Home > District Meeting Updates, Opinions & Editorials, Teacher Issues/ Treatment of Staff > Board of Education May Meeting – Citizens’ Highlights

Board of Education May Meeting – Citizens’ Highlights

May 25, 2010

NOTE: The official Highlights of this meeting are not yet available from the District. When it is, a follow-up with additional information will be posted.

At last week’s Board of Education meeting, several members of the public addressed the Board on a few different topics.

  • PLEASE CONSIDER THE CONSEQUENCES OF OUTSOURCING FOOD SERVICES: A few members of the Food Services department, including the Director, wished to inform the Board about the sound state of the current Food Services program in the District. They also spoke about some disturbing facts and allegations about the company being recommended to the Board that evening as the outsourcing option, which is being considered as an additional budget-savings measure.
  • EDUCATION REPORTER THANKS DISTRICT: The reporter from the Tribune spoke to say goodbye and thank the District (the Board, Administration, staff and especially our amazing teachers) for the positive impact they have had on her. She is leaving to pursue a career in teaching. She says it was while watching a presentation by a student group, she became truly inspired by this District and caught the “education bug.” The audience, Board and Administration gave her a resounding applause.
  • D38 SUPERINTENDENT VIOLATES POLICY GOVERNANCE: Woodmoor resident cites specific D38 Superintendent violations of POLICY GOVERNANCE. See attached statement from the 5/20 BOE meeting.
  • D38 TEACHER MORALE AT “ALL TIME LOW”: 6 D38 residents present anonymous teacher letters to the School Board. The letters, with one exception, were given without their names, for fear of retaliation by the Administration. Here are the comments of some of the presenters and the letters:

I thank you for the opportunity to address you tonight. When we moved into D38 about 10 years ago, I was personally impressed by the level of education that our children received. I grew up in California, went to California schools – I won’t say anymore on that. But the wonderful experiences and education that our children had in their classrooms has really been a great thing to me. And I’m grateful for the quality of teachers our children have, and have had, since we’ve lived here. I, like the Board and Superintendent have repeated numerous times, believe that the teachers; their love of children and their desire to educate the upcoming generation are at the core of our district’s success. And this is what I desire to address with you tonight.

In the Spring 2009 Teacher Survey, as I looked at those results, which were brought to my attention fairly recently, I was showed some disturbing statistics about how our teachers feel they are treated in their professional setting. As I’ve talked to our children’s teachers over the past year, even prior to the announcement of the reconfiguration, it’s become obvious to me that we are not trending in a positive direction where teacher morale is concerned.

Several teachers have expressed this and approached some parents ans asked us to relay their feelings, since they feel they are unable to speak openly because of a history and fear of retaliation. So I was given this letter by a teacher and it’s addressed to you. It says:

Dear Board of Education,

As a teacher in a school district that has a reputation of excellence, I’m writing to express my concerns. As teachers, we are called upon every day to be “experts” in our schools and classrooms. The expectation is that we have a thorough knowledge of the subject matter that we teach, as well as creative and comprehensive methods of delivering those concepts to students. Parents place their trust in our abilities to prepare their sons and daughters for the next level of learning, be it middle school, high school or college. Many teachers in our school district have advanced degrees and years of experience instructing students, advising clubs, and coaching sports teams. However, the overwhelming impression we get as teachers is that our professional viewpoints are meaningless. When we offer suggestions, such as Option X, our ideas are quickly discounted. As a result, teachers are now forced to “perfect an imperfect decision” that is costing, rather than saving the district money. Over the past two years, a majority of the budgetary cutbacks have been absorbed by teachers, in the form of increased teaching loads and colleagues losing their jobs. If you truly see us as “experts,” listen to, consider, and incorporate our input; allow us to make decisions and expenditures without being scrutinized; value our dedication; and rely on our expertise and professionalism.

Sincerely,

A Concerned Teacher

I attempted to convince this, well not this individual, but a separate teacher, actually several teachers at my children’s school to come forward. They thought about it, but because of their concern for their jobs, they decided not to so, at least at this time. My closing feelings are that if we cannot ensure the morale of and feeling of empowerment for our teachers, our district will not continue to be able to attract the talented educators that will make D38 a wonderful district. There is a pestilence growing in the ranks of our teachers and that pestilence is lower morale and a feeling that they are not cared about. I ask you to take action as a Board to improve the treatment and morale of our teachers.

Thank you.

The Board members commented on how they are available and willing to talk to teachers and reminded them that their phone numbers and email addresses are available on the District website. Two members said they have a problem with anonymous letters.

