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Breaking the silence: Teachers look for help

By Alesha Jackson on Feb 18, 2009 12:42 PM
Photo: http://www.flickr.com/photos/stevenfernandez/

An email this week came to me by way of a local classroom teacher, whose professional community is threatened by the actions—or inaction—of their recently-appointed school leader. 

Its contents dredged up old memories for me, and ones that gnaw at the very essence of my beliefs about schools and teaching.  My brief experience in teaching isn’t something I usually talk about-- partly because of the response I get from folks when I mention my shortcut into teaching, and partly because I prefer not to field questions about the goings-on “at that crazy school.”

The work we did there is cloaked in secrecy, the silence a protective layer for the students, the most vulnerable victims of the routine violence that went on there.  Our silence was a code of honor of sorts, and one that also served to protect us—the teachers—who daily chalked up violent behavior to something that we alone could correct. We knew that there were enough negative images of Harlem kids, and as teachers who loved them, didn't want to add to the already-negative images assigned to those who lived too far Uptown. So tied were we to our students’ actions that we measured each school day by the number of incidences involving police.

So, like it or not, whenever I think about schools, I think about that school and of the distress that accompanied navigating within such a hostile sphere. It stands to reason, then, that when I got the email yesterday from a group of local middle school teachers facing similar hardships, I wanted to hear their story.

The tide of this large middle school began to turn, teachers say, when a new principal took over this school year. Disappointed with the new administration’s lack of response to the rise in frequency of some students’ belligerent behavior, 42 teachers signed a letter to their new principal to voice their concerns.

They wrote:

We are coming to you out of concern and caring for our school. We are committed to our students. We are committed to the continued growth and success of (our school). Some of us have been here for a decade or more.... Some of us are new this year. Regardless of how long we have served the community, we are extremely concerned about what we see happening to the climate of the school.

Graffiti appears on a regular basis in the stairwells, in the hallways, inside classrooms, in the bathrooms, on the exterior of the building, and on student work displayed throughout the building. Trash is strewn throughout the hallways and stairwells, as well as inside classrooms. Windows, doors, door hinges, and fire extinguishers have been destroyed.

Hallways are unsafe. Fights break out among students amidst the chaos. Students run, push, shove, and play fight in the halls during the change of classes on a regular basis, creating extremely dangerous conditions for students, staff, and guests.  Students sprint up and down the stairs on the wrong side of the stairwell, jump the railings, and ride the railings down like a roller coaster. The fire alarm has been pulled multiple times by students, resulting in false alarms that severely disrupt instruction.

Students display total disregard for the authority of staff. Staff are ignored. Staff are cursed at by students. Staff are mocked. Staff are taunted. Staff are assaulted. We are hemorrhaging staff. Teachers are resigning at an alarming rate.

Students arrive late to school on a regular basis. Students arrive late to class on a regular basis. Students repeatedly roam the halls during instructional time. Those students then disrupt the instruction of other students by taunting students from the hallway, yelling into classrooms, opening doors and throwing things into classrooms, opening doors and yelling into classrooms, slamming doors open and shut repeatedly and loudly, jumping off of windowsills, yelling down the halls, and sprinting down the halls away from staff. Students cut class. Students leave the building.

We are coming to you because we want to work with you to address the problems that have surfaced and burgeoned over the course of this school year. We want to restore order so that we can get ourselves back on track for success during the 2008-2009 school year and beyond.

As a first step we are asking that all team meetings during the week of February 17-20 be devoted to school climate issues and that you be in attendance at those meetings.

We know we have a long road to haul in order to address and solve these school climate problems. The first step down that road is to have open and honest dialog about the issues. Next week’s team meetings will give us a firm foundation upon which we can begin to build our strategies for immediate improvement and eventual success.

Unlike the teachers at my former school, this group has mustered the courage to talk back.  In their shared community, they are calling for collective vision.  In fact, parents of children in this school have also committed to tackling the issues in what they see as the dramatic downturn of a previously high-quality school.  These groups, unlike our staff years ago, equate the notion of care with dialogue rather than silence.

Perhaps it isn’t fair to compare my former school to this one, but I look at it like this: “bad schools” weren’t always bad.  At some point, kids realize that their choices won’t even make a blip on anyone’s radar.  So they do it again.  This time, they tell their friends, and because everyone else is doing it, their friends do it too.  After a while, behaviors that were once occasional errors in judgment become widespread, leaving teachers and students on the receiving end of a cycle that seemingly feeds itself.  

 What are some ways in which this staff can work with (or around) a principal who has lost control of the school?  How might they structure interventions to reclaim the school that is teetering on the edge of the “bad” list?

Please share your suggestions for the staff this school by posting your comments.  You can also email me here at aleshaj@thenotebook.org.  

Comments (96)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 18, 2009 10:36 pm

It is amazing how something that was good can go down so quickly! This school was once considered a good place. I know where it is think of Olney feeders. The teachers need to remain strong and vocal and not be satisfied with quick or inadequate fixes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 6, 2010 1:51 pm

I am about a year late in posting this message, but I had to speak my mind about the things that are continuing since last year and all the postings. I was angry about the postings because I believed that the new principal should be given a chance to prove himself. A year later, it is now twice as bad, especially with the signing of the new contract. Students are literally running the building. They are using cell phones and ipods as they walk through the halls pass the administrators, who say nothing. when teachers mention this, it is turned around on them, stating that teachers are giving permission. Does he not know that his silence is all the permission the student need. Students argue with teachers that the Principal did not say anything. The cursing by students has become a new language in our school. It seems that it is alright for the students to curse at staff. It has become alright for students to go home and tell lies on teachers, which is believed by administration. It is okay for students to roam the hallways. It is alright for teachers to be threatened by students and nothing done, except to tell the teacher to call a parent. I have never seen it this bad. Not only the administrators in our building are blaming the teachers, but our Regional Superintendent is punishing the teacher because of the blog last year. It was anonymous but all the teachers are targets because of it.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 12:31 am

what about the parents? are they involved in the meetings?

Pushing for change within the district can be very tense and divisive - sticking together will be hard work.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 8:00 am

i am one of those teachers. it is amazing how quickly we lost control. we can't get emergency phones calls patched into our class, but the kids can have cell phones ringing in the middle of a lesson. my name has been changed at least 20 times a day to a student's term of endearment. The unsafe halls and classrooms is absolutely mind boggling.

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 19, 2009 12:45 pm

Thank you for responding, and for having the courage it takes to speak out! I am amazed by your staff's commitment to come together about the issues in your school.

Where is the break in the chain? Is it just the principal? What actions are supposed to follow when the cell phone rings or when the students make inappropriate comments?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 10:43 am

I used to teach at this school and was made aware of the letter by one of my former co-workers. It's a real shame. The school's 8th graders have been a terror since they were in 5th grade. The past administration tried very hard to keep them in line giving incentives that were positive of course but also disciplinary actions such as suspensions and disciplinary transfers. This year, none of that occurs. I was told of 3 different incidents where there was an all out fist fight, not just pushing and shoving. All 3 fights needed to be physically broken up. NONE of the students were suspended.

From what I hear, most of the 6th graders are not much better. It is a disgrace that the students run the school and do whatever they want.

suggestions: simple. FOLLOW THE SCHOOL DISTRICT'S CODE OF DISCIPLINE...fight, get up to 10 days like Akerman's letter in September said. walk out of class or talk back to a teacher, get a detention or conference with parents. Violent, continually disruptive students need to be dealt with

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 19, 2009 12:24 pm

Your suggestions make a lot of sense. The following question came to us via email and seems appropriate here:

"It's not clear why the communication between the staff and the administration has broken down. Is it because the school don't want to tackle the issue because they don't want to get a 'bad reputation' - but by doing so actually actually make the situation worse?"

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 10:19 am

I am aware of what school this is due to conversations with teachers are workshops. I suggest that a copy of this article be sent to Dr. Akerman's office...the School District CEO, and the School Reform Commission. Also, perhaps FOX 29 can be contacted and see if they can come out and investigate the NON-suspensions for fighting. I know they won't be permitted to go into the school and film but perhaps a hidden camera or something

Scary part is, compared to many middle schools in the city, this one isn't that bad..

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 19, 2009 12:48 pm

This comment was emailed to me from a former Philadephia assistant principal and 20+ year veteran of the classroom. S/he writes:

"I'm afraid that unless the Principal is willing to enforce strict codes of conduct, support the teachers in their actions and insitute ongoing, and regular types of positive and public reinforcinment projects and programs (awards assemblies, public announcements, prizes, etc.) little will change."

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 4:11 pm

As a former teacher at this school, it brings me much sadness to have to respond to something such as this. I was an intern teacher at this school and loved it so much, that I was beyond thrilled when offered a permanent teaching position. This school was once an amazing place to be. Students were not only acheiving, but they were being molded into responsible citizens of their community. The school was once a place where students and staff alike felt like family. When we were labeled a "failing" school and subjected to numerous walk throughs, those observing were always quick to comment on our amazing climate. Outsiders were very rarely less than impressed by the rapport that was evident between students and staff. It was with a very heavy heart and much apprehension that I had to make the very difficult decision to leave this school in December 2008 due to the state of affairs. It was affecting every area of my life and I simply could not take it. I had no other choice but to leave the School District of Philadelphia altogether. It makes me sad beyond words that this is happening in a place that used to be a rose among thorns.

Now for my advice : Teachers, you must contact the media regarding this matter, there is no other way. We contacted the union several times and besides having a represetative come out to speak with us, nothing was done. We were told to document this and record that. We were also told that this particular administrator had a long history of doing similar things at other schools, the list goes on. I firmly feel your only option is to conact the media. Even though the PFT has done practicly nothing thusfar, there is one thing they can do and that is protect your jobs. I commend you and I pray that you will bring back the place I once knew and loved so well....and if you do, I have the right to return to the district for the 09-10 school year :)

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 5:08 pm

I am amazed to read stories like this. How are these students allowed to get away with such disruption? How is it possible that discipline cannot be enforced? It is impossible for me to imagine being able to get away with stuff like this - if I had tried to pull anything like this, I don't know who I'd be more afraid of - the teachers or my parents! This is so very sad to read. How are kids who are actually interested in learning supposed to learn anything? What a shame and what a waste of precious resources.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 9, 2010 2:43 pm

Are you from Philadelphia or from another large city?
Were you educated in an urban public school system?

