Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Seattle Education Association Rep Council Resolution on Center School Teacher

From SEA:

The Seattle EA Rep Council passed the following resolution on Monday, June 10:

Whereas, a teacher at the Center School has been served with an administrative transfer for teaching an anti-racist curriculum that the District deemed to be inappropriate, on the basis of the complaint of one parent, and for not 'forbidding' students in his class from organizing in his defense; and

Whereas, SPS has unfairly made this a matter of personnel discipline rather than a question of age appropriateness of curriculum with the effect of stifling discussion of this very serious matter, and

Whereas, any other teacher may now be called to account for teaching anything controversial, based on a similar complaint of a single parent, having already sent a chilling effect on teaching around other controversial topics; and

Whereas, the SEA has already taken a position to defend Jon Greenberg and stand up for Academic Freedom,

Therefore be it resolved that the SEA supports Jon Greenberg against arbitrary actions by the District, and any other teacher when they exercise their professional judgment as to what and how they teach,

Be it further resolved that the body of the SEA urges the leadership of the SEA to be more vocal in support of this teacher, and of other teachers, when they may be targeted for engaging in Academic Freedom to teach as they judge to be in the best interests of their students,

And be it further resolved that the SEA demonstrates its support for this teacher by encouraging all education professionals to attend an awards ceremony for his class, to be held at City Hall on Thursday, June 13, at 5:30 PM.


I applaud this public stance by the EA Rep Council.

I also think they are quite right to expect more from their leadership (even during a time of contract negotiation).   

I don't think this was handled well at all by the district.  This was curriculum and teaching that Mr. Greenberg had used for years, seemingly with support from students/parents and not a peep from the district and yet suddenly, the district decided it was not valid.  That is a confusing message to send to educators.

The district's decision also seems to say if you are a powerful parent (probably with a lawyer backing you up), you can get what you want.   It is almost Merchant of Venice-like in its pound of flesh extracted from Mr. Greenberg. 

I'm sure it's a bit awkward for the district and the Board to realize that as they discipline/punish Mr. Greenberg, the City recognizes his aptitude for teaching and inspiring students.  I wonder if there will be a press release from SPS on this particular honor for a Seattle teacher.

38 comments:

  1. The 2013 graduating class and their families gave overwhelming support for Mr. Greenberg last night at the graduation.

    The students rocked "G" t-shirts while families stood applauding in support for nearly five minutes after a student gave a speech that called out the district for its shameful treatment of this teacher.

    TCS Parent-Now Alum

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  2. Fully agree about the treatment of Mr. Greenberg.

    Sorry to quibble, but the cultural reference grates. The pound of flesh is from the Merchant of Venice.

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  3. It seems that in the SPS politics trumps the education of students.

    Given all the times the Board has preferred to ignore relevant data to make poor decisions, this District move on Mr. Greenberg is hardly a surprise. {{Was it "Rule by Oligarchs"? => one parent complaint this time - likely not a low income parent}}

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  4. Patrick, you are right. Thanks for that, I'll correct it. (It's all the blood in Macbeth that threw me off.)

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  5. This was an email I sent to the Board. I hope they listen.

    Dear Seattle School Board leaders,

    Jon Greenberg should be reinstated at the Center School. You are Banda’s collective boss and he or a member of his staff has fumbled this badly. Please show leadership for the reasons below:

    1. It will show that you support excellent teachers and back them up. One student’s complaint should never derail a good teacher.

    2. It will restore morale at the Center School. The staff, current and alumni students (like my son) are deeply disappointed in his transfer. Do not pass over their feelings regarding this beloved teacher.

    3. It will show strong support for student discussions about race. Is this important or not for the District? You are being tested on it and you look weak with this transfer.

    4. It will demonstrate conviction at SPS. Leadership from the Board means stepping in when necessary. It is not good enough to pass off all decisions to your new superintendent, especially when he is wrong.

    It is time to have a Courageous Conversation among yourselves and reinstate Jon Greenberg at Center School.

