It sounds like Chapel Hill High is going from bad to worse with teachers being involuntarily reassigned.

Array

43 Comments

John Ager's picture

Protest anyway, but don't expect change

How do we expect an entrenched bureaucracy to respond to a "problem" ? By reforming?CHCCS should support and encourage exceptional teachers, not scapegoat them. Warts(ki) and all. I went to Lincoln Center last week on a minor administrative matter, which was dealt with efficiently. But the ambience over there is DMV-like. Process chases out vision. Just my own 2c.

What to do?

My kids go to East, so I know nothing about the culture at CHHS or these teachers. But, from the reporting, it seems clear that the principal who is leaving, the staff and faculty at CHHS, and the folks who chose not to apply for the principal position at CHHS (Carrboro had many more apps) identify the climate at CHHS as a problem. If 4 or 5 principals since 2000 haven't been able to solve the problem, then what should Lincoln Center do? 

Roscoe's picture

Sounds Bad

I'm very unhappy with what I have read about this situation. Sounds like an administrative problem that two good teachers have taken the hit for.Ok School Board, take the thumbs out of whereever you have placed them and get on this thing. Before my grandsons arrive at CHHS......way before. 

James Barrett's picture

video was live

John, that page does show live video as well.  It may have been tougher to follow last night because evidently the video person who usually does the meetings wasn't hired for this new fiscal year and the town (who obviously runs their facility) hasn't solved for this year (Town Council doesn't meet again until September?).  So at the last minute, they got the system up and running, but didn't have someone to switch camera angles is what we heard.  But normally, the video is on Channel 18 on cable and live on the internet at the page you reference.  I know my 9-year-old daughter watches every chance she can.  The usual issue is that it takes several hours to process the video and
get the archived version up on the web, so there's a gap on Friday AM
(when you most want to review the tape) between when it was available
live and when it is available archived. btw, we are switching to one of our monthly meetings at Lincoln Center in the fall.  They have added the live video streaming capability from there (not sure if that means Channel 18 as well or just internet) and it is a better environment for us to have work sessions with in depth conversation about items.  Another exciting change from our superintendent that I'm looking forward to.

John Ager's picture

Thanks James

We all appreciate and applaud the technical progress that CHCCS has made over the past few years. Just as with Town Council meetings et al, having video available via the web and on Channel 18 really helps the public keep track.

mkelley's picture

Personnel issues not public

First, nothing in my comments should be construed as being a comment on any particular personnel issue, including these two contested transfers.  NC state law generally prohibits any comment on personnel issues.  Because of that prohibition, it is usually the case that those who are not entrusted with making personnel decisions do not have all relevant information upon which to make informed opinions.  When I find myself in situations with incomplete facts, I usually try to suspend judgement and allow those who our community has entrusted with personnel decisions to perform their duties.  It seems illogical to draw strong conclusions in situations where it is known that one has incomplete information on which to base a conclusion.  In North Carolina, personnel decisions are entrusted primarily to the superintendent and not school boards.  School boards may not take a personnel action except upon the recommendation of the superintendent. In many situations in which a district employee disagrees with a decision affecting their employment or status, NC state law and CHCCS policy provides for avenues of review and appeal.  Appeals within CHCCS remain confidential under state law. 

Roscoe's picture

Suspend Judgement?

Usually people aren't elected to suspend their judgement. We expect you to engage your judgement mkelley. While you are graced with a community (even school parents) who rarely pay attention, this "contested transfers" situation may bite the board on its collective bottoms.Yes the board does not make personnel decisions, we all know that. But two talented and highly experienced and respected teachers getting the heave-ho should be a dead canary in your mine. The question of who this school system is run for should be crossing your mind.....it's beginning to cross a lot of CHHS parents and alumni minds.Review and appeal is not the problem here. What mindset transferred those teachers? That's what the board is responsible for, the system's mindset, not bs state personnel laws and CHCCS policy avenues. Prediction: administrators win; teachers are off to elsewhere; opinions and letters-to-editors fade; the board gets back to endless agendas; peace and quiet at Lincoln Center.

Maybe we don't know

Roscoe,I took away two messages from mkelley's post. Number one, due to privacy issues, we don't know everything. Maybe something happened that warranted these transfers. The fairly frequent turnover in principals and the small number of applications for the job might indicate a problem at the school. Number two, there is a process, procedure and chain of command for personnel decisions. The School Board is peripheral to this procedure. Public opinion is present only at the beginning of the process (i.e. identifying areas of concern, giving opinions through the SIT and PTSA). The teachers have procedures to go through to appeal. It simply can't and shouldn't be a matter of public opinion -- the public are woefully uninformed and have only one-sided information. 