If no to either or both questions, it is understandable that you would not
be able to fathom that this sort of thing goes on in big city public schools. But it does, and it is more and more the rule rather than the exception.

signed - a teacher in the Philadelphia public school system

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 9, 2010 9:37 pm

Do you really get "educated" in the comprehensive schools?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 5:59 pm

It doesn't sound to me like teachers are "coming together about the issues", as Alesha suggests. I see a small group of teachers coming onto a blog to complain and blame rather than working together within their school to solve this issue. While strong leadership is crucial in a school, teacher collaboration, dialogue, and commitment to changing practices that don't work are the real key to school improvement. And the first step is collective ownership of the problem.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 6:21 pm

The staff, and adminstration are in this together. The students have always been our main focus. . Collaborative dialogue is ongoing.. Hopefully we will move in a postive direction that will be most beneficial to our students.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 19, 2009 8:40 pm

Oh really....you see a "small" group of teachers?! How about learn your facts find out how many teachers signed the letter. Why don't you research the numerous measures that were taken by staff before it got to this point. How about read the extremely detailed minutes from weekly team meetings stating the issues, practically begging for administrative presence at said meetings only to hear that the administrator "forgot". Before you go waving flags, you need to know what you stand for...and if you are a teacher currently working at the school in question, than clearly you are blind and/or got into the teaching profession for the wrong reasons.

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 19, 2009 8:30 pm

Sounds to me like they're collaborating and having dialogue about it. Do you have any concrete recommendations for the school? I guess what I'm asking is this: what happens AFTER teachers modify their classroom management tools, call parents, visit homes, and make referrals? At that point it becomes an administrative issue as well. So-- what happens next?

Submitted by Chalkdust Soup (not verified) on February 19, 2009 8:24 pm

Absolute crap! Mr. 17:51 sound like just another administrator shifting the blame onto the teachers yet again. School climate is set by the principal ! If you have a weakling or deskwarmer at the helm no amount of "collective ownership" is going to solve the problem. Teachers can write up pink slips all day long, but if the administration is too cowardly to enforce it nothing changes. Parents that are in denial or apathetic contribute to the problem. If you want to see change why not try letting teachers not only teach, but run the schools for a change? After all, look at how many charters are run by people with no educational background. Imagine if the people who have to teach in these schools had the power to set policy, enforce discipline and see that the money raised for schools actually made it into the classrooms. Of course no corrupt politicians would receive any kickbacks from this idea so that will never happen in Philly,

It's obvious this is another Philly spin doctor trying to delfect his/her own blame. When teachers do attempt "dialogue" it's Mr. 17:51 and his ilk that are the first ones to accuse them of "complaining". Try listening. Working together would require the PSD administration to be willing to work with teachers for change. At this point in time they refuse to even listen to teachers (why do you think they schedule their so called "public meetings" during the day when teachers are busy at work?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2009 5:38 pm

This IS a dedicated staff who DID come together to present their concerns to the adminstration. The letter was signed by 42 staff members who are willing to sit down and talk about the various issues that are bringing this school down. We work together and wrote this letter to show that we care and want to fix the situation as a democratic faculty, not as a one person show.

Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on February 19, 2009 9:01 pm

Teachers at this school need to put their stories on the NAPTA (National Association for the Prevention of Teacher Abuse) out in IL. They post horror stories from schools all over. It's only by embarassing the school district into doing something that things will change. They fear the media which is why so much pressure has been put on the local rags to print only what the district wants out there. Ackerman doesn't seem to care about the teachers who have held this district together for years. She evidently wants to replace everybody with cheap labor i.e. Teach For America. What better way to bully experienced teachers out than do nothing about the worsening conditions at schools like this?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2009 8:01 am

This school has been known for many years to be one of the few neighborhood middle schools that was under control and a place where learning was taking place every day. Dedicated administrators familiar with the school brought numerous programs and grant-funded activities for the students. It's amazing, but all too common, how quickly a school can fall apart--due to lax discipline from the top. Teachers in schools have authority in their classrooms but not in the hallways, where students will tell you what to do with yourself if they can without consequence. I have taught in the public schools for almost twenty years; in my opinion, one gets action only by going outside the hierarchical, well-controlled bureaucracy. Congratulations to these teachers for caring enough to take risks! In the many schools I have taught in, at least 90% of the teachers are extremely hard-working, dedicated, knowledgeable people unjustly faulted by their "superiors" and the public. It warms my heart that the Notebook has achieved the status and recognition it has and that it is there for a forum like this one.

Submitted by Debbie Bambino on February 20, 2009 10:05 am

As a long time public school parent-activist, educator, and Critical Friends Group Coach, I have been saddened by all of the pain expressed in these postings. I have worked mostly in Phila., but I have also had the opportunity to work in schools around the country since leaving the classroom in 2001. I have had the pleasure of meeting many. many hard working teachers and administrators. I have also worked to understand why despite the hard work of so many well intentioned adults we are still unsuccessful with so many of our students.

I write today, not with answers, but to share some of the questions that this blog has brought to mind for me.

In random order...

How do we build trust and communication across all relationships within our school communities: between administration and staff, staff and students, staff and students' families, students and students etc.?

What beliefs and practices do we each bring to the mix that build or derail our strength as a community?

How do I define respect and how does that align with the way it's defined by others in my school community?

How do I know what I don't know? & how will I find out?

And perhaps the question that acts as an umbrella over all the rest for me, as a white teacher/coach, What is the role of race and culture in all of our work together?

Thank you for the opportunity to think out loud with you. I look forward to hearing your thoughts about my questions as well as what's working in your schools.

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 20, 2009 4:15 pm

Debbie, thanks for your thoughtful response. I think that we can learn much from your post. The questions you've asked here are tough, and ask that constituents examine their actions as individuals as well as their role(s) in the school and community.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 20, 2009 11:49 am

While I am a huge supporter of teachers - I am so for the sake of serving students.
Articles/ Blogs such as this always raises more concern and questions than answers. I find it easier to jump to conclusions than to surface assumptions. This is dangerous.

As I read the letter, a couple of examples of a question that comes up for me (but is not for me to answer with such limited data) is....
- What is or is not happening in classrooms that leaves students believing they can come late or roam the halls?
- Is the expectation that the principal just "take care of" these students? The assumptions I have about what this would mean leads me to wonder to what extent this is a school that expects and is focused on equitable opportunities, support and outcomes for its students.

... and as one can then see, whatever true answer comes from these questions could lead the school in a variety of directions.

Peace and Good Luck!

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 20, 2009 7:03 pm

Anonymous 11:45, you wrote: "Blogs such as this always raises more concern and questions than answers. I find it easier to jump to conclusions than to surface assumptions. This is dangerous."

I'm wondering-- what's dangerous about this dialogue? The school isn't identified, nor is the principal. What's written here is the reality for the group of teachers who sent the letter, and this blog is a forum for teachers' stories. If a reader is prone to jumping to conclusions, why not post a question to allow one of the teachers (many of whom are following this blog) to clarify, as you did above?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on July 29, 2009 10:02 pm

Obviously it is nothing "happening in the classrooms" that gives students the belief that they can roam the halls or show up late. That is something that should be challenged by the office administration on the first floor. The problem is that teachers can only main discipline if the administration holds to the rules. Too many principals don't want to be involved and therefore continually let students off the hook. Combine that with apathetic parents you have a no-win situation for the teachers. Yes, principals are expected to "take care of late and roaming students" since they, not the teachers, have the ability to suspend them. What is this nonsense about "equitable opportunities, support and outcomes"? The problem is a lack of discipline due to no consequences. It's time to go back to basics and deep six the new age touchy-feely babble.

Submitted by anonymous (not verified) on July 30, 2009 12:55 am

I believe that teachers should enforced discipline...as our new DA stated in a forum...brazenly stated...

Most of the problems with Johnny in the classroom...is the fault of the teacher...as the $500,000 a year chief of the schools routinely says...

The principals are doing a fine job and have a lot to be proud of...they graduate 50 percent of their wards...

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on February 20, 2009 9:57 pm

As someone who spent twenty years as a middle school teacher in Philadelphia I can identify and sympathize with the teachers who wrote this letter. At my school, Julia de Burgos at 8th and Lehigh, we saw good times and bad, including a year when there were several fires and a serious breakdown of school climate. There was also a three year period when the small learning community that I was a part of kept the same students for 6th thru 8th grade and established strong positive relationships with students and parents with minimal disciplinary problems. During many of these years I was a team leader with responsibility for handling discipline for my SLC. I was also a Building Rep and part of the school leadership team. Based on these experiences I would make the following points.

A school has to struggle for a culture in which all members of the school community are listened to and taken seriously…students, parents, teachers, support staff, and administrators. To create a school climate that is conducive to learning requires some trust and cooperation. In particular it requires a willingness on the part of teachers and administrators to look critically at their own practice and be open to trying something different in the interests of moving the whole community forward.

A community needs to have norms for behavior that are understood and owned by all the elements of that community. For this to be authentic requires substantial discussion and negotiation. Part of this process is establishing consequences for violating those norms including who has responsibility for implementing them. Consequences shouldn’t be punitive but should have the aim of helping the student understand and correct the behavior. A detention shouldn’t be a student sitting in a hall with an NTA for 45 minutes. It should be a meeting between a teacher and the student to seriously discuss the issue at hand. A suspension shouldn’t be a way of getting a kid out of our hair for a few days but a message to parent and student that it is necessary to come in and address a serious problem. Part of the process is also recognizing and rewarding those students who do respect school norms on a consistent and school wide basis.

