Teachers allege intimidation from superintendent

June 05, 2000|By TARA REILLY

Washington County teachers discussed concerns about the impact of recent teacher aide cuts and what they said some see as intimidation by the schools superintendent during a Monday afternoon meeting with the Board of Education.

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The teachers and School Board members met at Hagerstown Community College at the request of the Washington County Teachers Association in light of recent teacher complaints. All board members and about 30 teachers attended.

Some teachers expressed disappointment that the board offered no solutions but said they thought the meeting was productive.

School Board members said they plan to analyze the concerns and respond in a written report in the near future.

Teachers said they and school principals have a fear of losing their jobs or being transferred if they speak out against some management practices of Schools Superintendent Herman G. Bartlett.

Teachers said some faculty members have been verbally reprimanded by Bartlett for publicly disagreeing with some of his beliefs and said the superintendent makes discouraging comments about teacher quality.


"The intimidation is not with the elected board," Dave Williams, a teacher at South Hagerstown High School, said. "The level of intimidation is with the superintendent."

Another teacher suggested principals are retiring early to escape the intimidation, and another said he thought the recent transfer of principals at two high schools was in retaliation for turning down the district's plans to implement four-period school days in high school classrooms.

Alan Zube, a teacher at Salem Elementary, said he doesn't feel threatened but that it's apparent other employees do.

"I feel like we are walking on egg shells," Zube said.

School Board Vice President Doris J. Nipps said complaints about Bartlett shouldn't be made in public but behind closed doors. Rules posted before the meeting began stated no one was to mention names while voicing concerns.

The teachers did not refer to Bartlett by name, but as "the superintendent."

"If we are going to sit here and talk about the superintendent, I think we're breaking the ground rules. Call me at home with instances and in writing," Nipps said. "I consider this a private conversation."

Nipps said she heard complaints of intimidation before Bartlett was superintendent.

"I've been on the board for six years, and I've been hearing it every year," she said. "That is a difficult one for me. I don't quite understand. People should never be afraid to speak."

Bartlett was not available for comment after the meeting and did not return a message left at his home.

Zube also said the board's recent decision to cut teacher aide positions is going to have a negative affect on student learning.

He suggested schools should have the freedom to choose what cuts are made rather than cuts being made across the board.

As many as 27 aides who are classified as part-time Title I employees could loose their jobs. Five have received pink slips at Salem Elementary, Zube said.

The board decided to cut the jobs because of budget constraints.

Title I is a federally funded program that school systems use to supplement programs for at-risk students. Aide positions are funded by the county's $2.1 million share of federal Title I funds.

Teachers also voiced concerns about the scarcity of substitutes in Washington County and said the time given to complete teacher recertification plans is insufficient.

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