In Letter to the Editor, Parent Claims Relationship Between SHUSD Administration and Staff Is Strained
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In the past few months, I have been vocal in my concern about SHUSD staff turnover, and have claimed that the current relationship between SHUSD administration and its staff appears to me to be under stress and at times shows signs of dysfunction. I’d like to share how my interest in the subject was sparked.
In December 2015, my son’s exceptionally talented and inspiring teacher was placed on administrative leave. The complaint for which he was placed on leave could have been easily resolved. What I didn’t know at the time was that the parent who had made the complaint had not even originally sought to make a complaint. She did not contact the school about the incident; the school sought her. She appreciated this teacher and felt that he was an excellent educator. All she wanted was consideration of switching her student to another classroom. Instead, this parent has since expressed [directly to me] feelings that she had been guided by the administration into making a claim that was written in such a way as to be as harmful to this teacher as possible. The parent has since become distressed and remorseful at the consequences.
As soon as I learned about this administrative leave, I asked the school site administrator as to how I could best to support his return to the classroom. I was shocked when she completely stonewalled me. She offered no support of her excellent teacher and repeatedly used “confidentiality” as an excuse not to engage with me when asked how I could support him. I emphasized that I was uninterested in the details of the complaint, I just wanted to know how I could help get him back in the classroom. She continued to insist that she couldn’t tell me anything. Finally, someone whispered to me to write a letter to the board.
The idea that a school employee had to whisper such a solution to me is, I feel, indicative of something sincerely wrong in the school environment. The Principal herself should have told me the procedure, or directed her staff to, and should have been the very first to ensure that parents knew how to express support. I also didn’t know that only a short time before this, another parent made a frivolous charge against this same teacher based on uncorroborated evidence, leading to an investigation of this teacher. The school video system proved that the claim was completely unfounded. This administrator’s glaring lack of support for this fabulous teacher stunned me.
My family, especially my son, has paid a very high price for the decisions made by district administration. We went from having my gifted son excited and enthusiastic about going to school, participating in drama and music, and making great strides in all subjects, to counting the days until the end of the school year, his overall math skills deteriorating as a result. This is what happens when inspiring, talented teachers leave our district.
In discussing my concerns with fellow community members and district staff, I have heard repeatedly of concerns that the district values compliance over passion and professional excellence. However, great education is not attained by pleasing the administration, but by inspiring the students.
I believe that if SHUSD is to continue providing high-quality educational experiences for our local youth, it is imperative that we as a community find a way to retain dedicated and talented teachers. Furthermore, I strongly believe that these teachers will remain in the district if they feel safe, supported and valued. The SHUSD staff, student body and community deserve a safe and inspiring school environment and I am committed to supporting the district in accomplishing just that.
Southern Humboldt Unified School District Board Meeting is at 4 p.m. on February 16 at Redway School.