If we are serious about the notion of community we need to reject the idea of getting rid of the troublemakers and instead work hard at coming up with ways we can effectively counsel and support them. In extreme cases transfer to a disciplinary school may be necessary and in some cases a lateral transfer to another school may be the best option. But the goal should be to find ways in our own school community to effectively meet the needs of troubled students. This requires imagination and perhaps more resources, but it also means a shift in attitude.

And as Debbie indicated the issue of discipline exists in the context of the class and race dynamics in our society. I know from my own experience as a disciplinarian that there was often a racial subtext to incidents that frequently involved white teachers and children and parents of color. This demands openness and sensitivity on our part.

With the preoccupation with AYP and boosting test scores, we seem to be losing sight of the mission of schools as places that can socialize children to relate to each other and the broader society in constructive, positive ways. Maybe dialogues like this can help us refocus.

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 21, 2009 9:52 am

Ron, thank you for your perspective in this thoughtful post.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 21, 2009 9:00 am

Sad yet hopeful. I taught at this school; it was a good school with a responsive principal. I applaud the courage the courage of the teachers who are fighting back for the sake of the teachers and students in a district where retribution from Administration is the norm. I urge the teachers to go back to the union who should be helping them and telling their story to teachers in schools with similar problems. The Philadelphia Education Fund is not pro-teacher and should not be the intervening between administration and faculty. It should be the PFT. As frustrating as they can be, they are our union, not the PEF.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 22, 2009 7:09 am

I can tell you from experience what happens because it continues to happen where I teach, which happens to be in the same region as this school.
The Principal becomes vindictive, teachers transfer out, the community is put at arms length, trust and confidence are replaced by bickering and suspicion.
Does anyone wonder why with all that's going on in the district, (imagine), that this is the most commented on blog?
It really is proof teachers do care and do connect with the students and families they teach.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 22, 2009 9:54 pm

The fear that those who posted this feel is clearly very real. I don't know this school or this particular situation. I can only comment based on my experiences spending time in some of the 'persistently dangerous' schools over the past 10 years. I appreciated the comment regarding race and class dynamics. I think that in poor black schools, many teachers, white teachers in general and black middle class teachers, have socially conditioned negative responses to loud, boisterous, "aggressive" black youth. Some of the behaviors exhibited by youth are unacceptable. On the other hand, a good deal of behavior such as loudness in the halls, physical play, etc. is an expression of youth culture and in particular the culture of poor black youth. It's awesome to see our young people with so much energy and passion. Perhaps we can find ways within the school day to channel this energy through martial arts training, sports, arts, physical theater, and other activities. We also must not "fear" that which is not actually threatening or harmful to us (although I understand that some of the behaviors described above are harmful and threatening). I have also found that young people respond best to rules that they have had a hand in creating. So a school-wide process for determining standards or norms of behavior where youth think both about how everyone should be treated as well as the consequences for violating the agreements might be a good place to start. This process could also be used as a teaching tool, with research about the impact of violence or a negative climate on student learning, debates over different approaches to discipline policy, and written platforms that could be voted or consensed on in forums held by grade, small learning community, or classroom. I wonder what impact it would have on climate if such a process was woven into the curriculum of each subject for the first 2-3 weeks of the school year. This is just one example of an idea that based on my experience could work on the right circumstances. It is based on the concept that young people are valuable members of a school community that can be very thoughtful about their own education and process if they are given the opportunity to participate. In the teacher's post above, it sounds like the solutions may continue to be adult-driven. I would hope that every teacher might consider (and be able to relate to) the de-humanizing impact it has on any person when decisions are constantly being made about your life without having input. Maybe that's the way things have always been done, maybe that's the way you grew up. But it's clearly not working. It's time to try implementing some pro-liberation approaches with our young people. We have to trust and love them enough to be able to do so.

Submitted by Kelley Collings on February 22, 2009 10:39 pm

I am grateful to the dialogue and ideas this online discussion has surfaced. I teach at this school and have been very involved in the recent organizing efforts to improve the school climate.

It is important for me to reiterate that I, along with the vast majority of my teaching colleagues, come to this discussion with a long-term dedication and strong commitment to the success of the school. We are dedicated teachers who often go above and beyond the call of duty to help shape the type of learning environment we believe will help students learn, achieve, and grow. We serve on school governing bodies and committees, such as the School Council, the PFT Building Committee, the Climate Committee, and the Guidance Committee. We are teacher leaders and serve as mentors to new teachers. We participate in the district’s Character Education programs such as Need In Deed and Earth Force. We organize Student Council. We build partnerships with universities (such as the University of Pennsylvania, St. Joseph’s University, Temple, and Johns Hopkins University) in order to garner extra resources to improve student learning. We sponsor extra-curricular activities and clubs including sports, drama, poetry, dance, video, book clubs, Math 24, drumming, technology, the National Academic League, and the Reading Olympics to name a few.

We believe in our school. We believe in our students. And we believe in ourselves.

We believe in our ability to turn the school around and get it back on track. Twelve of us delivered the initial letter (signed by 43 staff) to our principal less than two weeks ago. We have begun to see progress. In less than two weeks:

(1) School climate issues have been the topic of discussion at all grade group meetings. Administrators have been present at those meetings and have engaged in open dialogue about the issues with the staff. Administration agreed to dedicate meeting time after school and during upcoming professional development days to school climate issues. Staff have been invited to help plan and set the agenda for those meetings.
(2) Administrators’ offices were moved in order to increase their visibility and accessibility to teachers and students.
(3) Administration agreed to implement hall sweeps to help restore order to the hallways and stairwells.
(4) Administration agreed to re-implement the use of school-wide cooperation sheets to both reward classes with good behavior and identify classes with poor behavior.
(5) Teachers agreed to continue escorting students to and from classes, standing at their doors during the change of classes, and generally helping supervise students in the hallways.

We realize our work has just begun. We have yet to agree upon specific logical consequences for student behavior. We have not yet addressed the issue of chronically disruptive students within the classroom.

We have, however, put the issues squarely on the table. They are now public domain. The issues are being discussed by teachers, parents, administrators, students, community members, school partners, and school district leaders.

We must all continue to reflect on and articulate our assumptions and values regarding the type of learning environment we are shaping for our students. The more honest we can be with each other, the sooner we’ll find solutions. I believe that if we can maintain open, honest, and public dialogue on the issues, we will continue to make progress.

Forums like this blog provide the public space for that dialogue. Thank you to everyone who has taken the time to help us reflect on our situation and move forward. Keep the comments coming!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 22, 2009 10:36 pm

If all this has been done. Why then blog on here? Sounds like administration is working with you.

Submitted by Helen Gym on February 24, 2009 9:36 am

Kelley: Thanks for courageously putting your name to your post and offering some clarifying comments on the efforts you and other teachers at your school undertook (and are still in the process of undertaking) to effect change.

In going through this amazing dialogue, I was once again reminded how difficult it is for institutional change to happen in the daily lives of all of us in the schools. And as Dr. Ackerman speaks broadly of her Strategic Plan, the reality is that a lot of things at the school level will require tremendous dialogue, some struggle and above all an engaged and hopeful community. The struggle doesn't end with the letter, it just begins; there's no such thing as a final salvo. And Kelley's posting here shows how struggle evolves over even this short amount of time.

And as a note to the anonymous poster who replied to Kelley, while I respect the voices of the anonymous posters who want to speak out but are fearful of putting their name on it, other bloggers shouldn't abuse their anonymity. If you're going to write something sarcastic that doesn't require anonymity, put a name to it and at least own the comment.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 24, 2009 6:18 pm

Helen, You have to refer to the anonymous person much better than you have. If you are referring to the comment - why post the blog? Then I will explain my comment, there was no sarcasm involved in what I said at all. I feel very offended, if you are referring to me. I have and will continue to work at this school for a long time and as long as I am able. I signed my name to a document in support of change, and the demand put forth towards the principal was help us or we will have to go public. The administrator has since, held grade group meetings, opened dialogue at school, and even more recently, today, held a paid meeting with the regional superintendent and PFT representative. I feel as though my name is being used in a way it was not originally posed to those who were invited to sign. It was a real question - not a sarcastic question - why did the letter go public. The teachers who respond on this blog have serious concerns - trust me - I see them everyday, these are my colleagues and my friends. How dare you accuse me of being sarcastic. Why am I posting anonymously, well my name (signature) has already been misused, and I refuse to put my name out there anymore. I respect, love and care for my colleagues. I am glad to see all the work you do with parents and schools, and how much of an activist you are, through literature I have read. I do think that calling me out to put my name, is an immature comment, when I did not have a sarcastic tone at all. Sometimes we "read" comments online and we "hear" a tone, when your can not truly 'hear" what the person is saying. You have truly misunderstood who I am. Please think carefully before you post again. Misjudging someone's comments can truly offend them.

Submitted by Helen Gym on February 25, 2009 12:43 am

For clarity's sake, I am responding to the person below who responded to Kelley's comment asking her why she was bothering to blog. I have no problem if the poster disagreed with Kelley's take and explained why but asking her why she bothered to post (when it's clear that Kelley took a long time writing out what she had to say) is not acceptable forum behavior.

I think the Notebook has been very generous in allowing people to post anonymously. In certain cases when people feel they are in a treacherous situation where their job could be endangered, or they are whistle-blowing, I more than respect people's right to anonymity. But having been on a number of blogs I know that anonymity can also be abused and used as an excuse for people to say things not normally said or stated in usual public conversation.

I think it's important to remind people that if they post anonymously, they own a certain level of humility and recognition and responsibility for their comments. For example, you may critique me for "hearing" a tone, but I think any anonymous poster needs to consider how their post could be heard. I also think its fair to note to other when their comments sound dismissive, intentional or not - it should be part of the blogging community to mark such language so we all hear and grow and learn.

