned to classrooms last week. Middle school students and high school students return next month, but their teachers reported to work Tuesday. That meant Huber had to report to for work in-person unless she qualified for a medical exemption. Her supporters said she does not qualify for such an exemption.
“So, therefore, they’re forcing her to resign because she can’t return immediately for in-person instruction,” said Aidan Hennessy, a Jordan High School alum and member of the school’s Theater Arts booster club.
Bear asked the school board to reconsider its decision.
“The firing of Ms. Huber is a huge loss to current students, to the Jordan community, and to Durham Public Schools now and in the future,” Bear said. “We have all lost so much during the pandemic. Why are we continuing to make decisions which take even more away from our kids who are just trying to make it through this year?”
Parents, students and others who support Huber believe the district should give her a pass, one they believe she’s earned because of her job performance during the pandemic. “She has really done amazing work with her students,” Hennessy said. “They’ve [students] been able to have music videos that helped improve their lives since they’ve been home during the pandemic.”
Webb Cummings, a Jordan High School chorus student, started a petition on Change.org to try and save Huber’s job. He urged the school board to waive its policy requiring teachers without a medical exemption to resign if they cannot return for in-person learning. The petition had nearly 1,200 signatures late Tuesday, but a reversal of the board’s decision is unlikely.
“Since Ms. (Corrine) Huber is in Denmark and physically cannot get back to the United States, we are asking the School Board to reconsider their decision in this particular situation,” Cummings wrote. “Asking Ms. Huber to resign is a big blow for all of her past, present, and future students.”
Cummings complained that the school board did not “consult with teachers, staff or students” before asking Huber to resign.
“To make such a drastic staffing change so close to the end of an already hectic school year is going to be difficult for Ms. Huber and everyone else,” Cummings said.
Bear, a Jordan High School parent, hoped DPS would be flexible enough to allow Huber to continue to work remotely.
“I’m worried about the continued effect of such decisions on the mental and emotional health of our kids,” she said. “Perhaps extending some extra grace this year is necessary.”