Roscoe's picture

I agree...

I 100% agree with you. But the school board is central to represent the community's values beyond staff and parents. We know from the UNC football scandal that cancer in a system can be shielded from the university community and citizens, and that faculty can be intimidated (heard the voices of any untenured profs?). Imagine how even worse it is in the public schools where there is no academic freedom, regardless of tenure, and no institutional values to nurture it.So what do we know that can mediate the age old, "we are woefully uninformed"? We have two experienced, respected and talented faculty who have spoken up (obviously troublemakers).We have students and parents who have lauded their work and influence. We have a loud message that has gone to the faculty of three high schools: keep your f#$@&^%g mouth shut if you want your job, there will be no one who can save your butt.How does the school board communicate to its CEO community values? How does the CEO acknowledge those values? Words or deeds? We have a school system with the highest reputation in the state, who would want to screw with that? I'm sure those 39 valedictorians are the result of our superintendent. Right?Canary in the mine (sorry, I love that metaphor).

More to the story

You know, I am just not buying it that the reason for all of this is that these teachers "spoke their minds" opposing proposed policies. First, those policies were proposed by the previous superintendent, not this one. Second, those policies (grading changes and hybrids) were defeated by the school board. Third, these issues were settled years ago. Fourth, East and Carrboro flouted the hybrid decision and were taken to task for it last year; CH was the only HS in compliance with board policy on this.And "speaking one's mind" can be good or bad depending on how it's done. They may be great teachers. But, if they consistently undermined the various principals at CH, then something has to be done. However, I do find it odd that they claim to have been given no warning that their behavior was considered inappropriate. It seems like a warning should be necessary before involuntary transfer.In the end, we won't find out all of the reasons. Personnel decisions are private. I trust our school board and superintendent to be fair and reasonable and to do the best for our students. 

Roscoe's picture

Well.........

I wasn't interested in Forcella finding the dead canary (he may be a person-of-interest, as law enforcement is fond of saying)...and I don't buy the difficulty in attracting principal candidates has anything to do with two teachers speaking their mind.....if it does we are really in pathetic shape..and I don't care what policy the teachers were objecting to.....and at this time I'm not co-signing trust in the school board and superintendent to be fair....anyways the board is not involved, right?(1) Why are administrators afraid of competent intelligent teachers speaking their mind? (2) Why not reason and justify rather than boot? (3) Why aren't we recruiting administrators who understand questions 1 and 2? Now that's what I'd like the board to consider its role in this matter, answer the three questions.

An example

Let me give an example of when "speaking one's mind" is unacceptable. I asked a CHCCS student (NOT from Chapel Hill HIgh) if she had ever heard teachers badmouth the principal. "Oh, yes" was the answer. She described several teachers (at 2 different schools) running their principal down. In my opinion, some criticisms had merit. But the venue (in front of a classroom) was completely inappropriate. Now I have no idea if the CH High teachers did anything like this, but this is the kind of thing that goes on that the general public is unaware of.

Roscoe's picture

Speaking........

Truly badmouthing a principal in front of a class would be unprofessional conduct by a teacher.....but......badmouthing is one of those words that cover a lot of speech.Many would agree that "the principal is an idiot" constitutes badmouthing to most people but "I disagree with the new grade policy and wish we would do x y z" may be badmouthing to some but not to others. Bad and stupid policy may not be crammed down everyone's throat, but you do need a good PR person if you're going to cut throats. My Way Or The Highway can be a philosophy of education, with a happy administrator and obedient faculty (cause the disobedient are....sent elsewhere), but this might not sell well in Chapel Hill......nor produce "teacher of the year" types.

Agreed

I think we roughly agree on what should be tolerated/encouraged and what should not be tolerated. But we do not know what these teachers did or are alleged to have done. And we won't here both sides of the story because one side is legally prohibited from speaking.

Roscoe's picture

Agree

I agree. If the Board makes a decision and the teachers say they were fairly heard, that's our only resolution. Maybe the teachers could wave their protection.