It's always easier to remain anonymous. The rest of us are putting ourselves out there, and possibly not winning a whole lot of friends in the process. But we're doing so in the spirit of creating a healthy environment for dialogue. I hope my comments are taken as such.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 25, 2009 9:23 pm

I wish I could take your comments and grow from them, if they were not so unwarranted. I did not write that comment in response to kelly blogging. I wanted and still want to know why our school business went public. Thats all. You do not teach at our school, you are not putting yourself out there in regards to this matter. I was asking a clarifying question to someone who I thought could answer that question. I really do not know why you got involved in a question I directed towards Kelly. But Ill stop now, because I sit in every meeting we have at this school to discuss climate, I help my colleagues when they need me and vice versa, so I do not know why I let someone outside the situation upset me anyway. If you really care about the individuals at my school, then I sincerely apologize if you think I was being dismissive - that was not my intention. Having never met you, I do not know if that is the case or not.

Submitted by Kelley Collings on February 26, 2009 5:58 am

I did not realize you wanted a direct response from me.

I find this blog (and all public forums) useful precisely because it creates a public dialog around the issues. Public dialog helps shed light on problems that otherwise might get swept under the carpet. Our school climate issues were not being addressed systematically before this public dialog began. Since the public dialog began, however, the administration of the school, the staff of the school, and now the regional administration of the district have all agreed to address the issues in a systematic way that will allow us to find solutions.

The public dialog is what drew the regional superintendent, the regional PFT representative, and the entire local school administration to a meeting with almost 30 teachers on Tuesday afternoon. The public dialog is what created the momentum that led to yesterday's three-pronged walkthrough by the region to examine the state of student learning, facilities, and the CSAP process at our school. And it is the public dialog that will ensure the region's continued involvement in helping identify solutions.

Public discourse is the cornerstone of our democratic value system. Public discourse is the very essence of our democracy. Public discourse around perceived injustices is what prompted the building of our country.

I continue to applaud everyone for having the courage and determination to engage is this public dialog and to wrestle with these issues in the name of improving the learning environment at our school.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 23, 2009 10:24 am

I just heard very disturbing news about this school. A teacher that is 6 months pregnant was caught in the middle of a fight and pushed on Thursday. The shocking thing and extremely disturbing thing is that the fight or the minor assault on this teacher did NOT RECEIVE ANY SUSPENSIONS OR CONSEQUENCES OF ANY SORT, as of yet. Does this administrator have a copy of the school district's CODE OF CONDUCT??? A major fight should result in a suspension and let's not mention what should have come of the minor assault.

Submitted by Anonymous on February 23, 2009 3:03 pm

I have just read all of the postings and come out of this with an upset stomach.

As far as staff involvement, the school has ALWAYS had an atmosphere of community and has always worked with the multicultural neighborhood in which it resides. A few years back, it was changed into a School District run charter school and the community….parents, staff, former staff, and students alike, got together to protest the change. When the change was forced anyway, the same groups got together and created their own governing body and board. After a year of the charter hybrid, the same groups appealed to the district to release the school from charter status and they did.

The fact that this school is even in existence goes back to community involvement back to the late 80’s. A group of parents got together and protested that the school be created because there was no suitable middle school for the number of students in the neighborhood it serves. After years of fighting...they got one.

After more years of fighting…this school was born.

This latest blog and series of events is nothing more than the staff coming together as was done before, although in this case, without the help of parents and surrounding neighbors. The vast majority of the teachers who signed that letter are doing it in hopes of change.

For anyone to bring up race is insulting. The school is very multi-cultural and if you look at the school district’s website and data for this school, it states that the population is broken down 56.7% Latino, 29.5 % African American, 7.7% Asian, 3.8% “white” and 2.2% other. Perhaps I read into incorrectly, but some posts refer to the staff not understanding the different cultures. Although ongoing cultural education could help increase community, it has nothing to do with this years behavior problems. Someone else mentioned about not understanding children’s playful behaviors.

There is a clear difference between “goofy” middle school behavior, or kids acting silly/playful and what is happening now. NO CULTURE gives the students a right to curse out a staff member. NO CULTURE gives a student a right to ignore a teacher’s directions. NO CULTURE gives a student a right to walk out of a classroom. NO CULTURE gives a student a right to not go to detention and then when the parents are called, the parents say they don’t want their child staying for detention. NO CULTURE gives a student a right to walk out of a class because they don’t like something that was said to them. In almost EVERY culture, adults are to be looked up to and respected if for no other reason, that they are in a position of authority. Anyone who even begins to think that the behaviors of this school are caused by teachers not understanding cultures, need to recognize that they are giving excuses for the downward spiral American society in general is increasingly falling in terms of behavior, values, morals, etc. It is a disgrace.

As for the person who stated that the staff should not be focusing on getting rid of trouble students and helping them instead, in many of the cases, they can not get the help they need unless they are in an alternative setting.

The only way that any real change will occur is if the school (the entire staff) consistently enforce all rules from the smallest to the largest and the administration and people designated in discipline positions follow the school district code of conduct. Children who break even the smallest rule should be made an example of and held accountable for their decisions. As for violence, children should be suspended for fighting for multiple days and parents need to be called into school for conferences. Not just talked to on the phone.

Finally, no teacher should try breaking up fights. If a fight begins, call the office or whomever you are supposed to call and back away. On the negative side, one of the children may be hurt bad but on the other hand it will be a testament to what has become of the school and perhaps the parents will get involved more easily and stop making excuses. The pregnant women should’ve left school, went to her Doctor and then went to the police station and pressed charges on both kids.

What to do about it…Get PARENTS to contact the Superintendent’s office and/or regional office and speak to the building committee. Have a chapter meeting with the whole staff and the regional staff rep and fill the union in on everything that is happening. The PFT needs to be involved before the district takes the staff attempting to fight for their sanity and their school’s climate and decides to write them all up for insubordination.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 24, 2009 10:19 am

I worked at this school for years. When I read about how the school has changed just over a few months it made me sick to my stomach. The NOrth regional superintendent needs to step up and get involved since that was who she wanted to be there. Where is the PFT?? All the money we contribute they should have a more active role in what is happening. There have been a number of teachers who have left since September - no one found this to be alarming?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2009 8:41 am

But was the school culture good, when the suspension rate was so high. It seems to me after reading this and knowing the school in the past, suspension and kicking kids out was the reaction to everything, which makes it much easier to teach. I also know this principal and he tries very hard to do what he can to support the child and the child's family before he suspends. However, he does suspend when the incident puts anyone in danger. I have seen him go above and beyond for these kids and their family. He is very visible. As for administration being moved that was done before the letter was given to him. I think what is going on is that they had administration before that never looked at the child and the reason behind the child behaviors so the staff is used to a quick fix. I am not saying that what is going on now is right either, but there needs to be a balance that both the administration and the teachers come up with. Change is hard, but not necessarily wrong.

I am wondering if this blog will help create the sense of community in the school that the teachers who started it are looking for. As I read, I believe the staff put this blog on to get rid of the current administration because after this I can't see a relationship between them that is conducive to positive school climate. The joke in the neighborhood before this year was that for some of our behavorially challenged kids, if they don't straighten out by the end of fifth grade, the support stops and the kids are sent to CEP because that school does not work with behaviorally challenged kids or their parents, until this year.

Sometimes when you go from an administrator who is so extreme one way to an administrator that seems to be to the other extreme it is hard to adjust. I hope that this can be worked out because the principal they are talking about has good qualities and he really cares about the community and the students in that community. Maybe if he shares with the staff what he is doing they will realize there are consequences and if he starts to realize when the support isn't helping any more there needs to be a bigger consequence, such as suspension. He and the staff need to work together to come up with a way to institute a schoolwide behavior plan it will work, but it seems to me that school climate will never be good with this bog being instituted because it will always come between their relationship.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 26, 2009 12:37 pm

Just to clarify, you state that "he does suspend when the incident puts anyone in danger". That is just NOT true. The students that pushed the 6 month pregnant teacher last week were NOT suspended.

Also, most every student that has ever been sent to an alternative setting from this school has FIRST been given the chance to succeed through numerous interventions. When the interventions are not successful, that is when the decision is made to move the student. Not to get ride of the problem, but to give that child what he/she really needs.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 1:41 pm

I am sorry..you are wrong. I don't want tosound rude but you are wrong. In an elementary school, perhaps this is the case. The school code of conduct from the district states that if a fight takes place, the children will be suspended. Akerman put a letter out earlier in the year saying up to 10 days for violent behavior.

There has not been a suspension for fighting at this school in 2 months that I am aware of.

He may be a good elementary school principal and supportive of the parents but he is not a good middle school principal. It's ok to be supportive and preventive but if he is not going to punish and give these kids consequences, it is only going to get worse

Submitted by Kelley Collings on February 27, 2009 6:24 am

I am disturbed by this comment I just read: "As I read, I believe the staff put this blog on to get rid of the current administration because after this I can't see a relationship between them that is conducive to positive school climate."

I want to be clear that the purpose of our efforts is not to "get rid of the current administration". We have made clear time and time again -- by our willingness to engage in dialog, attend meetings, and join committees to identify solutions -- that our intentions are to work collaboratively with all stakeholders (including administration) to address the issues. We have been doing that on a daily basis since this campaign began in early February. Our actions on the ground reveal and prove our true intentions.

Divisiveness is not at all our aim. I am curious that you hold this perspective. I have not heard this perspective directly from anyone on the ground. It is difficult to have this conversation with you since you have not identified yourself.

Who are you? Identify yourself and make your views known so they can be included in the public dialog. If you don't feel comfortable adding your name to this blog, I urge you to find the professional integrity to reveal your identity at the local school level. We need every voice, every perspective, every opinion on the table in order to keep the debate honest and squarely centered on the issue of student learning.

Thank you for your commitment to our school and our students.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on February 27, 2009 2:09 pm

Dear Anonymous (13:30)

I'm sorry, but I feel that comment is inappropriate innuendo and out of bounds on this blog. You really have no way of knowing for sure who the person is and you have tarred them by implying that their comments are motivated by having a child sent to a disciplinary school. You may disagree with the anonymous poster but that doesn't give you license to cast aspersions on them like this.

