The troubling stories of intimidation by the TE School District administration continue, as does the School Board’s silence regarding this issue. After “As I See It: Tredyffrin Easttown School District … Intimidation to Silence” appeared in Main Line Suburban, I received additional phone calls and emails from former and current District employees, describing our schools as a workplace which seeks to control and silence. A former TE teacher wrote, “Employees have noted for years that they felt bullied and targeted when raising any questions or concerns regarding building and/or programming changes.” From a current District aide, “The negativity and lack of respect from the administration is always present.”
What is really going on behind the walls of our schools – the morale continues to plummet but other than bringing awareness to the problem, there is no indication that anything is changing or that anyone on the School Board is actually listening. Disappointingly, there has been no response to either of the two emails sent to School Board President Kevin Buraks in regards to this matter. Some may suggest that Buraks does not respond because he is in re-election campaign mode and does not want to risk his quotes appearing on Community Matters. If that is the case, I wonder what excuse is offered for not responding to the concerns of other School District residents. How about a press release suggesting that the School Board is addressing employee concerns and claims of intimidation? The employees need to know that their contributions are valued and that they have a right to a working environment free from harassment and intimidation.
By speaking out, employees feel that their jobs are threatened. Following the School Board meeting, the administration suggested to certain TENIG members that they had no business attending the meeting. These individuals did not speak at the meeting (although if TESD residents, they have that right); they merely attended the meeting. I find this level of control by intimidation from the administration extremely disturbing. All employees deserve a supportive working environment not a place where they fear losing their jobs for raising questions or concern.
With the level of discontent, negativity and lack of respect that many District employees are indicating, I simply do not understand why the School Board does not investigate and find answers. Why should employees fear retribution from the District administration for speaking out or … in the case of some TENIG workers, for just showing up a public meeting? When a District employee speaks as a citizen at a meeting, does the First Amendment not protect them? How is it possible that a school district is allowed to exercise control over an employee’s private speech.
There are examples of intimidation and low morale of the employees from all areas of the District — the kitchen staff, the custodians, the aides and the teachers. Large segments of the employee community feel disconnected from the District leadership; leaving them to question why the School Board seemingly does not care. How do the members of the School Board rationalize and not react to what District employees are saying? I will say it again, this is not some isolated, disgruntled employee looking for attention but rather the new reality of what it means to be a TE School District employee. Respect and support should be commonplace on the education ladders of TE schools, regardless of whom you are or whom you know.
There’s no magic wand to make this simmering problem within our schools disappear. Increasing awareness suggests that our award-winning TE School District needs a thorough internal examination and review to look at what is really going on inside our school walls.
Footnote: In a quick Google search, I found ‘School Perceptions’, an independent research company that collects data, conducts internal examinations, professional development, benchmark surveys, etc. and measures feedback from community, parents, students and staff in public and private schools. According to their website, their mission is to “help educational leaders gather, organize and use data to make strategic decisions” by measuring what matters. I understand the economics of the School District and I realize that School Perceptions, or a similar company, does not come without a price tag however … this situation requires action. One solution is an independent examination and review of the working environment of the District employees.