Last Thursday, Nov. 18, Alex McGregor was terminated from his position as head cook at Walden School, effective immediately — despite a nationwide shortage of support staff.
According to McGregor’s termination letter, the head cook wrote “Let’s Go Brandon” — a political slogan widely used to mean “F*** Joe Biden” — “on school property in a location where it would easily be seen by students and staff.” He also did not work his entire shift “when scheduled to do so,” leaving his place of work hours early on Nov. 9, 11 and 17 without a valid reason.
In an interview with the Caledonian-Record, McGregor — who began working at the small, rural school last October after years in the restaurant industry — said that he did not believe he should have been fired and that the menu calendar in question was in his office and in view of very few people.
When asked if he would have understood being fired for writing “F*** Joe Biden” in an elementary school, McGregor said, “yeah, of course; that would be wholly inappropriate.”
“But that’s not what [Let’s Go Brandon] translates into necessarily,” he said. “Basically, it was a reporter trying to cover up what the crowd was saying … they were chanting ‘F Joe Biden,’ and she was like ‘oh, they’re saying ‘Let’s Go Brandon,’ like trying to cover it up.”
“That statement is more about the whole other side of the aisle just trying to manipulate the narrative,” McGregor said, adding that “people were saying F*** Trump left and right for four years, so I don’t want to see that sort of indignant ‘how dare you.’”
McGregor said that he was "no Trump supporter," rather that he felt politically isolated by both major political parties.
Reached on Tuesday afternoon, Caledonia Central Supervisory Union (CCSU, who oversees Walden School) Superintendent Mark Tucker explained that McGregor was misstating what happened.
“There are certain things people do at work that are reasonable for just cause dismissals,” he said. “This was one of them.”
Tucker explained that McGregor’s menu board in question is visible to members of the public, including elementary students.
“His characterization of this as something that cannot be seen was not true,” said Tucker. “People saw it and went to the principal, and he went and took photographs of it.”
“This is not about having political opinions or making political statements … this is about taking advantage of a profane euphemism in an elementary school,” said Tucker. “His free speech right does not allow him to do that; our school attorney was very clear this goes beyond acceptable expression.”
Tucker said that if any employee had written “FDT” ("F*** Donald Trump") on something in view of students, he would have taken the exact same action.
When asked what the school would be doing to cover the void left by McGregor, the school’s only cook, Tucker said that they would be using other staff to fill in until the position was filled more permanently.
“It’s not like there’s a pool of unemployed cooks out there looking to substitute,” he said. “The fact that this position is difficult to cover … that’s my problem. But [McGregor] put us in that position. We have zero-tolerance for what he did.”
McGregor also told the Caledonian-Record that, during his termination meeting with Superintendent Tucker, Principal Anthony Fontana and Marie Langmaid, Walden School’s VT-NEA Building Representative, Tucker was very upset and used profanity to berate the head cook.
“He was just using the F-word over and over, he was red in the face and there was spittle coming out … the union rep is a Kindergarten teacher, and the Principal too was staring at [Tucker] wondering what was going on,” said McGregor.
Tucker disagreed with the characterization.
“If I seemed angry, well, I was angry because he was lying about it and trying to pretend it was no big deal,” said Tucker.
A recording of the meeting obtained by the Caledonian-Record reveals that Tucker only used the F-word once — when McGregor refused to explain what “Let’s Go Brandon” meant and Tucker then elucidated the common understanding of the phrase.
When asked again about the recording, McGregor said that “as far as I remember, he used that word several times.”
“Look, maybe I made a bad choice,” he said. “But I don’t think I deserve to lose my job.”
McGregor said that he was not sure if he would be filing suit or not against the school, but he was looking into his legal options.