Watch Your Back

we-are-enterprise-logo-150x150In case you missed it there were some interesting events in the October 21st school board meeting. Here is how it was reported in the local papers.

An Enterprise third grade teacher remains on 20-day suspension after the Enterprise Board of Education voted unanimously Tuesday night to uphold the superintendent’s decision.

Harrand Creek Elementary School third grade teacher Sonya Dean had requested a hearing before the board following her written notification of the suspension, according to a statement read by Enterprise Schools Superintendent Dr. Camille Wright during the board meeting Tuesday evening.

“Board, before you, you have the information regarding the proposed suspension of an employee,”
 said Wright in her written statement. “At this time, I recommend that Miss Sonya Dean, teacher at Harrand Creek Elementary School, be suspended for 20 work days without pay for the following reason: Ms. Dean struck a child on the back of the neck on Sept. 24, 2014, which is in violation of her performance duties to establish and maintain a positive and safe learning environment and to act in a professional manner.” ...Full story at link below

Enterprise BOE upholds teacher’s suspension

The Enterprise City Schools Board of Education suspended a Harrand Creek Elementary School teacher without pay Tuesday night over allegations she struck a child.

Sonya Dean, a third grade teacher at the school, was suspended for 20 days after the board returned from deliberating in private for more than an hour Tuesday night.

Dean was alleged to have struck a child on the back of the neck, according to Superintendent Dr. Camille Wright.

Dean’s lawyer, Tom Brantley, said Dean was alleged to have “rubbed her hand behind the neck of a sleeping student” so the child could finish taking a test...Full story at link below

City school board suspends teacher without pay

I was at this board meeting and the way it was handled was much different than other similar personnel issues have been handled in the past. I perceived this as public bullying and intimidation. I don’t know any of the facts in the case other than what I heard at the meeting and read in the subsequent news reports but the way it was handled was out of line, in my opinion.

Whether it broke any laws or not will be decided in the lawsuit if it moves forward. Laws can be applied with malice toward none. That did not seem to be the case in this meeting. The accused was presumed guilty and there was no chance to change that presumption. Presumed innocent was not in play here at all. After the allegation details were read in the public board meeting, it seemed rather hypocritical to adjourn to executive session to protect the “good name and character” of the accused when that had already been publicly tainted at best.

And then there was a lawsuit

Not surprisingly, this week it has been reported the accused teacher is suing the school board. The articles below show how that was reported in the local papers.

A Harrand Creek Elementary teacher filed a lawsuit against the Enterprise City Schools Board of Education on Thursday, saying she was wrongfully suspended over allegations she struck a child.

The document was filed by third-grade teacher Sonya Dean, who was suspended without pay for 20 days between Oct. 22 and Nov. 19 on allegations she struck a child on the neck during a classroom exam…Full story at link below

Teacher sues Enterprise City Schools over suspension without pay

In a lawsuit filed Wednesday in Coffee County Circuit Court, a Harrand Creek third grade teacher charges that her rights were violated under Alabama law in connection with her recent 20-day suspension without pay.

Charged with denying Sonya A. Dean of her due process and equal protection under the law are Enterprise Schools Superintendent Dr. Camille Wright and Board of Education members Gloria Jones, Bert Barr, Ross Cotter, Doug Vickers and Dorothy Richardson, all sued both in their official capacities and individually.

Dean charges that she was wrongly suspended without pay for 20 days from Oct. 22 through Nov. 19 of this year and that her suspension cost her to lose $5,494.20 in pay…Full story at link below

Teacher sues Enterprise BOE, Superintendent

If…then

If this is indicative of how other issues are handled now in Enterprise City Schools then it is understandable if teachers feel intimidated and are not speaking out when they disagree with management decisions they are required to implement. A healthy working environment encourages different and dissenting ideas because that is what makes the final product better.

As an outside observer it appears this is the environment we are asking and expecting our teachers to operate in is not one conducive to their best performance. My conclusions are based on what I have observed in board meetings.