James Barrett's picture

One board member's thoughts on your 3 questions

(1) In what we've seen, there's no evidence this is the case(2) 2 issues with this statement:  a)  personnel laws prevent sharing of what might have happened before this step;  b) nobody received "the boot".  The teachers still have jobs in our district.(3) Personnel laws prevent a lot of comment on this item (administrators are employees as well), but I'll say that given I disagree with your premise of what happened in regards to #1 and #2, I don't think you have much evidence as to what administrators think of those questions either.Here's link to Dr Forcella's latest statement.   http://chccs-news.blogspot.com/2012/07/superintendent-releases-letter.html.  I think it is important to remember there is a lot of change happening in our schools next year.  New principal at CHHS (and 2 other high schools), new curriculum across all grades, new instructional methods from IFL.  I heard on the campaign trail last year how much we need these changes.  These changes are coming.  How we as adults react to change and continue to provide great teaching to all of our students is critical.  Dr. Forcella has added some additional changes he believes will provide the best for all of our students across the district.  Maybe it won't work out 100% the way he expects.  But he has a proven good track record as a superintendent and should be given the opportunity to help change our district for an even greater vision going forward. -James Barrett, CHCCS school board member (and proud CHHS graduate) -- but my statements here are always my own

Perpetuating toxic culture

Teachers, like any employees, have the right to know why they are being punished. While it may be within the authority of administrators to transfer someone without explanation, I just don't see any way that such a response is respectful of an employee's rights nor is it setting a good example for our students. If there are good reasons for the transfer, those reasons need to be made public. If those reasons violate personnel policies, then at minimum the teachers themselves need to be told and then it's their right to make those reasons public. This lack of transparency is just perpetuating the toxic environment and making it more difficult for the incoming principal.

The teachers

Terri,It seems like the teachers have been given a reason. From Chapelboro:

Administrators say Wartski and Thompson have contributed to a "culture problem" at the school, but the teachers say they are being punished for criticizing the conduct of Dr. Jesse Dingle, the former principal of Chapel Hill High who resigned in May.

 As Roscoe and I discussed above, there are both appropriate and inappropriate ways and venues to criticize your boss. Inappropriate criticism can certainly create a toxic culture.

Unintended consequences

The school system has said they are moving the teachers to solve a culture problem at the school. On one hand, I understand that decision. But the district needs to explain why *these* teachers were selected and they need to give that explanation to the teachers AND then the teachers need to make it known to the public. My concern is that with the number of students who have opposed the decision to reassign the teachers, not giving a good and accurate explanation for the decision is going to send a message to students that their feelings and their political activism don't count. I think it is absolutely vital that our local governments do not discourage young people from engaging in political discussions. We need them to participate in democracy, not be turned off to it. 

Roscoe's picture

The message

They moved out two highly experienced and respected faculty. There is no other message to all faculty other than shut up and obey. I'm glad you expressed your concern for what the students would think of this, Terri.Whatever the problems were at CHHS the school board and administration have doubled down. Culture indeed. What happened and what did the teachers do? Answer now or answer at next election.

Keeping young people engaged

In qualitative research, one of the first steps in defining your methodology is to identify your unit of study. In this case, school administrators have identified the school as the unit of concern so the negative impact on the teachers or the students isn't considered as part of the solution. My concern is that we keep telling young people government works in an ideal way but when they try to engage in governance, they get pushed aside as is happening to the students in this case.Here's another concrete example from this afternoon's All Things Considered: http://www.npr.org/player/v2/mediaPlayer.html?action=1&t=1&islist=false&id=157678588&m=157678565 (3 high school girls asking to have a woman moderator at this year's presidential debate.)We need to make students at least part of the unit of concern. I'm sure there's a way to handle this situation at both the school and the individual level. 

James Barrett's picture

engagement

Couple of issues here that make this hard for students to advocate.1) The students have chosen to engage in a personnel matter, which is a hard place to engage.  We've been accused of ignoring "public opinion", which is perhaps true -- public opinion is not the only key in looking at an employee's performance.2) Teachers are asked to do more than teach 5 classes (especially veterans who also compensated for it in terms of higher supplements). So student success stories are only a part of their portfolio as employees .  Dr. Forcella sort of references this in talking about the need to contribute to the culture of CHHS. 3) There are other student and teacher stories we've received than the ones that have been the most public. Again, nobody should judge this without having all the info and of course, by law, that's info we can't share.4) I'm not sure how students overall are being harmed.  These teachers are still teaching students in our district.  We will hire other teachers using the same standards we have for everyone.  All of which is to say that while this is a hard thing for students to advocate for, and they have not seen the success they desire, I know a couple of board members have mentioned to me how impressed they are with how the students have engaged here.  They have been terrifically organized, well thought out, stuck to the facts, clearly passionate but not blinded by that passion.  It gives me hope for our democracy (as opposed to seeing some of the political ads during the Olympics) to see how they've engaged.

