Monday, May 12, 2014

Climate of Fear is Real Not Drama ... By Bruce Ditata

Why is it that whenever New Bedford Educators AssociationPresident, Lou St. John, refers to a “climate of fear” that pervades the culture of the district, so few people understand the concept?


The Standard-Times, in a recent editorial called it “drama,” the Superintendent of Schools, Pia Durkin, dismissed the idea altogether, saying, it was simply that, “peoples comfort zones have been disturbed.”


By illustration, St John refers to the deplorable chair-throwing debacle at NB High School, involving veteran business teacher, Joanne Maura. His theory is that because raw footage was captured via camera phone of this violent incident, thereby demonstrating the appropriate, measured response of the teacher under physical duress- the district had no choice but to exonerate her for any trumped up accusations of “failure to report the incident in a timely fashion.”

NB City Councilor, Brian K. Gomes, who immediately issued a strong statement in support of Maura, spearheaded a motion, passed by the City Council- prior to her disciplinary hearing - indicating that disciplinary actions against her would not be tolerated by members of this governing body.


Was it significant that a city councilor, not a school district official- all privy to the same incident- sought to protect the teacher from further repercussions? The answer is yes to the above interrogative, but no support from school committee or administration gives credence to St. John’s “climate of fear”assertion.

Under the Fear Doctrine, the onus is never on the school committee or the superintendent for failure to establish a culture of cooperation; the onus is never on school administrators for failure to create a collegial, supportive environment in their individual buildings; the onus is never on the misbehaving,inappropriate student to taking responsibility to his or her conduct.


Under the Fear Doctrine, the onus always falls squarely on the shoulders of teachers-low test scores, high suspensions, disruptive behaviors, drop-out rates- each one the fault of bad teachers.


The case of Joanne Maura in real time and in vivid, live footage, finally, underscored the tunnel vision of the Pia Durkin regime. No school official came to the defense of an assaulted teacher , no position statement was issued in the media in a timely fashion-like Councilor Gomes’- decrying this specific violent act.  The action promoted, instead, was a well-heeled approach-let the teacher dangle in the wind, make her feel the heat of possible dismissal, require her to face a panel who will question an alleged failure to report the incident. But what short circuited the fishing expedition- and the done deal districts are used to-was the existence of live footage showing Joanne Maura’s steady, appropriate attempt to set a limit for her students, relative to cell phones and the level of violence she endured.


The S-T, in its recent editorial, stated  that the NBEA is “myopically focused on organizational survival,” that “the union has been unquestioned too long as it has spun a yarn about a "climate of fear" in the schools…, but that narrative unravels once we see behind the public relations facade.

Superintendent Durkin, for her part, continues to spin numbers- relating to the 60% graduate rate at NBHS and its Level 4 status, the Level 5 Takeover of Parker School- and maintains that district staff” will not remain in positions where they have not been successful,"

But the S-T, Durkin, the School Committee, and others speaking out against the NBEA vote of “no confidence” in her leadership are entirely missing the point.

What exists and what is ongoing in the New Bedford Public Schools is a “climate of fear.” The vote of “no confidence” in Supt. Pia Durkin is merely a viewpoint by a majority of NB educators that based on her work so far,she does not possess the right stuff to change it. Her mishandling of the NBHS chair-throwing fiasco is the clearest indication that the membership got it right.

26 comments:

Anonymous said...

No educators have endured more than those in New Bedford and Holyoke. The difference? The Holyoke teachers are more united and determined to make their entire community aware of how the fear of working in these conditions deeply impacts the students. I don't read their local newspaper, but I imagine it might be more teacher friendly than ours.

Anonymous said...

Bob Unger uses the paper as a weapon against teachers and unions so it doesn't surprise me that his paper is bashing machine for the superintendent. Just recently Unger admitted that they have done more for Durkin's public reelations than she has.

The good news is that a vote of no confidence was taken. This action will always be a dark cloud over Durkin and Bob Unger.

It's obvious that the s-t is on life support. They have only a handful of reporters and their circulation and advertising are way down. It would not surprise me if the trend continues and the will be no more.

Anonymous said...

It looks like Bob is losing control. Maybe he can donate the s-t building to sherif Hodgson.

Anonymous said...

"Just under 19 percent of New Bedford voters went to the polls last year when Mitchell went unchallenged, but nearly 38 percent turned out in 2011 with a contested mayor's race." - Standard Times

Anonymous said...

:)

Anonymous said...

I guess the numbers mean that 81% have no confidence in Mayor Mitchell and most of the school committee. Let that "data" speak for itself. I learned a long time ago that "figures don't lie, but liars figure."