The Notebook has chosen to allow anonymous posts on this blog and also not to immediately take down controversial posts. But posting anonymously as you have done, with material that borders on defamatory is not to me in keeping with the terms of usage you can read at the bottom of this column.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 4:54 pm

I am sorry if it came off as inappropriate. I am posting what my feelings are. The person who wrote that obviously knows the Principal from their previous school and also obviously knows our school's past history however, they have it one sided. Yes, our school sent a lot of children to alternative discipline settings in the past however, we followed ALL school district protocols, paperwork trails and preventive actions first. At times, parents refused interventions, other times, the interventions did not work. This person has an opinion of the Principal and our past school climate as well. They need to see the whole picture.

Look at the posts concerning today to see what happened

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 5:22 pm

The notebook allows anonymous posts because it knows that the School District of Philadelphia has a gag order in place where staff are not permitted to speak to the media concerning the schools. Also, out of fear. This is a place for ideas and/or to vent in a safe area. Too many times have teachers spoken up then found their positions cut or 204's written for little petty things. We are in adistrict that if a teacher speaks their mind, they will be punished ahead of the students.

That is why people leave their names out

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 8:55 pm

I am a dedicated member of the school and I have never seen anything like this. Most of the staff stayed after school today and the Principal did not even show his face, He is suppose to be the leader. Yes, he is leading us right down the toilet. The superintendent was in on Wednesday to show support for her choice of principal. It is a joke, The teachers are trying as hard as they can, but without any support, teachers wind up getting injured. To those that question the teachers try and work in a place where the kids do what they want and the leader lets them. We used to be a great school. We still have a great staff, but we need a real leader, not a person that sits in his office. Violence, language, graffiti, and a lack of respect. Also, we used to do the pledge of allegience everyday up until this year. I pledge that we get a new leader and someone that cares about the school.

Submitted by Alesha Jackson on February 27, 2009 11:49 pm

This very idea is why we value your posts so much. Thank you all for continuing to write here and have your story heard.

I am so sorry to hear about the incident today-- both for the school community and the teachers who were hurt. I find it frightening that the above post talks of fear. If people are afraid to speak out, how can we institute change? And if people become afraid to teach in their schools, how can we create a safe space for our students?

Thanks to all of you for having the courage to continue this dialogue.

Submitted by Helen Gym on February 28, 2009 11:34 am

Dear Anonymous (not verified) on Fri, 02/27/2009 - 17:01:

For clarity, the Notebook allows anonymous posts because we respect dialogue and the voices of people on this blog. There are precious few places where people can engage in unraveling difficult problems at their school in a healthy and safe environment. This is meant to be one of those small spaces.

At the same time, we're not supportive of anonymous posts where people abuse their anonymity and hide behind it to make thoughtless rants that may defame or demean other people on (or not on) the blog. People own their comments here period. Everyone on this blog has a right and responsibility to make comments that they would own publicly.

Kelley Collings is a teacher at the school in question and is putting her name to her post. She is modeling how to speak out, in a responsible fashion. I don't know whether there will be repercussion for her. I do know that what she posts is what she's going to defend, and that what's posted here is proof that she's working on a dialogue and a solution within her school. I don't expect everyone to be like her, but I hope others will see her work and feel like a healthy community is possible with or without anonymity.

In the meantime, we'll be vigilant in pointing out which posts cross the line. This is a new blog after all, and there are plenty of awful examples out on the web of blogs that have no lines. So we ask that everyone takes the notation of what's appropriate - not as a personal affront - but as a way of enforcing the general rules that will lead everyone to being part of a safe, supportive, and, yes, still sharp and perceptive blogging community.

Submitted by Paul Socolar on February 27, 2009 6:19 pm

I should have identified myself as editor of the Notebook. We are glad this blog has been a useful forum to air some serious problems at this school, which unfortunately sound as if they are continuing.

We do allow anonymous posts for the reasons just cited, and more. We encourage people to feel free to disagree with each other. We encourage you to post your feelings.

But we ask that you don't be disrespectful, dismissive, or use innuendo and we reserve the right to take down comments that cross the line. And we (the Notebook) were troubled by the anonymous post cited (13:30) An anonymous post shouldn't be a forum to make remarks like the one that was made - implying that a comment was made because it's a parent and their kid had been sent to a discipline school.

The post used the cloak of an anonymous post purely to diss that person to everyone else who reads this blog. That's not appropriate here. I hope that's clear.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 4:56 pm

TODAY: Friday 2/27.

enough is enough

at the school in question today..1 student ran out of the lunchroom not following directions and ran into a teacher who fell back, hit his head and had a seizure. He needed to be taken to the hospital. Later, the police were called and they wanted to know why a serious incident report had not been written yet.

In another incident today, a fight was about to happen and the vice principal attempted to break it up..he was punched...The police wanted to know why charges were not filed?

In another incident, I was told that a student was standing in the hallway cursing as loud as possible at another student. The principal walked by and DID NOT say anything to the student cursing. The teacher at the door did say something to the student...the student ran away down the hall chasing theother student and came back late for class when they felt like it.

If any parents are reading this blog, it is probably because you know what school it is. You need to come to the school in question and protest for your child's safety.

almost the entire staff met in the lobby of the building today in protest and a sign of unity. Ms. Collings has posted several times the purpose of her letter was not to target removal of the Principal but to facilitate change. The staff has stated several times we are working with administration not against them however, proactive, prevnetive measures can only go so far. Students who are constantly disruptive need to be dealt with by administration....Today was crazy... if this continues and consequences are not placed on these kids, I am afraid of what will happen.

I know for certain if a child runs into me and knocks me over or punches me (not that I will try breaking up fights), I will certainly go to the hospital and get checked and then press charges regardless of how severe it is. I will not be touched while trying to teach.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 9:44 pm

I am disheartened after attending today's meeting. Just to straighten up a few facts, since the teacher who was injured is a colleague whom I work closely with, the incident occured at 12:19 pm. The students were misbehaving in the 1st floor science lab. The teacher asked the students to remain seated as they were not ready to go to lunch. The students were angry. It was reported that one male student punched the teacher in the stomach and then pushed the teacher who fell onto the floor onto the back of his head. Rescue was called, police were not. The principal decided to call the child's house and have him picked up by his mother. No paperwork was submitted to the child's advisor regarding a suspension or any type of disciplinary action as of the end of the day, 3:19pm. Technically, the child could possibly return to school on Monday & sit in my classroom. What type of message does this send to the students? I am gravely concerned.

Submitted by AChangeIsGonnaCome (not verified) on February 27, 2009 11:59 pm

The teacher that was punched needs to report it to the police and demand they arrest the culprit. The school district will merely sweep it under the rug, otherwise, and that will only encourage thugs to continue to attack teachers.

We had a teacher punched a few years ago. The school police officer told her to send the boy downstair when she called for help. Of course the kid who had punched her wasn't going to do what she said, he had just punched her - duh! He was suspended for one day until she called the cops the next day. Only then did the school tack on a few more days.

Whenever you have been attacked of threaten it IS YOUR DUTY TO CALL THE POLICE!. Not only to protect yourself, but your coworkers and the student population. Remember, you can be written up for merely breaking up a fight if you have a vindictive principal in your school. The police are VERY aware of how the school district tried to keep them out of the mix. Don't forget how Philadelphia school district music teacher Ed Klein was attacked by a student and then threatened to keep quiet by the administration. He only came forward after Burd got his neck broken several months later.

Submitted by Ron Whitehorne on February 28, 2009 9:50 am

I would take issue with the statement by AChangeGonnaCome that it is our "duty to call the police." We need to exercise discretion taking into account the context for the student's action, the degree of serousness and the student's history. Otherwise we end up criminalizing our youth for what may be minor or exceptional behaviors. The notion that having every student arrested no matter what the circumstances is unlikely to make our schools safer.

My first year of teaching I was punched in the stomach by a student after I refused to let him leave a detention I was holding. He threatened to punch me if I didn't get out of the door. He was angry and his classmates were all watching him. I should have let him go and followed up afterwards. Instead I told him he better take his best shot because I wasn't moving. Bad move. He hit me. I had him arrested. Later I questioned the wisdom of this. Clearly what he did was wrong and serious. However my behavior showed poor judgement and was provocative.

Many years later a student shoved me. He was angry and defiant but he was not trying to hurt me. His mother had been supportive over the year in my efforts to address his behavioral issues. So I wrote a pink slip asking that a conference be arranged with the parent and that he be suspended. I choose not to have him arrested.

I would stand with teachers who have been victimized by student violence and insist that serious measures by taken to support them, but I would also defend the right of teachers, free from administrative pressure, to look for an alternative to having students arrested.

Submitted by AChangeIsGonnaCome (not verified) on February 28, 2009 11:01 am

Ron, if you choose to become a human punching bag that's your buisness, but I stand by my statement. There is a difference between students acting out and physically attacking teachers. Since teachers on the front line it's their duty to protect themselves and stand up for themselves.

The fact is that "alternatives" are basically useless. Pink slips have been used against teachers. The administration doesn't take crimes against teachers seriously unless it makes the headlines (the Frank Burd incident). Parents often can't even be bothered to show up for conferences or even call to cancel them. What supports? The CSAP process? There is no accomodations rooms, no detention (teachers, you give up your own lunch period to do that), even calling the office for support is a joke as no one comes. Do you think the PFT will come to your rescue? They can't be bothered.

The best example was the black high school teacher in the news last year who was being terminated for defending himself. The high school student who attacked him had done it twice. Nothing was done the first time, the principal disavowed even knowing about the first attack even though this teacher had written up the incident (and it was witnessed by another teacher who was in his classroom when the student attacked him). That was at the end of the previous school year. Next Sept. the SAME STUDENT returned to his classroom and tried to hurt him a second time. Because this teacher, who is rather short, defended himself his principal was trying to have him fired for punching back. Had this teacher filed charges with the police for the first attack there would have been a permanent record of the incident instead of having to rely on the memory of an incompetent principal who was trying to cover her own neglect. The police have told us to do this as well. I'm tired of being disrespected by students and administrators. How many times do I have to replace my own things that I've brought in to help teach only to have them destroyed by students? The administration won't do squat.

