Mahwah parents and students have been missing a district band instructor who they say suddenly took an unexplained leave of absence last month, and they are fighting for his return.
At a board of education meeting Wednesday night, nearly 100 Mahwah parents and students rallied, held signs and made comments in support of Tim Rausenberger, a band teacher at Joyce Kilmer and Ramapo Ridge and the marching band assistant director at Mahwah High School.
According to the group, Rausenberger “disappeared” from Mahwah schools in mid-October. The board of ed appointed a substitute to take over Rausenberger’s lessons earlier this month. Parents also say they received a letter home saying the teacher was on a “leave of absence” and should not be contacted by parents or students.
At the last two board meetings, parents have questioned why Rausenberger is no longer in Mahwah schools, and whether or not the change will be permanent.
Board President Patricia Shada said she could not comment on the issue.
“We are bound by law to protect the privacy of that individual,” she said Wednesday night. When parents asked what she recommended they do now, she said “I’m going to ask that you trust us. We were elected to do this.”
Though they did not receive answers from the board, parents and students spoke in Rausenberger’s defense Wednesday.
“From what we can piece together…it appears that Rausenberger may have made some [politically incorrect] comments...while dismissing students from marching band,” Rebecca Clement, a parent of three of Rausenberger’s students, said. “We do not believe he meant any harm, and if this is true, we feel the punishment should be education, not suspension, or worse.”
Numerous parents and students spoke of the teacher’s character, and said they have been frustrated by the lack of information available to those wondering where Mr. R is, and whether or not he will come back.
Student Kyle Dubiel spoke on behalf of the #FreeTimmy movement, which students have started on Facebook in support of their teacher. The hashtag has also been used on Twitter in reference to NY Jets player Tim Tebow.
Rausenberger "is the magnet that keeps kids interested in the music program in Mahwah,” Dubiel said. “I’m not saying I would quit, but there are a lot of students who would stop playing without him.”
Parent Gayle Graizzaro called Rausenberger a “gem,” and said Mahwah “students are blessed to have him as a teacher.”
“We can’t be sure of what happened, but we want to make sure a proper investigation is done,” she told the board.
Board members declined to comment further on the situation.
Representatives of the Mahwah Education Association also declined to comment, and an attempt to contact Rausenberger has not been successful.