After working in the district for several years, I’ve found the following to be true:

  • Many employees within the district feel intimidated to speak their minds for fear of retaliation.
  • I have witnessed our Superintendent humiliate and belittle teachers in front of their peers after they dared to question statements that he made.
  • I was told by a parent, who works for the district, that when he/she spoke up about objections to pay cuts the Superintendent replied that, “your decisions have put you in the position you are in and my decisions have put me in the position I am in.”
  • Administrators are either supported and within the Superintendent’s circle or they are outcasts. The schools in which the outcast administrators work do not receive equal attention, technology, services, and support.
  • The district administration asks teachers and volunteer community members to serve on various committee whose recommendations are basically ignored if they are not in line with decisions already determined by the district administration. Many have simply quit participating because it is a waste of time.

Good evening. I too, have a letter to read from a teacher.
Dear Board of Education:

First let me thank you for taking time to listen to my concerns as well as the concerns of my colleagues. I keep hearing that morale is good and that teachers are moving forward. Yes, we are moving forward but morale is absolutely not good, and yes there is a general fear of retaliation if you speak up or disagree with what is the “district vision.” I have seen people who have asked very pertinent questions or who have expressed valid and well informed opinions be ridiculed, ignored, or just plain lied to. And, when you see this happen to people you work closely with and highly respect, it makes you less likely to speak up for fear of how you will be treated. I have also witnessed data and information manipulated or misrepresented to meet the desired outcome. Personally, I have not been told the truth on two occasions by Dr. Blanch, and I have evidence to back this up. Since the firing of Dr. Pomarico, staff who ‘Speak Up’ are considered to be either squeaky wheels, not on board or not team players.

Many years ago when I first started at Lewis Palmer, the Superintendent and central office worked to support teachers, schools and the students. Now, the reverse is true; we are working to support the central office. That is fundamentally WRONG!

Finally, I have a few questions that I hope will be answered:

  1. Was the board made aware that the 6th graders are going to lose 100 minutes of instruction a week by going back to elementary? This was added to a list that was created at the request of Dr. Blanch. We were told that all lists would be compiled and shared with the board. Was this done?
  2. Is the board aware that elementary enrollment is down across the district by 150+ students? Grace Best is down 37 students (this does not include 6th grade).
  3. Is the board aware of how many new teacher positions will need to be created to get more elective offerings at the elementary schools or that Elementary core teachers are being asked to teach elective classes that they are not certified in or have experience in to get some of the elective courses covered (i.e. Spanish)?
  4. Is the board aware of the costs to purchase and install lockers at the elementary schools for the 6th Graders? This was done because in 6th grade you have lockers, although the kids at Creekside did not.
  5. Is the board aware that enrollment for LPMS 7th Grade is at 386 and 420 for 8th Grade? This is significantly bigger than any class at either high school. The next largest class is the 10th grade at Palmer Ridge with 304. And, with that the ratio of support staff between the two high schools and middle school is completely unbalanced.

Thank you!

I can’t answer questions on this, but one thing I can talk about is I’ve been going around because I’ve been forwarded emails from some of the teaching staff that was sent to the Board. I did go around to some of the teachers and say, “Did your questions get answered? Did they respond to your questions or give answers to what you were asking?” And the teachers would say, “Not really. I didn’t hear back from them.” I asked, “Can I bring that forward or talk to them?” And they said, “I really don’t want to be bothered with it because of the retaliation,” or, “I’m just done. I’ve lost faith in our Board. I’ve lost faith in our Superintendent.”

I too, have a letter from a teacher.
For many years, Lewis Palmer School District had an outstanding reputation. Teachers from all over the country, when moving to the Colorado Springs area, were repeatedly told that if they landed a job here, they had been blessed. This is no longer the case. While LP teachers have long been paid less than teachers in comparable districts, it was accepted because teachers were valued and the culture of mutual respect and pursuit of excellent schools permeated from administration to faculty. In fact, staff members could call a superintendent at home and were welcomed to do so. Now, that is not possible.
The most frustrating part about being a teacher in LP schools is that there is a radiating element of condescension from the central administration. Teachers are not consulted regarding change; they are informed it will take place. Oh, committees are formed, but the result is something predetermined and reported as a collaboration of committee and administration. Curriculum that used to be designed by current classroom teachers is now dictated from people who have not seen a working classroom for quite a while. Site-based management of finances has been replaced with a top-down doctrine that makes it difficult to function on a day-to-day basis. School board members who snap at teachers during public meetings make it clear that the people who are charged with the education of area children are devalued. It is no wonder that so many teachers with 10 years or less experience are trying to leave LP schools.
Lewis Palmer schools have become a training ground for new teachers. While new teachers are enthusiastic and loaded with updated information on best practices and the newest research, they need to hone their skills in classroom management and organization. Here, they acquire the skills necessary to be outstanding teachers for other school districts. But as pay decreases and teachers feel devalued, newer teachers are looking for employment elsewhere. The districts where they land know that they have acquired teachers who are smart, creative, and now more complete as educators. One district to the south of LP is snatching up these teachers and greedily licking their lips.
I hope Lewis Palmer schools are revered again in the future because currently we are the model of how not to operate a school district.