Outside of the initial coverage in Elmer Smith's column in the Daily News nothing has been heard about this teacher since. That was two years ago.

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Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 27, 2009 10:23 pm

We were always "a family". We as a staff are there for "the kids". What happened to zero tolerance???????????. A teacher today was pushed or shoved that resulted in a fall. 911 had to be called. By the way, it is good that we have cell phones. Our phone system was down .. no phones were working today. Great way to run a school??? . I am afraid to walk in the halls when classes are changing. . I look at my colleagues faces that are so drained and tired and worn out...We were once a best kept secret. In such a short time we have become a school that tolerates, yes tolerates violence. We are screamed at and cursed at and it is tolerated. I am tired of hearing that "these are the way kids are today".Obsencities might be in the songs, movies, etc. but not in our faces... and just to say:.
I DO NOT FEEL SAFE!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!1111

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on February 28, 2009 5:20 pm

Ms. Collings began this blog as a means to request ideas and many people have written posts that are venting. Let it be known that the Principal in question has admitted his weakness in dealing with discipline and in an email to staff on Saturday, 2/28...stated the student who punched the teacher was suspended for 10 days with an eh-21 started. He stated he does not plan on having the student return.

I question if he would have moved so quickly if this blog, the teacher's protest following school on Friday, and related positive collabortaion over the past weeks between the staff and administration was not so public. However, I am grateful he did react so quickly and hope this is a turning point in bringing order back to the school.

Thank you Ms. Collings and to all the teachers, support staff and everyone who stayed after school on Friday for the sake of our school.

Perhaps the letter to staff should be posted to this blog

Submitted by Outsider Analyst (not verified) on March 1, 2009 2:15 pm

I have carefully read each posting on this blog.

From an outsiders perspective it is clear that there are certain individuals who are part of the problem, not part of the solution. Terms such as "behaviorally challenged" are the types of terms coined by people who are part of the root cause of the deterioration of the once strong fabric of our society. Perhaps we should let all of the thieves, rapists and murders out of prison and try to reassimilate them into society because they are "behaviorally challenged".

During my days in public school there was a code of conduct:
Disruptive behavior/cutting class/late for class = Detention and work duty such as cleaning the cafeteria, sweeping, mopping floors, painting, etc.
Vandalizing school property = Automatic (3) day suspension
Smoking in bathroom = Automatic (3) day suspension
Caught with drugs = Automatic (3) day suspension.
Fighting with a fellow student = Automatic (3) day suspension
Verbal assault/inappropriate language toward a teacher = Automatic (3) day suspension.
Physical assault on a teacher got you an automatic expulsion and a free trip to the juvenial detention center in a nice shiny police cruiser where criminal charges were filed before you were released to parents or relatives. They then had to try to find you a disciplinary school and take you to a juvenial court hearing where you were most likely given probation and community service.

Guess what folks ? This concept actually worked !!!!!!!!!!! Our school was orderly, most students followed the rules because we knew there would be consequences. It was a place where students and teachers had a mutual respect for each other, and an environment were students who wanted to learn had an environment where they could succeed. Most of us had the opportunity (yes OPPORTUNITY not privilige) to go to high school. Teachers would always go above and beyond to help us as I believe they still do. Working in the type of environment as described in this blog makes it very difficult. It sound like the teachers in this school have to be more focused on conduct issues rather than trying to help students who want to learn.

Those who think the enforcement of a school code of conduct would be tough on the kids are sadly mistaken. Wait until they have an employer (if they ever have an employer). It sounds like the existing culture in this school due to lack of enforcment of the rules does not create an environment where the young men and women who do try have the opportunity to succeed, and the ones who are contributing to the deterioration of the environment are weeded out. I understand the term "enforcement" is such a harsh word for those out there who coin terms like "behaviorally challenged" as this would impinge on the soft "touchy feely we have to understand the kids who are repressed by the system and gain a better understanding of why they behave like they do" approach. Do you think it might be the fact that they know there will be no consequences ?

A strict code of conduct not only creates an environment and culture where students can learn but it also prepares them to enter higher education or the work force where there are even more stringent rules and codes of conduct.

I also read that this school was considered to be a good school up until this year. So what has changed ? One of the postings stated that there is a new "administrator" this year ? As an outsider who is not familiar with the school system, I'm not sure what an "administrator " does but if I were placed in charge of straightening it out, the new "administrator" would be a good place to start.

Submitted by Spare the Rod, Spoil the Child (not verified) on March 1, 2009 3:02 pm

Outsider Analyst is right on the money about failing to enforce rules when students seriously break school rules. All letting the child off the hook does is allow the culprit to think they have gotten over the system once again. The sad reality is that eventually someone will "teach" this same child a lesson out in the street. Very often it proves fatal for one or the other, but ruins both lives.

As Rudy Guliana's policy of cracking down on the small stuff in NYC (littering, jaywalking, etc.) if you want to send a message to those who do the big time bad stuff (rape, murder, etc.) should be applied to Philly schools. Strict enforcement of dress code, no running halls, tadiness and absences would go a long way to stopping alot of the heavier nonsense that is presently allowed. My old man use to occasionally tap me growing up, not hard enough to hurt me, but enough to get my attention, "That's for doing nothing, just wait until you do something!" It was an ongoing joke, but it did let me know that the old man was watching and expected a certain standard of behavior from me. Kids know that the worse they will get from the present school district heads is more time with the counselor or a day off (suspension). There needs to be an inhouse suspension sites set up throughout the district. Instead of a day off to watch Jerry Springer they need to have some intense work, enough that they won't want to come back a second time. It would send a message to both parents and troublemakers.

Unfotunately, the principals' union protects too many incompetent principals. I've tried writing tot he CEOs, media, parents and state agencies about corrupt principals, but nobody wants to do anything. It's not in the principals interest to report things so they fail to provide any real consequences for serious infractions (fighting gets a talk from the kiddie cop, but no longer warrants a suspension). That way the suspension levels at that school look great on paper. Meanwhile teachers are struggling to deal with discipline problems that know the administration will support them, not the teachers. What do they have to lose if they act out?

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 1, 2009 5:17 pm

I have been teaching for many years and I have taken time to read every blog. What I see is that the teachers are trying as hard as they can and getting no help from the principal. Teachers assaulted, a pregnant women pushed and no consequences, what a disgrace. Teachers are there to help kids, not get assaulted. Where is the unio?, where is the help? The principal is letting this go. What kind of person does that? The behavior in this school I am afraid is all to common. A weak adminstration leads to the students running the school. Something has to be done to help this school. I have been part of good administration and horrible administration, A good administration leads to myself enjoying coming to work. A poor one leads to me feeling almost worthless because the kids can curse you out and nothing will happen. My advice from someone who has been teaching a few decades is to get rid of the principal and get some order for the school. The school still seems to have teachers that care a whole lot. If this keeps up, every teacher will want to voluntarily transfer. There are already teachers who have left. I wonder how many more teachers have to leave or get assaulted before something happens. I will pray for the teachers that you get the help you deserve. We are under appreciated as it is and work so hard, to only have this stuff happen.

Submitted by concerned teacher (not verified) on March 1, 2009 7:24 pm

I agree that teachers work quite hard each day without administrative support. As a victim I was physically assaulted by a student with a chair. The child was not labeled as behaviorally challenged. While calling the school office for support to remove the student she then yelled out from the back of the classroom, "You want to get hit by a chair"? to the laiughter and disruption of the entire class.
After sometime passed, I went to the security personnel in the building for support and was told that there was nothing he could do, I should see the principal. Sometime later the principal arrived at the classroom door, looked inside as I informed him of what had happened. He called the student who left her seat to join him outside the room. Ten minutes later the the student was walking in the hallway with other students. She had not received any consequences. The child returned to school the following day although an incident report was filed by the principal.
I also wonder what it will take to get the support teachers deserve and the modeling students should witness to enrich the climate in our schools.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 1, 2009 5:24 pm

"BRAVO"

Submitted by You're so right! (not verified) on March 2, 2009 9:00 am

Thank you for your comment. I am a teacher at this school and it is vert difficult to witness the downfall of a once, very good school that was the best kept secret in town. We need help. We are tired of talking and constantly being criticized for not being positive role models for the students. We have been told to set examples for the kids. We come to work trying to teach with administrative obstacles and negative comments being made questioning our competencies and professionalism. ALL of us are hard working professionals who give 110% of ourselves to this school and the students. On any given day, you will see teachers staying after school, as late as, 7:00 still working, for the KIDS. We are a very dedicated, caring, hard working group of people who are tired of committees and outsiders coming into the school giving their two cents. STOP TALKING AND MAKING US ATTEND MEETINGS THAT ARE NOT HELPING US WITH THE REAL PROBLEMS. READ THGE ABOVE BLOG AND YOUR SOLUTIONS ARE RIGHT THERE!!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2009 11:02 am

I am also a teacher at the school and agree with the above comments. Some comments seem to blame the teachers for the trouble, The staff is very dedicated and works very hard for the students. We take pride in our job, but the principal cares about nothing but himself. This school had a reputation of being a very good school. It is amazing how quickly things change. As time goes on, I am afraid we will see things get worse. Eventually, you will either see a massive amount of teacher turnover or a new principal. Our staff does not want to leave. There a many teachers who have been here a very long time and they don't want the principal who has been there 6 months to ruin a school who has been here for 16 years. Talk is cheap. Over 40 people met friday after school for a hour after the horrible assault of one of our teachers. We had someone from the region come in a to his credit handled the questions professionally. He was a former principal who tried to stay neutral, but you can see he understood we need help. A pregnant women who get bruised and the student is back the next day, only to get into a another fight a few days later and yet no consequences. I used to love coming to work, up until this year. If the principal of our school is reading this, well then maybe you are getting a reality check. We want out school back!!!!!! Let us do our job!!!!! Lets the dean of students and the APs do their job!!!!!!!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 2, 2009 8:52 pm

I am hoping that tomorrow I will walk into this once great school and change will be starting. I pray that our principal, having had some time to think, will take charge of this grave situation. I am nervous to go to work - for fear of another attack or outburst from a student. I am putting my faith into our administration to call a meeting and assure us all that the solution (discipline) is going to begin immediately! I do not know what I will do if I do not hear good news tomorrow...