Mia Burroughs's picture

The students rocked

I posted this as my Facebook status on July 21. I want these students to know that regardless of the outcome of this situation, they have the ability to be excellent community leaders whereever they land. Many of their parents are FB friends so I hope they shared the message. "Since state law prohibits me from speaking about school personnel, I want
folks to know about the best aspect of the latest high profile issue in
Chapel Hill Carrboro City Schools. In my almost five years on the
Board, the advocates that impress me the most are our high school
students. Win, lose or draw, they are articulate, passionate,
thoughtful and skilled in their advocacy. The latest group of student
advocates have been motivated by the one of the best feelings in life:
gratitude. Each time I witness this, my hope for the future of our
community and country is renewed." 

Explanations

My point is that when the superintendent says "in order for Chapel Hill High School to realize achievement growth for all students a culture change was necessary" there needs to be more of an explanation of what 'culture change' means. It's not as simple as removing two teachers. School administrators need to provide students (and teachers) with a more detailed explanation of what constitutes a culture change and steps that are going to be taken to achieve that goal. By providing this explanation, it will engage the students and help them understand why their efforts to retain favorite teachers may not be successful, but also not wasted effort.Engage the students (who constitute a significant portion of the school culture--don't just tell them what you have done! 

Mia Burroughs's picture

indeed

That makes good sense, Terri.  That will be a high priority for the Superintendent and the new principal when all the students are back in just over three weeks.

Roscoe's picture

More Involved

"Culture change" is of important interest also to the faculty, parents and the community. The board is responsible to the community for defining what culture means in this transfer issue and needs to describe in detail, minus education speak and PR babble, what changes will sustain what values.

Greenhouse

On the larger issue of culture change, Forcella has been involved, responsive and very straightforward with the public. When he first got here, he went on a listening tour with several public events scheduled. He was both an active listener and a clear communicator about what the district does well, what it doesn't do well, and what he would like to do to change it.This process continued with the very extensive and very public Greenhouse Project process. If you didn't follow it, here are some links: 

  

Roscoe's picture

Looking

Ok I'll read it.......be looking for the part where you boot top talented teachers to improve the culture.Actually, I'm more interested in whether the school board is "involved, responsive and very straightforward with the public".

My experience

Well, as someone who has argued before the school board (won some, lost some), I think so. To me, responsive means that they listen and engage with the public -- not that they blindly do whatever the majority at the meeting wants.Roscoe, I am confused by your former comment about booting top teachers. Earlier, you seemed to recognize that it would be possible to behave unprofessionally when criticizing the principal, for example. Now you seem to be back to ignoring that there might have been unprofessional behavior that we are unaware of (due to legal constraints). 

Roscoe's picture

Still there....

I'm still there on unprofessional behavior, but unless you know something the rest of us don't know it is not fair to speculate on the hypothetical and extend  to these two teachers the inference that they were unprofessional. They haven't been informed that they were unprofessional. If they were really unprofessional why does East get them? It doesn't sound to me like unprofessional, it sounds like our-way-or-the-highway.Anyways, I was trying to get off the teachers and get back to the board and what they perceive as their role in representing community values in changing "the culture" of the schools (from what to what?) and what they have conveyed to the administration in carrying out those values. Then, how that reflects in the superintendent's view of excellent and high performing teachers.......our way or the highway?

Okay

I have said repeatedly that I don't know anything about how these teachers conducted themselves with regard to the school administration or the district administration. No one who actually does know anything can comment. I'm just asserting that it's possible that there was just cause. It seems to me that you are assuming that the superintendent is behaving unprofessionally by asserting that he has a repressive mentality. Why choose to give the teachers the benefit of the doubt rather than the superintendent?As I've said before, I think the new administration has been clear and consistent about encorporating community values in identifying needed changes. 

James Barrett's picture

culture

I was clear in my campain last fall that changes are coming to our schools -- we have a new superintendent, CHHS will have a new principal, Common Core is required K-12 now, we have contracted with IFL to bring new instructional language and methods to our schools. I believe I've brought community values to the parts of those changes that the board is involved in (some are administrative decisions that the board is actually not very involved in). Dr. Forcella is doing what he needs to to ensure that these changes are successful in our schools.  The culture of CHHS (and all of our schools) needs to support change.  Status quo is not an option for anyone - teachers, administrators, board members, even students. And a simple reminder: I graduated from CHHS (class of 87). I love this school, and want it to be nothing short of terrific.