That’s the end of the letter. For myself, when we moved here 9 years ago, we were ecstatic to get our kids in this school district. And we have many teachers that are friends as our kids have gone through the system. We also have friends that are teachers and one principle in District 20. Lewis Palmer is becoming a joke. Thank you.
Board President John Mann: Thank you. Comments?
Board Member Gail Wilson: I have a couple of questions. As a parent your student has been in this district for a couple of years? What do you feel is the level of student achievement available to your student today versus a couple of years ago?
Speaker: I think it’s diminished. It is diminished.
Gail Wilson: And do you think that that is diminished because of the quality of the educator?
Speaker: No. Because I think that the educators we have are very devoted. I think that also this district is blessed with a high parental involvement that helps. But, teachers are becoming demoralized. Teachers are afraid to talk to you people. There is a problem. I understand that you’re saying that you’re willing to sit down with teachers one-on-one. When the teachers are afraid to talk to you, what incentive do they have? When they’re afraid that there’s going to be reprisals from one or more of you, what incentive do they have to come to you? You guys have a problem. You have created a problem.
Gail Wilson: I’m trying to understand that problem so if you don’t feel comfortable answering that’s fine. But since we have at least one, two buildings for each grade level, can you tell me is the letter that you received from this teacher from an elementary, a middle or a high school?
Speaker: I do not know.
Gail Wilson: You do not know.
Speaker: But I know from my own personal experience of talking to teachers that are still elementary teachers, middle school teachers and now high school teachers, there’s a problem.

Dear Board of Education,

“Good is the enemy of great,” Jim Collins begins his book Good to Great.Good ideas developed without solid facts must not take the place of great ideas based upon our current reality. Great ideas are available if this board truly listens to the community and staff. Solid facts are available upon which to make decisions. Too many great ideas for District 38 have been censored by a culture of fear. People fear that their time and effort are wasted if decisions are predetermined. Teachers, principles, and other staff members fear for their jobs. Let’s stop the fear and open up the process of suggestions with ideas debated and data analyzed before major decisions are made. Great decisions could yet be made in the midst of the economic downturn and funding rescissions. Proactive decisions made with wisdom could lead us to greatness despite the adversity of these difficult times. Tough times call us to work together for the sake of the students we all serve.

Sincerely,

A Teacher

I’m a voice of a teacher tonight. I know who this teacher is and this teacher will not come forward. This teacher has tried to come forward before and wants to keep a job.

Dear Board of Education,
As an educator in the Lewis Palmer School district I have found myself incredibly saddened by the process of decision making this year. The community and the staff have been requested to provide input, however the perception is that the board decisions were made prior to hearing that input. When proposals were thoughtfully presented there was no acknowledgment of the time, effort and passion for children displayed by these educators.
There is no doubt that the difficult cuts have to be made. Where are the savings when there are now proposed renovations and additions to schools? Staff members were notified about nonrenewal and then jobs were posted. There was no consistent process for non-renewed staff to apply or to be considered for openings. There seem to be many surveys to poll the community and staff about opinions, but then the results are never communicated and the survey process is a costly waste of funds.
Without a poll I know that morale is low, teachers feel bruised, students are worried, and the community has lost faith. We have tremendous passion for our school and for students. We need to know the plan, the vision, the next step. We need thoughtful consideration of educator and community input. Something needs to change for this to happen.
Educator, D38

Board President John Mann: I appreciate everyone who stood up to read a teacher letter. I know that you didn’t come here tonight necessarily with that in mind, to have a good time. It was a difficult thing to do and I appreciate your frank communication.

As the official Highlights, minutes, additional public submissions and recordings become available, more details will be posted on this meeting.

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  1. Lori Woshner
    May 27, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I would like to add a point to 2.1.10 if I may. I am outraged that the superintendent scheduled (rescheduled, actually) the meeting held at Grace Best in December to coincide with LPMS Principal Terry Miller’s Christmas get together for his staff. The superintendent was well aware of the date conflict. As a result, the community was unable to hear the opinion of one of the finest administrators this district has ever had. Since the middle school children are significantly affected by this reconfiguration debacle, why is it that the superintendent deliberately chose a date ensuring we would not get a professional viewpoint from Terry Miller. Terry chose to honor his staff, something our central administration has neglected to do.

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