Submitted by Anonymous on March 2, 2009 11:44 pm

Thank you for posting the truth. Too often, people make excuses for children and their lack of appropriate behavior....Too often, peoplemake excuses for why this country's morals, values and in some cases, beliefs have deterioted. No matter what the root cause, bottom line is there needs to be consequences.

Is is possible to in someway fine the parents for what their children do? Could a class action law suit against the school district for unsafe working environment occur? Even if it's not the parents faults, at least they would take a vested interest in what happens.

Submitted by Outsider Analyst (not verified) on March 3, 2009 6:52 pm

Involving more lawyers will not help. Lawyers are also part of the problem. They will just pocket the money without adding value to the system.

Submitted by One_of_your_students (not verified) on March 9, 2009 7:41 pm

You go Ms. Collings ( if this whole topic is yours)!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 19, 2009 2:06 pm

It really saddens me that this blog and the school district's "action plan" to make things better at this school have seemed to fizzle out. To date, there are not many/any noticable improvements in the building. Students are literally running "track" through all 3 floors, coming in and out of classrooms as they please, and causing near riots in the cafeteria. The uniform policy seems to have died out as did the "hall sweeps" that only happened once to my knowledge anyway. The children ARE running this building, without a doubt. It is SHAMEFUL.

Something has to improve. It is only bound to get worse with the warm weather ahead.

Submitted by Kelley Collings on March 28, 2009 4:46 pm

I definitely feel my colleague’s frustration. Things are not improving. In fact, they’re getting worse.

Since we kicked off the campaign on February 13 by delivering a letter signed by 43 staff people to the principal, we’ve had meeting after meeting with dozens of parents, teachers, community members, union representatives (including a chapter meeting with PFT President Jerry Jordan) and administrators and staff from the region (including the Regional Superintendent, the Assistant Regional Superintendent, the region’s special education person, the region’s CSAP person, representatives from the Office of School Climate and Safety, and the region’s Rapid Response Team).

Meanwhile…
• Teachers have spent countless hours developing a behavior protocol that has yet to be enforced. In fact, it seems as if there are simply more bureaucratic procedures being invented to delay or avoid enforcement of consequences. The latest strategy to address students cutting class is for teachers to complete a “cutting slip” and submit it to the office by the end of the school day. How does that get students out of the hallway? How does that meet out a consequence that deters further cutting?
• The principal agreed to implement hall sweeps on February 17. To date, not a single hall sweep has occurred.
• A pregnant teacher was pushed and injured by a student.
• Another teacher was pushed down by a student, taken out of school on a stretcher, and diagnosed with a concussion.
• We have already lost 8 teachers this year.
• Staff and parents were given one day’s notice to attend a meeting with the regional superintendent. Several teachers including myself requested that the meeting be postponed arguing that the integrity of the process would be severely compromised by the lack of notice. Our request was denied.
• The principal has issued mandates in an attempt to control how teachers, parents, and community members communicate with each other. The first mandate on February 20 stated: “Any correspondence via email by staff and administration must be done via your school district email account.” Since when are we forbidden from using our personal email accounts to communicate with each other?
• The second mandate on March 4 stated: “All correspondence or written communication of a general nature sent to parents/guardians must be approved by the principal prior to forwarding…Information discussed with parents must pertain to their child’s educational program. Confidentiality makes it unethical to discuss any other students, staff or school concerns.” The intent of this mandate seems to be to prevent staff from talking to parents about school climate issues. How does this demonstrate a commitment from administration to address the issues in an honest and all-inclusive manner?

It feels like administration is not acting in good faith to address the issues, and it feels like we are being intentionally quagmired in layer upon layer of bureaucracy. Wading through the bureaucracy is taking its toll even further on staff morale. If things don’t change, I fear a mass exodus of staff at the end of the school year. That would spell disaster for the school.

I feel like some of the fundamental beliefs I hold as a parent and a teacher are being violated on a daily basis. As a parent and a teacher I strive to: Set a clear standard or expectation. Make sure it is a high standard. Be consistent and hold firm to that standard. Expect children to rise to that expectation. Deliver appropriate and immediate consequences to children who don’t meet the standard or expectation.

At our school it feels like there are no clear standards or expectations. There is no consistency. There are no consequences.

We want clear policies with clear consequences and consistent enforcement. We want solutions, not talk.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 28, 2009 4:14 pm

We are like bumper cars and the steering wheel is stuck so the cars just go in any which way direction.
We as a staff are drained and tired but not worn down.. We want consistency in consequences whether negative or psotive. not just talk but carried through.
We want and need feedback. ....on a daily basis. We have in the past always been "in the know".
We have had many adminstrators. We functioned. as a "TEAM"We were a Team... We were moving in a psotive direction.
All the meetings, all the talk .... People are still not deployed in the "hot spots'.. students still walk the halls and walk out of class. I am soo sick of the profanity... It is not acceptable in a school of learning. I do not care what is in the news. media, games.. WE do not have to tolerate. it. Incidents still occurw/o answers... We need a strong leader. A leader that backs up its teachers. A leader that believes in its staff. We need a leader that is with us. Not on an island.

Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on March 28, 2009 8:40 pm

Suddenly offering a meeting with a regional head on a moments notice is a popular stunt that the Philadelphia School District likes to pull on teachers. That way they can say the offered you a chance to meet, but YOU TURNED THEM DOWN.

I had a meeting with a regional supertintendant a couple of years ago. The super. said we would meet, but half a year went by without a word. When I called and reminded this person they said they had forgotten and would get back to me. I got a call later that week on a Friday during class time (so my cell phone answering service got it). The meeting was for the following Monday morning. Since I needed to let my union rep. know to attend I called back (it was after 3:10 on Friday before I even heard the message) and tried to reshedule the meeting.No go, Even the building rep. said I could forget any future meeting since I "had turned the superintendent down". The fact that the super. hadn't bothered to call me for half a year and then suddenly offered to meet on a moment's notice didn't matter.

As far as corresponding with parents and other non-school interests you have every right to do it whatever way you want to. Any demands that you use only the school district email IS A VIOLATION OF YOUR BASIC AMERICAN CIVIL RIGHTS!. Contact the ACLU and let any administrator know that any future mandates of this nature will lead to media coverage. The one thing the district fears is publicity. School emails are read by district lawyers and are often turned over to the offending administrators mentioned in any email. Your privacy will be violated on the school district email system. Don't allow them to bully you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2009 6:07 pm

Having been were you are now. I suggest continue to help us break the silence. This is happening all across America. My ended up fighting my way through every step up to the federal courts. Realize this is bullying.

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.” ~Mark Twain.
What a wise man Twain. No better words could ring more true in today’s world of Public Education. I have pondered this quote since the onset of my disputes with school administrators, a school district, and a school board, and have concluded that Twain was a visionary. After fighting an agonizing and arduous battle that lasted for four years, I feel Mark was talking to me personally. Had I contemplated his words more carefully and played them more concretely in my mind with a more literal content perhaps some of the anguish and heartache I experienced would not have been so severe. For I would have realized that the School Board was merely made up of puppets and “yes” men and women that rubber stamp the woes of the administration. I derive my knowledge by way of first hand experience and having witnessed School Boards make very unwise and irresponsible decisions without seeking truth and fact. Thus, I conclude with prayer that School Boards seek truth and possess fact before they act and make damaging decisions that affect people’s lives, hopes, dreams and wishes for future successes.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 29, 2009 6:46 pm

“In the first place God made idiots. This was for practice. Then he made School Boards.” ~Mark Twain.
What a wise man Twain. No better words could ring more true in today’s world of Public Education. I have pondered this quote since the onset of my disputes with school administrators, a school district, and a school board, and have concluded that Twain was a visionary. After fighting an agonizing and arduous battle that lasted for four years, I feel Mark was talking to me personally. Had I contemplated his words more carefully and played them more concretely in my mind with a more literal content perhaps some of the anguish and heartache I experienced would not have been so severe. For I would have realized that the School Board was merely made up of puppets and “yes” men and women that rubber stamp the woes of the administration. I derive my knowledge by way of first hand experience and having witnessed School Boards make very unwise and irresponsible decisions without seeking truth and fact. Thus, I conclude with prayer that School Boards seek truth and possess fact before they act and make damaging decisions that affect people’s lives, hopes, dreams and wishes for future successes.

Submitted by gott54 (not verified) on June 1, 2009 7:59 am

As a Palestinian, one may not at first "get" all of the jokes with which Twain's books http://www.ebook-search-queen.com/ebook/mark/mark%20twain.all.html are filled. But if you study Twain for two or three years, you'll know more about America and Americans than most people who were born and lived their lives in this country. Tell your friends: Read Mark Twain and get wise to America.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on June 1, 2009 8:46 am

I am proud of my country...

Twain was an American patriot...he would not knock America...

Submitted by Lorna Stremcha (not verified) on March 29, 2009 8:55 pm

Hopefully this helps. This is in my book soon to come out. I know how you feel. I have been there. My book's unofficial title, After the Bell Rings, One Montana School's Story. Maybe a more I should title it I know how you feel I've been there? I disagree with those that say you don't need an attorney. You need a good attorney one that is well versed in employment law. I won one settlement in state and federal court. Many of us are behind you. Refuse to be beaten down.

