Friday, September 15, 2006
Teachers' Assoc. concerns released
Letters between the Carlisle Teachers' Association (CTA) and Superintendent Marie Doyle and the Carlisle School Committee (CSC) have recently been made public. The letters concern misgivings voiced by the CTA about administrative actions taken by Doyle.
Why the letters were made public
During the summer a number of teachers resigned including Deb Butts, Sue Grossman, Katie Gustafson, Sue Fitzgerald, Rebecca Mis and Skip Avery. Parent Jim Harris of School Street wanted to find out what issues led to the resignations and, in reading the minutes from the Carlisle School Committee, he learned the committee had received a letter from the Teachers' Association in 2005. "I said to myself, I wish I knew what was in that letter." Harris requested a copy of the letter, but was required to use the Massachusetts Public Records Law (similar to the federal Freedom of Information Act) to receive a copy.
CTA letter of June 6, 2005
The letter, written to Superintendent Doyle from the Carlisle Teachers' Association Executive Board on June 6, 2005, and copied to the School Committee, listed three concerns: how a particular disciplinary action was taken, "the suggested reorganization of the school, and the salary scale changes." The letter concludes, "Our membership is concerned with the amount of significant changes that are occurring in our school, the lack of communication about the changes, and the disregard for the members of our staff who are highly trained and qualified to make decisions that will have long-term ramifications for our students and families. We have a history of a fine collaborative relationship of membership and staff with administration and School Committee. We feel it is important for the success of our school to share our concerns."
CTA letter of March 21, 2006
Parents have requested and received other documents. On March 21, 2006, the Carlisle Teachers' Association addressed a letter to Superintendent Doyle, copying to the Carlisle School Committee. It said, in part, "Our school has relied on effective leaders: Leaders who trust and empower teachers to make appropriate decisions for children." The letter continues, "The staff is committed to maintaining the core values for which the Carlisle Public Schools have stood. We continue to be grateful for the support that we receive from the community. We are concerned, however, that the current leader does not embody many of the values and cultural norms that have made the Carlisle Public Schools unique and an exceptional education system. It is especially important that these issues be discussed and addressed as we hire new principals and plan for a vision for our school." The letter concludes by encouraging the School Committee to "seek input from faculty."
CTA letter of June 23, 2006
On June 23, 2006 Michael Miller, President of the Carlisle Teachers' Association, sent a letter to Superintendent Doyle, again copying the School Committee. In the letter Miller expresses concerns over "procedures you recently followed in the filling of positions within the Carlisle Public Schools." Two positions were filled, he explains, without using the proper methods. The method used to fill one of the positions "violated Massachusetts collective bargaining law," he stated. "The Carlisle Teachers' Association in no way disputes your right to use your judgment in making appointments and does not protest the appointments you did make. However, we believe the procedure you followed was a form of retaliation." Miller concludes, "We strongly urge you to follow all established procedures regarding future appointments and to treat all employees fairly regardless of personal animus."
CSC response of June 29
In a letter thanking Miller for his note, School Committee Chair Nicole Burkel said, "We will continue to work with your board to ensure that procedures are followed properly in the Carlisle Schools. We appreciated you bringing your concerns to our attention."
Miller, contacted by phone this week, and speaking as President of the Teachers' Association, did not want to comment on the issues facing the school committee and the superintendent. However, looking forward, he said, "We love the new principals."
CSC Chair Nicole Burkel spoke with the Mosquito and noted that Carlisle's recent 12% teacher turnover was not unusual compared to neighboring communities. "What we are seeing is extremely common right now." She gave several reasons for teacher and administrator resignations, including many new job opportunities created elsewhere by the state's early retirement bonus program, and noted that "Opportunities for advancement are limited here, because it is a small school district."
Superintendent Doyle, reached for comment said, "I meet with the Carlisle Teachers' Association President and Vice President every week. For discussions on worries and concerns I meet face to face with leaders and every teacher, and attend team meetings. I do think staff is grieving the loss of colleagues that they loved and respected, and I need to be respectful of their feelings." She said she is planning to attend middle school and elementary staff meetings on early release days, which are run by the principals, and will request fifteen minutes to speak about vision and process, to aid a consistent message, "I want to engage in dialogue in each group. "
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