Chain of command and investigation


I think it is widely known around our little towns what went on in our school district a few months ago. An administrator that many of us loved was asked to resign.

When the news first came out, a large number of teachers were shocked, as were many parents and other folks in the community. Our administrative team is fantastic. Our staff and students are well cared for and our school is a great environment to work in. We were happy.

So, a group of teachers and parents decided to do what we could. We talked to people in the community, we spoke at the school board meetings, we spread the word as best we could.

It didn’t seem to matter.

Now, let me go on record yet again and say that I don’t think the board members in our district are bad people. I’m not bashing the board of education. Am I saying this to protect my own rear end? No. I’m saying it because it’s really how I feel. I believe in my heart that not one of them is mean-spirited or vindictive.

There have been plenty of times in my teaching career that I have not agreed with board members and administrators. There have been times I went through where I was just ticked off at them or tried to avoid them. There have been plenty of times when I thought that decisions were not educated, professional or made in the best interest of children. But I don’t think that automatically makes people bad. We all have flaws. We all say and do things that everyone doesn’t agree upon.

So, the group of teachers accepted what was going to happen. However, we all set out to take notes and gather information – not hearsay, but the facts. In order to avoid future problems, we wanted to know who and where this stuff was coming from, because we still wanted to know what really happened. 

No one had ever really given us a clear cut answer why our administrator was given money to leave the district.

Regardless of the large number of people who spoke favorably about our administrator, we were told by some officials that there was a large number of people who were on the opposing side. None of them had the guts to step up, but spent their time chatting and cowardly staying in the background.

Furthermore, teachers and folks who supported the administrator all heard the same thing:  “They just didn’t like his looks.”

 “They.” They who?

Now, did this mean that “they” were slamming his physical appearance?  I don’t think so. But a group of parents and – maybe some school staff members – began saying they didn’t like his demeanor at school events. He didn’t smile enough. He wasn’t lively enough. He didn’t schmooze with the crowd or students at basketball games.

Do we really think that being flashy, overly friendly, energetic all the time and over the top necessarily equates to a good administrator, teacher, or staff member? I don’t think we can judge a person like that, nor can we expect all people to fit our ideals.  

We shouldn’t form opinions on people we really don’t know. This advice can and should be taken by everyone – me being at the top of the list.

I would love for some of those same people who “didn’t like his looks” to see how he interacted with kids during discipline conferences.  I would like those same people to see how kids respected him and appreciated his demeanor.  Those same kids would tell you what a good listener he was.

But because a few people “didn’t like his looks,” a borderline witch hunt began. Apparently, lots of things were “said around town” and “in the grocery store.” When I was a new teacher, I heard the phrase “talk around the pool is…”  

All of that mindless chatter makes me want to throw up.

The group of parents, community members and uninformed windbags began circulating ridiculous rumors. We heard stories of kids being forced to change clothes in administrators’ offices – something that would be impossible considering the windows and cameras around our school.  We heard many rumors, started by and circulated by parents that are simply too asinine for me to print.

A few visitors to our school who used to be employed by our district still visited our school from time to time. They reportedly remarked how unfriendly things seemed to be in the office, and therefore they felt slighted.

Look, let me tell you something about a school; there is not much time to deal with extra pleasantries. I remember a wise and respected teacher told me once before she retired that she was having second thoughts about becoming a substitute teacher.

“Because when I come here, you won’t have time to visit.”

She was right. When you volunteer or work at our school as a substitute, there is no time to lay on the accolades or spend a lot of time rolling out the red carpet and striking up the band to announce your presence. There is time for friendliness, but sometimes things are in such a rush around school that things may seem a little unfriendly.  

“We appreciate you.  Thank you so much for coming to help us. Here’s your key. Here’s your assignment. Let us know if you have any questions. I’m sorry if there wasn’t time to make you feel more welcome or spend time telling you how wonderful you are. In case you don’t know, we really do think you are wonderful for volunteering to help. Forgive us if we don’t have time to mention it every time we see you.  We hope a paycheck will help a little bit.”

Then there are the groups of people who get together in coffee groups and squawk and strut around the place like hens in a chicken house. Did you ever notice the most uninformed, ignorant and laziest chickens often squawk the loudest? And did you ever notice how the rest of the animals in the barnyard listen to them and follow them? It’s maddening to me, especially when the big-mouthed hen has no business being involved in the first place. Gossip and trouble stirring are a sport for them.

One of the best things we heard when we were investigating what really happened was “Why won’t anybody listen to you teachers? You were the ones in there who really knew what was going on and how things really were.”

Thank you!

As with most things, you hear follow-up comments like all kids weren’t treated equally. There was a “liberal agenda” being pushed. The athletic kids weren’t given the same positive treatment as other kids. On and on it went, none of it true.

 I can tell you kids were and are being treated with professionalism. I can tell you there are many, many students with problems and behavior issues who have been helped and completely turned in the right direction. Our school is and was a great environment for kids.  

No agendas were pushed – unless it involved doing good things for kids. Sure, there are some who would disagree. But are we supposed to kowtow to that minority who really don’t know what they are talking about?

And just for the record: your kid is guilty. None of them were called into the office without a good reason. Stop thinking your children can do no wrong.  One of the reason kids are a mess is because parents are afraid to discipline or are upset because the rest of the world doesn’t treat them as if they hung the moon.

Before I get off my soap box, let me say a few more things. When school was dismissed for the summer, our union president reminded us of the chain of command. When a teacher has a problem, we should go to our administrator or our union rep. We should not think we have any right to “have the ear of” a board member. 

Teachers who think they can go to a board member with a personal beef are not remembering how things are supposed to be. It’s unprofessional, it’s the opposite of classy, it’s unfair and it is a bunch of small-town bunk. Stop it!

Furthermore, it is my opinion the board of education should be concerned with running the school district as a business and leaving personal opinion and public comments to the proper people. This type of professionalism would speak volumes to the employees and the voters.

Parents, please pay attention to what is going on in our schools and community. Don’t allow this barnyard minority to run your schools for you. I’ve been around for 33 years and I know what I’m talking about.

I don’t blame the board of education for what happened. I do think they played a part, but I think the true blame lies with a bunch of small-town, small-minded people only worried about their own personal feelings and opinions.  These are the same people who pride themselves on being “from here.” These are the same people who aren’t brave with their own lives, so they stir trouble to make themselves feel better.  Here’s my personal and professional advice to all of them: butt out!

We must now move on.  We will welcome our new team members with open arms, hoping to continue to progress and do good things for kids. We want to keep a good thing going. It is our hope and prayer that we can go on as we were, and that no further upsets are planned or instituted.  

To all of you who were mentioned above, I say this: please leave us alone and let us do our jobs.

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