"Remember no-one can make you feel inferior without your consent." ~ Eleanor Roosevelt"
Ingredients needed to stand up against the bully:
Support
A high level of interpersonal skills
Energy
Confidence
Courage
Resilience
Controlled behavioral skills
Assertiveness
Resourcefulness
Patience
Time
Financial Independence
Knowledge
Drive

Without support you will more than likely crumble.
Without energy you will more than likely become too fatigued to fight back.
Without confidence you will more than likely be destroyed and become so depressed you are unable to move on.
Without courage you will not be able to face your bully (ies).
Without resilience you will not bounce back. And you will do a lot of bouncing.
Without control over your behavioral and emotional state you will not be able to combat the bully and his or her tactics in a logical and sensible way.
Without assertiveness you will not be able to confront situations of discomfort and make that phone call or send that letter.
Without resourcefulness you will not know how to get help and use it to help yourself.
Without patience you will not reach your goal.
Without time you will not accomplish anything.
Without financial independence you will more than likely lose everything.
Without knowledge you will lose.
Without drive you will be stopped in your tracks.

Things you need to know:
Document everything
Some things become important later.
When documenting date everything.
Keep all your documentation in a safe place.
Keep it organized from the beginning.
Make copies.
Keep your copies somewhere else.
Keep your originals and copies safe.

Speak out!!!
Tell others what is happening.
If you are fortunate enough to have a trusted friend or coworker ask them to document.
Ask others to sign and date documentation.
Remember the resource person is friend to the company not you.
Realize most people will take the side of the employer. They want to protect their job.
Realize many people choose to not believe you.

Know your collective bargaining contract and get a copy. Know your rights get a copy of your rights. Get all your personnel file. Check it more than once. Get copies each time. Follow company policy, even when it seems futile.
Know state and federal laws. If you don’t know the laws, find someone that does and study them.
Remember the only person you can really trust is yourself.
Find legal counsel before filing any complaint.

Know that your battle will be long and arduous.
Know you will have enemies.
Know that some friends will become enemies.
Know you are not crazy.
Know you will feel alone, even when the room is full.
If possible take a witness to document, sign and date.
How to respond assertively:
State your belief, it’s yours and nobody can deny you of that. This should always begin with an “I” statement.

Label the opinion being expressed as if it belongs to the other person. This should always begin with “you”.
Expect the bully to lie about you. Remember he/she is only interested in protecting him or her self.
Refuse to be silent. Support the “Healthy Workplace Bill” It’s a bill for today’s workers and for future workers.
Resources
Lorna Stremcha, Personal Knowledge 2006.
Lorna Stremcha vs Hill County Public Schools, Cause Number CV-04-22-GF-SHE, 2006.
Field, Tim, Bully In Sight 1996.
Namie, Gary, Bully Busters, The Workplace Bullying Institute, 1998.
Yamada, David, “The Healthy Workplace Bill” Workplace Bullying Institute, 2006.
Horowitz, Karen, NAPTA, 2006.
Blasé, Jo, Blasé Joseph, & Du Fengning “A National Study of the Mistreated Teacher” The University of Georgia, 2006
Personal Interviews, 2006.
O’Leary, Tim, Warrior, Workers, Whiners & Weasels, 2006.
Hollander Consultants, 2003.
Great Falls Tribune
Billings Gazette
Bozeman Chronicle

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on March 30, 2009 9:42 am

In nearly six weeks, nothing of substance has happened at this school. Yes, I am one of the teachers here. I came from a horrible situation, and counted my blessings when I arrived. Now, I cannot wait to get out of here. Hopefully, I will be interviewed at a site select school, or assigned via a "traditional" transfer to another school where leadership is in place. After looking up both leader and principal, there is actually a commonality: a person in charge or control, most important person, head of a school, a guide.
Unfortunately, this is not happening. It is sad because all of the comments about how wonderful our school WAS are true. I am tired of fighting to children, whom I am told "want to learn." I learned by keeping my mouth shut and my ears open. I believe that method still works today. But many of the teachers here are frustrated because in some classes, the kids are nonstop talkers and about 10 to 20% disrupt on a daily basis.
When the School District finally set the zero tolerance policy for fighting, and CEP school, we saw some improvements. Now they are but a longed for memory here.
The comments about the extra paper work, last minute meetings, etc. are true - all deterrents to discourage us from pursuing what we know this school needs. A mass exodus? To be sure. Count me among those longing to be free.

Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on March 30, 2009 8:39 pm

Sounds like it's time for a massive sick out if the administration doesn't get off their butts. Let them know that the stress is killing you (that is not a joke, either) and you have no alternative, but to let Ackerman know that the school will be filled with substitutes unless 440 stops with the excuses and finally does something constructive. Let 440 know that this column has been passed through the nation via the Internet and there is an audience that is following this story (Hi Lorna!) Because this sort of thing is happening all over the US there is alot more interest in what is happening here and now. This school will be one of the items Obama will be seeing when his charter dream is challenged. How can he honestly tell the American public that public schools have been given their chance and blew it when this sort of crap is going on? It's time for your principal to either step up to the plate and deliver discipline at this school or take his glove and head home. Good luck.

Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on March 30, 2009 9:54 pm

Don't you have to stay put for three years (it use to be two years, but the school district wanted to end that to make it look like teachers wanted to stay at certain schools) at this school before you can transfer out?

When the high mucky-mucks put pressure on the principals the first thing they do is stop suspending for anything and everything. I write up fights all the time and the parents aren't even aware what has gone down unless I'm the one to tell them. Pink slips start disappearing. Add to a weak building rep. and all hell will break loose. The principals will protect the pet teachers, but any one who speaks out will be written up on bogus charges. Then you are expected to bend over backwards to appease troublemakers. And the district wonders why they can't get teachers to go to certain schools? A great principal will anchor a great staff at any school, but there aren't alot of those out there. Forget merit pay, another politician's pipedream.

Submitted by Teacherkh (not verified) on March 30, 2009 10:20 pm

I applaud these teachers standing up for what is right, something that rarely happens in our schools. However, what is going on in education is so complicated that teachers need to learn more to navigate in their best interest. Too many teachers spend their life's savings on lawyers only to be trashed by the lawyer. As someone who runs an organization of teachers all over this country, my experience has been that big city districts typically organize so that the legal path is theirs, creating more abuse for the teacher who tries it! (This includes the union as part of the organization against teachers, while they pretend to be on your side! They have to help the districts or they will be pushed out of business and you know business is their bottom line.) I have found that as you travel west, the districts are less organized in crime, with the exception of CA where they are well organized against teachers. NY has organized power against teachers down pat, with rubber rooms that are like Gitmo. I am sure Phil. is not far behind NY as I have heard about teachers being sent to the basement of the district office. The bottom line is that the power is so skewed in education, with school boards in the pockets of administrators etc., that until we expose this, little anyone does makes a difference. By reading the above blogs I can see this to be true i your school too.

I run an organization designed to unify abused teachers and parents for which the membership is free so we can have a voice to level this playing field. Otherwise nothing will change. (I keep people anonymous unless they want to put their name out there.) At this point it is so unbelievable that it is hard to get the media to investigate. Our membership has grown to over 1000 and I regularly try to engage public officials, media people, and celebrities to support us in our quest to expose and end teacher abuse and what lies behind it. I also wrote a book: White Chalk Crime: The REAL Reason Schools Fail, which details how this organized crime works in order to help teachers navigate as well as to help an investigative reporter take them down. It also contains the testimony of over 140 teachers, 64 of whom allowed me to use their names. (There are enough of us with nothing left to lose who can speak for those still teaching!) You can go to our site and join our group at EndTeacherAbuse.org and there is a link so you can download the first few chapters of the book for free. If you are a teacher and want to read the rest and cannot afford it, contact me and I will work out a download for you.

You will find a link to my email address at EndTeacherAbuse.org or you can contact me at teacherkh with aol.com added to it. (I can't put the address here or the robots and spam take over!) The more we stick together, the sooner we will be heard as what is going on in Phil. is going on all over!

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 1, 2009 8:34 pm

I am a new teacher this year. I am horrified by this school. I feel awful for the teachers and sad for the students (who want to learn). I will not be coming back next year. I did not go through years of school to be stepped on by teenagers. This is acceptable? Not for me, no thank you.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 2, 2009 5:26 pm

A new teacher states they are leaving. How many more will make a mass exodus??????????????. Teachers who are veteran teachers, leaving perhaps after many years at this school in question.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on April 8, 2009 12:44 am

I don't know the name of the school you are talking about however in a certain Philly school there is extreme bullying of teachers by administrators. 204s are written on good teachers and administrators have their own coterie of teachers who can do what ever they want without consequences. There are very few consequences for disruptive students. For example, a student verbally threathened a teacher and was given a 1/2 day in house suspention and then the teacher was written up because an administrator had students write false statements the teacher was said to have made. If a teacher has disruptive students, the school police refuse to help them remove said students.As a result of few consequences for disruptive students, students talk incessently in class (knowing that nothing will happen to them). At that point, the adminstration will observe the class and 204 the teacher for classroom management issues. It is very sad that principals have become "the enemy"of the teacher not the manager. This is a very hard atmosphere to work in and extremely difficult to do an effective job when a teacher is worried that at any minute he/she will be observed.

Submitted by EnoughIsEnuff!!! (not verified) on April 8, 2009 8:26 pm

There is bullying of teachers throughout the whole Philadelphia School System, not just one school. The 440 folk help it go on. I had an email that I sent to Vallas given to the principal I was being harassed by. Vallas had said there would be no retaliation against teachers who wrote him about wrongdoing in the district. Another of his lies. The PFT rarely moves against these principals despite the dues they are given by teachers to protect them. This is what costs the district teachers every single year. No matter how many they recruit it will not be enough if they don't clamp down on corrupt and incompetent principals.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on January 11, 2010 3:07 am

There are still teachers being assaulted, and students getting away with whatever they want. The difference now is that teachers are being demanded to do so much with corrective math and reading programs, constructed response, the new observation forms, and all the other initiatives that have come down the pike; we are supposed to forget about the serious climate issues that have been still repeatedly occurring. We have a pretty brand new staff, with maybe half of the staff being new and half having returned after last years problems. We need a big change or the other half will probably leave this year.

Submitted by Anonymous (not verified) on November 3, 2010 8:29 am

very concerning in my opinion.

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