Anonymous said...

I know if Mitchell runs for office again, he will be defeated by a landslide. We need a person in the mayor's office who is honest and trustworthy.

Anonymous said...

The change agent silliness continues with a petite letter written by Jim Mathes. No SMILES for teachers?

Anonymous said...

You have to ask yourself why would the editor of the S-T take on the role of a PR manager for a Superintendent he barely knows despite her deplorable actions to such an extent? It is blatantly obvious he is baiting the union to perpetuate a war of words, yet Unger is extremely threatened by comebacks from the Elephant who puts his writing to shame. Unger's loyalty to Durkin gives me the creeps. Teachers impact students' lives in unimaginable ways. What is the legacy of a sleazy reporter?

Gen Eric said...

Those who blame the results of bad parenting on teachers are insulated from the problem. The mayor, the school committee, and the Standard-Times toadies don't have to put up with being assaulted by sociopaths pretending to be students. None of them will lose their jobs or be injured. They don't care how many teachers and students live in fear of attack. They don't care who gets injured, or who gets killed as long as they make their numbers.

They don't care. They don't have to.

Think of them as morally equivalent to Jared Remy's lawyer. He'll never have to bury his daughter, so he doesn't care.

He doesn't have to.

Anonymous said...

I have to agree with the last post. My father unfortunately almost killed every single one of us with his druncken brutality. That was30 years ago! I can't even imagine what these kids are going though today!

Anonymous said...

PIA claims she is a hard ass because teachers in this district warrant those actions. Warm and fuzzy isn't in her repertoire. But, lies and coverups are. She's in it for the long haul. Exemplar leadership it ain't.

Anonymous said...

Here is the latest and exciting news from administration. SEI K,1,2, and 3rd grade classes will now be considered gen ed classes. The students who speak little to no English will now be put in gen ed classrooms. Poof, just like that. How is this possible well, the lovely state of MA is mandating all teachers to take a course....yes one course... to force all teachers to become SEI endorsed/certified by 2016. Teachers who went to school for Special Education or Elementary Education degrees are not being forced to pick up an additional certification. Why you ask? Well its so that everyone can now be certified to teach ELL students. I personally don't speak another language other than English which of course would be the reason why I didn't choose to get a degree in teaching ELL learners. I am going to be thrown into a classroom with children who for some, don't speak English or limited English and be expected to bring my whole class to proficient. The WIDA training I received does not qualify me to teach ELL learners nor does taking ONE course. I am not saying by any means that these children cannot learn but I am not comfortable being thrown into a field I did not choose. I should then by right have an interpreter with me at open house so that my parents of these students can understand what I am saying. That will not happen. Putting my worries aside, what about those children who are being ripped out of classrooms where they at least have a teacher that speaks their native language? How do you think that makes them feel? I would love for someone to explain how this makes sense. How is this going to get New Bedford scores up?
I am at a complete loss as to how the state can mandate everyone be SEI endorsed. The next area where everyone needs to endorsed is Special Needs. Why not? There are special needs students in regular classrooms so why not have that as the next forced certification. I thought when you go into college, you pick the area where you want to teach. I wanted to stay in the elementary area so I concentrated on Elementary education. Now I am being forced to hold a certification I didn't choose. What is education coming to when teachers are not being forced to hold certifications that aren't their choosing?
I feel for the students whose lives are going to be turned upside down when they return to school next year and find out that they will not be in the class they expected. Maybe they will be told, maybe they won't be, who knows.
The next area of that is going to be dismantled is special education. Parents are in for a rude awakening when they realize that some students who have been on IEP's for a few years now run into the possibility of being kicked off because they don't fall under the 7th percentile. Students' support systems are being torn away from them but yet no one questions it? But yet, Jim Mathes there is no climate of fear? Do you come in and teach every day and see what we teachers see every day and experience? No you do not because if you did then you would be supporting us 100%
Where were you Jim Mathes and Unger when the SC lost 4 million dollars? The teachers didn't do it, they did it. Yet it doesn't get mentioned at all. All the Durkin supporters who come out and say New Bedford schools are in dire need of a change around and have been failing for some time. Where were you when the SC and mayor ousted Bonner after less than a year? Where were you when Mary Lou Francis contract was not renewed? There was not a lot of trash talk for the teachers back then because those moves had nothing to do with teachers but everything to do with the SC and mayor.
OPEN YOUR EYES Durkin supporters and start looking into what the teachers have been trying to say. We are a group of people who are screaming for help but no one is helping. Would you ignore a child's cry for help? Teachers are the voices of the children.

