Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Another Board misstep

Following my earlier post about Board members not knowing their roles comes this story. By virtue of their position, and to help them make informed decisions, Board members are privy to information which should remain confidential. Problems arise when it does not.

At this school, teachers must confirm their intent to return each January. If they say yes, they receive a new contract, negotiate better conditions, discuss additional responsibilities and so on. Of they say no, the position is advertized. If they are unsure they have until March to decide, but the position is advertized as "tentative".

Teacher Jo confirmed her intention to remain in January and the renewal was signed. However in June, she announced that she had changed her mind. She would only return if she was exempted from supervision duties at recess and after school. The principal of course said no; the job was as agreed, as she had contracted, and all teachers had to do duties. He would not exempt one while requiring all the others.

Jo refused to budge, so the principal withdrew the re-employment offer. She then approached a Board member whose child she had taught alleging unprofessionalism and personal animus on the part of the principal. The Board member contacted the Board Chair who asked for an explanation.

The principal sent the Board members an email with "confidential" in the subject line. He told them of the re-hiring process, referred them to the Faculty Handbook, and explained what had happened. He told them all teachers faced the same requirements. He conceded supervision duties were unpopular but essential for child safety and required by state law. He said he would not exempt one teacher while requiring something of all others.

He also told them he believed Jo had deliberately waited until June to make recruitment difficult, which to him was blackmail. Accordingly, trust had gone and he felt Jo no longer fitted with the school's teacher profile and in fact her values conflicted with the school's stated values.

Two days later, Jo sent a general email to the parents of her students. She quoted from and disputed points made in the principal's confidential email to the Board which had been forwarded to her by the Board member she had originally approached. The principal had an unpleasant meeting with the parents, made worse because the school attorney limited him in what he could say.

The teacher was not reinstated and the principal did indeed have trouble finding a good replacement. Anonymous online reviews suggested the principal was arrogant and did not consider parents and parent wishes when making his unilateral decisions. Overnight, the atmosphere in the school went from positive and supportive to negative and critical. The Board Chair did ask for the Board member's resignation. The principal gave his, and the school is now on to its fourth principal in two and a half years. All because a Board member did not respect the constraints of her position.

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