I am not writing today based on an isolated email from a disgruntled school district employee. I wish that were the case. Phone calls, text messages and emails have come to me from teachers, paraeducators, custodians, kitchen workers, support staff and aides all painting an eerily similar picture of the work environment inside our award-winning TE schools.
If you want to control someone, all you have to do is make him or her feel afraid. It appears that the TE School District is now an environment of intimidation with administrators calling for loyalty, demanding public silence and leaving employees fearing for their jobs.
From the outside, the school district appears the image of excellence by any standard – impressive test scores, high achieving students in all areas – academics, athletics and the arts, supportive parents and caring teachers and staff that believe in putting education and students first.
However, those working inside our schools describe an atmosphere far differently … a place of fear and intimidation … a place where our District employees, fearing retribution, do not feel like they have a voice. One poignant email read in part, “We have signs all over about anti-bullying, yet the staff gets bullied.” Another email contained these words, “If you speak out and they (administration) don’t like what you’re saying, and you’re not a ‘yes person,’ then you will literally … you could lose your place there. You could lose your job.” I just read a comment posted on Community Matters that says TENIG employees were rebuked by the Administration for attending Monday’s School Board meeting. If true, this level of harassment must stop. School Board meetings are public meetings and all employees are welcome to attend. There is a policy that only TESD residents may speak at Board meetings with the exception of TENIG and TEEA union presidents.
The TE School District is committed to a safe and civil education environment for all its students that is free from harassment, intimidation or bullying and the same right is extended to all District employees. TESD Policy, Regulation 4330 “Unlawful harassment by and of TESD employees” provides the procedure for an employee to report unlawful harassment to their immediate supervisor, or to the Superintendent of Schools, if the complaint involves that supervisor. But herein lies the problem – if the District employees are scared of the Administration, and fear retaliation and possible loss of their job, how are they supposed to speak out? And where do they take their message?
This discontent between administrators and staff that has led to low morale in the schools did not just begin this week. Although certainly exacerbated by the proposed outsourcing of aides, paraeducators and substitute teachers, there is an unsettling picture that is beginning to surface; a workplace shrouded by fear and intimidation.
The School Board Directors of Tredyffrin Easttown School District need to lead. The taxpayers of this community pay the administrator salaries of the School District and we elected you as the overseers. Now the community is respectfully asking you stop deferring all your decisions to the Administration, and to simply … govern.