Roscoe's picture

New?

Common Core.........new? New instructional language and methods to our schools? Hah! Reads like the first Soviet education plan in 1922. Nothing new, James, nothing new....was probably the school plan first written on the cave walls in southern France.Here's creative innovative educational thinking:http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/29/opinion/sunday/is-algebra-necessary.html?_r=1&pagewanted=1But....things are beginning to shape up in a perception of what happened to our two teachers. They must not have been totally supportive of our CC BS plan. Said so, I'll bet. Out of step, so to speak.Well......I've said enough about this topic. With three sons CHHS grads and two grandsons heading that way, I too care about CHHS. You could probably put any plan no matter how crazy or lazy in place, as long as you buy consultants, and still end up with 15 valedictorians at CHHS. The community values I hold the board responsible for is  equal opportunity for all students and the nurturing and maybe tolerance of teacher excellence and creativity. I think our two teachers got floored for caring.

Anita Badrock's picture

Terri,  we don't know if

Terri,  we don't know if the teachers have been given a reason or not.     Not saying that's the case, but the fact remains that all we know is what one side of the dispute has chosen to share, because the other side is following personnel privacy guidelines.   

There is a difference

There is a difference between someone not listening to you and someone disagreeing with you.  Just because the board did not do what the students asked does not mean they did not listen.  They were very impressed with the students presentations but in the end, they said "no".  The students should not be discouraged.  They should be proud that they stood up for something they strongly believed in.  But they also have to realize that just because you protest, you won't always get what you want.

So the poor showing at CHHS

So the poor showing at CHHS and lost of principals can be traced to two teachers. The School Board and Super need to pull there heads out of the sand and address the problem head on and with backbone. So if these teachers are undermining the school admin. then there new schools will begin to decline. When they address the problems at CHHS then they can address the bully issues they have at the middle schools.Don't hold your breath on either issue.

Roscoe's picture

Thompson appeal denied

Thompson said that in her closed-session meeting with the school board, Forcella “named no names of anybody that’s come forward to say anything against me. … They showed me nothing.”“He’s giving me nothing, nothing. No one. No one who’s filed a grievance against me,” she said. - Chapel Hill NewsI'm a prophet!! 

Ruby Sinreich's picture

Superintendent Forcella's letter

I read Superintendent Forcella's letter today http://chccs-news.blogspot.com/2012/07/superintendent-releases-letter.htmlI am increasingly convinced that there is some good reason behind this, but the way the superintendent is handling it only seems to increase fear and mistrust. If what he's saying (for example, about the need for change in the way we teach and learn overall) is true, the situation calls for an open discussion with the whole community.If indivdual staff really aren't on board, then let's have that discussion, not just shuffle the problem around.

Personnel

Ruby,Obviously I agree with you that there probably is some good reason behind this. But I'm not sure how the superintendent could have handled it differently. By law, it has to be kept private. I actually don't find the letters very satisfying. They have a lot of general policy statements that may or may not apply to these teachers. I am never quite sure what I am supposed to take away from them. The school district simply can't comment on why these transfers were made.But I do think that Forcela has been talking about changing how we teach and learn since he got here. The greenhouse event in March was part of that. He has also been clear that CHCCS needs to clarify policies, roles and responsibilities and then stick to them. I have a feeling that it's this later goal that is really at play here.

gercohen's picture

Privacy exception

The board can waive the privacy rules for a couple of reasonshttp://www.ncleg.net/EnactedLegislation/Statutes/HTML/ByArticle/Chapter_115C/Article_21A.htmlGS 115C-321(b)(b) Notwithstanding any other provision of this Chapter, any
superintendent may, in his discretion, or shall at the direction of the Board of
Education, inform any person or corporation of any promotion, demotion,
suspension, reinstatement, transfer, separation, dismissal, employment or
nonemployment of any applicant, employee or former employee employed by or
assigned to the local board of education or whose personnel file is maintained
by the board and the reasons therefor and may allow the personnel file of the
person or any portion to be inspected and examined by any person or corporation
provided that the board has determined that the release of the information or
the inspection and examination of the file or any portion is essential to
maintaining the integrity of the board or to maintaining the level or quality of
services provided by the board; provided, that prior to releasing the
information or making the file or any portion available as provided herein, the
superintendent shall prepare a memorandum setting forth the circumstances which
he and the board deem to require the disclosure and the information to be
disclosed. The memorandum shall be retained in the files of the superintendent
and shall be a public record.