Rumors spread across campus after a long-term substitute replaced Advanced Technologies Academy teacher Pat McGuinness in May.
Some thought he had been fired, said Zachary Mirman, a senior at the time and 2012 valedictorian of the prestigious school near Rancho and Vegas drives.
Mirman, who counted McGuinness as a mentor, might have believed the rumors if other teachers hadn’t told him of the car accident that put the computer sciences teacher in critical condition.
“We all knew the school administration didn’t like how he ran his class,” said Mirman, who is majoring in computer sciences and math at University of California, Berkeley. “As a teacher, he was different. He gave us the tools and told us to report back. Free form.”
The rumors were wrong then, but it wasn’t long before they came true.
While McGuinness was recovering in the hospital from fractured ribs, a punctured lung and amputated left arm, the Clark County School District fired him for not renewing his teaching license by June 7, the last day of school.
But Mirman and many current students didn’t learn McGuinness was fired until late Monday night after the Review-Journal posted an online story about the teacher’s plight. Students reposted the story in the school’s Facebook group.
“It’s all over Facebook, honestly,” said Mirman, who started a petition to rehire the teacher and had 368 signatures Tuesday evening. “Someone else would’ve done it if I didn’t first.”
Before terminating McGuinness, the district’s human resources department asked the principal whether there were any special circumstances that would call for an extension, giving McGuinness more time to renew his license.
The principal did not have information about McGuinness’ whereabouts, according to district officials.
But school staff knew about McGuinness’ critical condition the day after the accident, said Michael Cannon, a friend of McGuinness from church.
The school called Cannon, who was the teacher’s emergency contact, when McGuinness didn’t show up at school for work and couldn’t be contacted.
The school collected about $800 from staff and students to help with medical bills and deposited it in McGuinness’ bank account, McGuinness and Cannon said.
“Some of us students knew about the car crash then, but all the teachers knew,” Mirman said. “But none of us seem to know about why he was later fired.”
Mirman was flabbergasted that the district still hasn’t rehired McGuinness after learning the details of the situation.
“I would certainly not be where I am today without him,” he said. “As a result, I feel that I need to do anything within my power to help Mr. McGuinness as he once helped me.”
Since his catastrophic injures and the loss of his job, McGuinness, has moved into a studio apartment with his 14-year-old son and is struggling to make ends meet.
A student created a ChipIn account online Tuesday to collect money for McGuinness and his son. A Las Vegas apartment complex also contacted McGuinness on Tuesday to offer a rent-free place for six months, until he is back on his feet.
The district worked with McGuinness on Monday to get $1,300 a month in disability retirement.
“But I just want to go back to work,” said McGuinness, who has renewed his teaching license. He has lost an arm, but “I can think just fine.”
Contact reporter Trevon Milliard at firstname.lastname@example.org or 702-383-0279.