Credibility is lacking

In the August 25th board meeting the Director of Elementary Instruction, Mark McCrory, was asked by Mr. Cotter if there was any dissent for the policies removing conduct grades. He said there was none, that this decision had unanimous support, and, in fact, the teachers had come to him and requested it. I don’t know if all of that is true or not but the unanimous support and no dissent is not believable to me and makes me question everything else we are being told. One of the few things I do know and can believe with that degree of certainty is any school board or city council vote on any action item on the agenda will be approved unanimously. Having sat through many of both over the last year and a half that is as close to a sure thing as I have ever seen. I suspect all of the instructional changes, testing, and new policies along with the micro-management are not as universally accepted as we are being told either.

Leadership is lacking

In my career I have worked in environments myself where I had to watch my back because I could not trust my manager to have my back and he tried to “manage” using implied threats and job security. Management by intimidation and threats is not leadership and is not conducive to good performance. I ended up leaving that job and becoming an independent contractor for a few years. I actually did contract work for this same employer, but on my own terms.  What I learned from those experiences, and have tried to do since, is I should always work as if I am an independent contractor because that is, in reality, what employees are in today’s economy.

That is my perception of what faces many not in the central office right now in the Enterprise City School System. Having to watch your back instead of knowing your managers and superiors have your back is not a desirable environment for the teachers and administrators and, ultimately, the students of Enterprise City Schools. One cannot do their best work in this type of working environment.

I would love to be wrong and, if I am, please respond and let me know. This is, after all, just one man’s opinion based on my own life experience and what I have observed. I do know many will not respond due to the reasons mentioned above and understand that. If I do get an overwhelming response telling me I am wrong I will be happy to write a follow-up post saying so.

Let me know what you think and Watch Your Back!

Until next time…

Originally posted on Peculiar Perspective on 11/22/2014

8 thoughts on “Watch Your Back”

  1. I appreciate you for so many reasons. You attend the meetings and keep us informed. I was so appalled
    by the 1st meeting with the nomination of Ross Cotter and the absolute humiliation of Joe Paul. Now I rely on you to keep me informed because I think Camille is trying to do the right thing and I’m sure that she knows more than we are privy to. Thank you for what you do. You give us a balanced opinion and I appreciate that!

  2. Thanks for your comments Ann. It means a lot to me that you took the time to read the post and to make your comments. I am not sure if this is Dr. Wright’s style, if she is just new at this and making mistakes, or if she is being directed by those most know are really in charge but the results I am seeing are the same regardless. I too, am sure she knows much more than we are privy to.

    I also know that with any changes there are people who will not like it just because it is change. However, I believe the Common Core standards and all of the curriculum and teaching changes that come with those standards are not good for the students or teachers and that is the reason I am leery of all the changes from that perspective. Any change just forced on people will not be received well and that is what I believe is happening.

  3. Stan, thank you for your continuing vigilance toward our beloved schools and those who appear to have thrown all caution to the wind insofar as our (the schools’) wellbeing is concerned. From a personal standpoint, my own anger has been replaced by fear for those who work most closely with our students. I am but one among many who never dreamed our schools would fall into the hands of such ruthless and unscrupulous people.

  4. In my opinion, the bullying and intimidation of teachers started with the last superintendent. I felt that the work environment in the school where I taught was built by trying to instill fear and insecurity in the faculty and staff. Younger teachers transferred to other schools “to be with their children”. Others, such as myself, retired or simply quit. This school system has changed drastically.

    1. Thank you for your comments Pat. That is interesting Pat and the first I have heard that. I will admit that I was not following the board meetings prior to the former superintendent, in my opinion, being bullied and intimidated to the point of leaving himself. So I cannot speak to the period before that and will have to take your word for it since you were directly involved. I do believe there is a certain level of control that even good leaders have. Those under their leadership do know who is in control. However when that line is crossed to where most are looking over their shoulder instead of looking ahead and focusing on the job in front of them that is the unhealthy environment I was referring to and believe exists now.

  5. Several aspects of this are distressing; however, I think the total disregard of confidentiality and due process is appalling. It was always my understanding that personnel matters were handled behind closed doors to protect all involved. Why was this matter handled differently?

    1. Thank you for your comments Deb. I agree. I don’t know why this one was handled as it was unless it was to set an example for other teachers that if you disagree or dare to hold a different opinion than what those in charge hold and want to express it this will happen to you too. That is why I decide to write this. I don’t know the answer either and can only speculate.

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