    Regards,

    Georgi Krom
    Parent of David Krom, graduate of the first class of the Center School

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  6. Mr.Greenberg sounds like a great guy, the kind of teacher you remember your entire life. But one thing continues to nag at me.

    We don't actually know what the student complained about. We don't really know if s/he was the only one who felt that way, just that s/he was the person who spoke up. Maybe there is more to this than we know.

    The reason I have felt uncomfortable from the beginning is that there was a time with one of my kids where WE were the lone voice in the wilderness. We knew we were telling the truth, because we had corroboration from a couple of our child's classmates (through the parents, privately to us). Unfortunately, these things don't happen in a vacuum and we were accused of all sorts of things by other parents for simply bringing an issue to the school's attention once they found out. It was awful, we ended up leaving the school.

    Since we know nothing-not the student's name, race, SES, neighborhood, and so on, there's an awful lot of assuming going on, and attacking in absentia.Having been on the receiving end of such attacks and not being in a position to defend ourselves, I can't help but wonder if there's more to this that we know. As someone in another thread said, Mr. Banda doesn't seem that clueless. Maybe he knows something we don't.

    Troubled

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  7. Troubled, what about the opinions of many graduating classes of students who felt this was one of the most important classes they ever had? Don’t their opinions count for anything?

    Yes, one student may have felt uncomfortable and may not have agreed with everything being talked about. That happens in conversations about difficult topics.

    I think Banda was trying to take the easy way out and avoid a lawsuit from one family. I doubt he has secret information that made him punish the teacher and eliminate a valuable class. There were several internal investigations into this issue and they did not find fault with the teacher. This transfer is demoralizing to students and the staff at Center School. It is the way the District operates.

    Krom parent

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  8. I'm having similar concerns as @Troubled. The absence of details simply leaves me with more questions. Aren't the Courageous Conversations lessons, which are based on Critical Race Theory, a vestige of Caprice Hollins' time in Seattle?

    http://www.seattlepi.com/local/opinion/article/Racial-propaganda-serves-no-one-1273230.php

    For every person that speaks up for the teacher, how many are sitting in silence biting their tongue?

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  9. Troubled, I honestly believe if it were more than a single student, someone would have come forward.

    And, the student did not have to stay in the class for discussions.

    We don't know because the district won't say what the issue was. That's not helpful to parents or teachers. They could have said this in broad brushstrokes but didn't.

    I, too, have had a couple of issues and wished there had been more parent support. But this all seems very suspicious and, in the end, punitive to Mr. Greenberg.

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  10. Seeing as this student was a senior and now has graduated, I wonder if they would be willing to say what the issue was. From what I read on the Stranger, it is a female student but there was no more information than that.

    HP

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  11. Caprice Hollins had a way of getting the worst out of ideas that were in their origin quite sensible. I don't think anything she ever liked was necessarily therefore bad. Frequently it was a lot better than she managed to make it sound. That's part of why her work was ultimately damaging to the district, IMO.

    Helen Schinske

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  12. Wasn't he transferred because he condoned/allowed/ignored bullying? I thought we were anti bullying? Or, if it comes from a teacher, it's okay?

    Mixed messages

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  13. Yes, Mixed. That makes a lot of sense. The district identifies a teacher that condones bullying. So transfer him to Hamilton Int. Middle School in a very public way.

    That sounds silly even for SPS. If there were a documentable problem he wouldn't be simply transferred within the district. This isn't the Catholic church after all.

