In a reversal of their earlier position, officials at La Jolla Country Day School said Monday that they are inviting Sharon Rogers, wife of Navy Capt. Will Rogers III, to return to work in fall for the next school year.
Richard Roth, a public-relations specialist hired by the school in the midst of mounting dissension over the fourth-grade teacher’s removal from her classroom, said, “If we can assure 100% security for her, the faculty and the children,” the school will present her an offer of a new contract.
If that cannot be worked out, then Rogers will be asked to work off campus, preparing teachers’ lessons and working with the alumni association, Roth said.
Other Teaching Options
Other options call for her to teach by way of a live television hookup, or for her students to be bused to a more secure location, according to a parent of one of her fourth-graders.
Rogers was told by the school not to return after a bomb placed in her van exploded March 10 at a busy intersection just blocks from the school. The FBI has been investigating the bombing as a possible terrorist attack in retaliation for her husband’s command of the guided missile cruiser Vincennes, which last summer mistakenly shot down an Iranian passenger jet in the Persian Gulf.
“The reason here is that she’s a tremendous asset,” Roth said. “She’s a master teacher. She’s worked here 12 years, and we’re doing everything possible to have her still make a contribution to the school.”
The school spokesman denied that Monday’s announcement was a turnaround from the school’s earlier decision to remove Sharon Rogers, even though school officials had told The Times that Rogers would not return for the next school year.
“We don’t necessarily concede that it is a new development,” he said. “She’s employed now like any other teacher. She’s doing work for her compensation. And we’ve said we would honor her contract for the remainder of this year and give her full pay.
“Now, we’re just trying to figure out what we’re going to do next year.”
Contract Sent Friday
School board treasurer Frank Grasso said a contract was sent to Rogers on Friday that would keep her on the faculty through August, 1990. If Rogers signs the contract, she will receive her annual salary--about $30,000--even if she never returns to the classroom next school year, he said.
Rogers could not be reached for comment Monday. But Navy Cmdr. David (Matt) Dillon said he spoke with her Monday afternoon and told her that the school was considering continuing her teaching contract.
“She didn’t know anything about it,” he said. “She’s not received any calls from them.
“But, when I told her, she just kind of said, ‘Oh, OK.’ But she’s still waiting to talk to them directly before she has any response.”
Roth said administrators have been trying to contact Rogers to discuss a new contract offer but have been unable to reach her. She and her husband are under the protection of the Naval Investigative Service at a location away from their home.
He said school officials are assuming that she wants to return to her classroom.
“As you know, it’s a strained situation,” he said. “But the best guess is that she would like to continue her life in the best situation.”
Other sources close to the Rogers family have said she is so angry with the way she was treated by school administrators that she may never want to return.
“I know she’s been very, very disappointed in their actions,” said Karl B. Higgins, an aide to Rep. Bill Lowery, who has been sharply critical of the school and has contended that officials fired her from La Jolla County Day.
Ron Orrantia, a spokesman for the Federal Bureau of Investigation, said Monday that the bombing inquiry is continuing, with experts now examining debris at laboratories in the Washington area.
In a three-page letter mailed Friday to the parents of the 700 children at the school, headmaster Timothy M. Burns said the primary reason that Rogers was asked not to return to the school this year was that administrators were unable to provide proper security.
Roth said the school will post a private security guard at each of the school’s three entrances through April. After that, he said, officials will decide whether more security guards are needed through the end of this school year in mid-June.
Roth said security is the main concern about allowing her return.
“If we can assure 100% safety, she can return,” he said. “And that 100% is the key ingredient.”
Factors for Decision
He said that, if an arrest in the bombing is made by next fall, or if Rogers no longer requires round-the-clock protection from the FBI and the Naval Investigative Service, then she could probably return as a teacher.
“There would be several indications that her security and safety is back to 100%,” Roth said. “Is she living back at her home? That’s one consideration. Is her daily life back to normal? Does she go to the store and do things any normal person would be doing?
“Those would certainly be strong indications from the FBI and the Navy that things are back to normal.”
The alternative, he said, would be offering her a contract to prepare lessons, conduct research for other teachers and perform special duties, such as working with the alumni association and editing the alumni newsletter.
“It could be a wide variety of things,” he said. “We’re exploring any number of them. What we really want to do is sit down and talk with Sharon.”
A parent of one of Sharon Rogers’ fourth-graders said another option under consideration is installing a live television hookup to the La Jolla campus so that she can teach from an isolated location, or busing the students to a more secure classroom on a nearby Navy base.
One parent, who asked not to be identified, said headmaster Burns called the parents of Rogers’ students Monday to promise that the school will do everything it can to let the popular teacher return, maybe even before this school year ends, if proper security can be provided.
“The parents of the school are going to be working with the headmaster and the board to help in any way we can to restore the school to the low-profile educational institution it once was,” said the parent.