Anonymous said...

This post is so accurate, it hurts. I agree with each and ever word. I did not intend to deliver instruction to those with an ESL background or documented disability when I chose my profession. I also did not expect to be evaluated on my ability to get these challenged learners to succeed on standardized tests that most native born "regular" ed students struggle to pass. There is no true understanding of our role and there is a missing appreciation for what we do manage to accomplish in one school year.

Anonymous said...

With the way Pia is leading and running the district, the state will be taking over the district. Think about it when you allow the students to get away with everything they (students) feel or are running the schools.

To quote the mayor "we are in imminent danger of state takeover."

Anonymous said...

Beware of Teacher Incentive Pay Programs that are bias and punitive. The union should contest this.

Anonymous said...

"I did not intend to deliver instruction to those with an ESL background or documented disability when I chose my profession"

^Seriously , you chose the wrong profession, please leave.

Anonymous said...

This email was sent to all the teachers in a neighboring district by their superintendent. Durkin is something that the cat dragged in. She could never be as gracious as she attested to in the ST. There are leaders that lead and inspire and there are leaders that...well, you know...bully, intimidate, berate, devalue, undermine, lie and conceal...

May 9, 2014

As this National Teacher Appreciation Week comes to a close, I want to thank you for all of your hard work and dedication. Studies consistently show that a teacher's level of commitment is one of the greatest factors in a student's success, and our students are fortunate to learn from some of the most energetic, innovative and professional teachers in the country. Thank you for all that you do. Teaching is not an easy profession; we give our time, talent and love to our students. We dedicate countless hours of our own time to designing lesson plans, getting training and ideas, grading papers
and attending events and competitions in support of our students. We dedicate our own, hard-earned money to pay for classroom materials and field trips and for the extra snacks and clothing for those
children who don't seem to have enough. But we are fortunate, because we know that being a teacher matters, that there are hundreds and even thousands of students whose lives are better every day because we are in them. For many of our kids, we are the only adult who claps for them in the play, the person they turn to when they've been disappointed or scared, and we are the ones they run to show off that college acceptance letter. I have always considered it a privilege to be a teacher, because a teacher gets to help make the world a
better place by helping young people see it through a bright lens. We teach them math, reading,
science, Spanish and we teach them to think critically, to act locally and think globally, and to always believe in their dreams.
On this last day of Teacher Appreciation Week, I want you to know how much what you do matters,
and how grateful we as a community are to have you. Thank you!

Anonymous said...

Someone from New Bedford said to me thank god Dr Durkin is at NBPS so that the state won't take over. To which I replied she is the state take over- she is besties with Mittchell chester, we are buying new materials directly related to the common core and the new PARCC test which DR. chester will make sure gets put into place. They were so shocked and had no clue about all of the connections that are behind closed doors

Anonymous said...

and what message did the superintendent or school committee deliver to all the teachers for teacher appreciation week - a pink slip, another bad evaluation?

Anonymous said...

Wait! We got that wonderful letter where she applauds her own "work".

Anonymous said...

To the person who posted above…I think you are absolutely correct in saying that Durkin is the state takeover disguised in a 60-something year-old body. I just don't get how a school in Holyoke gets received by someplace in Texas, and Parker gets received by Durkin!!
Please correct me if I'm wrong, no problems.

Anonymous said...

You are not wrong. It is dirty politics on the down-low, but we caught on. Remember how our DIP and SIP were rejected by the state? Under durkin's leadership, everything is coming up roses. It's raining state funding courtesy of Chester. It is a big scam-Commissioner of Ed, Durkin, mayor, SC are all in on it. Throw Deval Patrick in the mix for good measure. We truly are the victims of poor leadership and management who failed to provide us with nothing more than the bare necessities. The ax falls on teachers while the guilty escape unscathed.

Anonymous said...

DO NOT berate teachers who do not feel comfortable teaching ELLs. This is new to them and being shoved down their throats w/o proper training. Educator prep programs are separated by grade levels, contents, and specializations. Durkin is disregarding these personal career choices as another form of sabotage. Although she has a doctorate is she qualified to pull teeth? Is she a licensed dentist? Unload your cargo elsewhere!

Anonymous said...

I just want to write a brief post about lou... he helped me through a very difficult time this year. I wish the outcome were different but he has always been professional and supportive. well worth my dues.

Anonymous said...

I agree with the above post re. Lou as well. He helped me as well through a difficult time. . . . . . . ALWAYS returned my phone call or responded with an e-mail in a very timely manner.