    -Suspicious of District Motives

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  14. To Troubled and those concerned that there may be more problems with the class than you've heard, here are some additional facts:

    1. 46 out of 48 current students of Mr. Greenberg signed a petition requesting the reinstatement of the curriculum.
    2. 47 out of 48 current students of Mr. Greenberg were wearing t-shirts in support of him and the curriculum at last night's graduation.
    3. The investigation by SPS that concluded that there was harassment and the curriculum should be stopped interviewed exactly one student ... the complainer. Not a single other student was interviewed to validate what was asserted by the complaining family. Not one. This is in the public record.
    4. There has never been a formal complaint in 10 years of the curriculum and the principal, up to this year, praised the class and study unit as part of the core identity of The Center School.
    5. Unlike the school district, I have talked in detail with many of the students in the class and their experience and observations are directly contrary to what was asserted by the family. The assertions by the family appear to be so twisted from reality that I can only assume that they have an agenda which is to punish Mr. Greenberg.

    I've no doubts that the student who initiated the complaint had a poor experience which should be dealt with using kindness and support. Perhaps that experience means that the class should be adjusted. I've met no-one, including Mr. Greenberg, who would disagree. It should be noted that the curriculum does shift and grow over the years as Mr. Greenberg learns from his students what works and what doesn't. No-one is saying everything was perfect.

    However, to take one complaint with virtually no other collaborating evidence and boot a teacher out of the school and stop the curriculum smacks of a kangaroo court. There is zero zero zero evidence or logic to back this up. That is why the community is up in arms.

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  15. The amount of pull this one family has is breathtaking. I have known several families who had serious issues with either teachers or principals and never received a response like this family did. Those families all either moved to private schools or other public schools. I think this is partly what is so fascinating about this whole thing. Who do you have to know or be to have this kind of pull?

    HP

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  16. Mixed, we don't actually know much because the district won't tell us. So it's a lot of conjecture and mixed messages from the district. It does their cause no good.

    But no one is condoning bullying from anyone so that's a silly thing to say.

    HP, you need a really good lawyer to get this kind of reaction.

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  17. Valislav,

    These "investigations" are not worth the paper they're printed on. And HR/Legal spends $100K for them. That is shameful.

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  18. more info released, SPS gives reasons for transfer - just in the Seattle Times now.

    FYI

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  19. According to the district ( in The Times) he was transferred formthenway he handled things after the complaint was made. In particular, allowing the petition to be circulated in his class when the complaining student was in the room.

    It wasn't his curriculum that got him transferee

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  20. So putting him at a Middle School is the answer? Crazy.

    HP

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  21. Times subscriber6/13/13, 7:30 AM

    After reading the Seattle Times report, I'd have to say good for HR and Mr. Banda for disciplining the teacher. The teacher allowed an in-class petition to circulate with name, email, phone number, and signature. The teacher also sent an email to parents about the complaint, and left "student A," the complainant, off the list.

    Let's hope he and his students have learned their lesson.

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  22. Don't forget that the ham-fisted cancellation of a praised curriculum based on an anomalous complaint of one individual led to the petition fiasco.

    Transferring the teacher to a Middle School, forcing him to spend the summer developing an entirely new curriculum and, effectively, ending this curriculum at the Center School is extremely punitive.

    It is a chilling development for students and teachers in the SPS. I hope lawyers and parents are taking note. Hire a lawyer and get the school district to do whatever you want - and the heck with the rest of the student body and the teachers. I would advise the SPED parents, who have been asking for services for years, to hire some lawyers. The APP program should hire some lawyers to further the interests of advanced learning. Long Live Litigation.

    The Times, BTW, is only interested in inflammatory stories that will sell subscriptions

    -Not a Times Subscriber, sick of their anti-education slant.

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  23. Wow. I really do not see anything wrong with allowing students to circulate a petition.

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  24. The email is what bothers me. If you send out an email and one name is suspiciously absent, well, that pretty much targets the missing person, doesn't it? Mr. Greenberg had no business dragging other families into the matter the way he did. It was unprofessional and left the complaining student and her family twisting in the wind.

    Whether or not they had a legitimate complaint is another matter, but it seems Mr. Greenberg made it personal, and I can understand why he was disciplined.

    I don't however, agree with transferring him. I would have left him in place but with some kind of censure. That's way out of my understanding of district options and regulations.

    Also not a Time subscriber

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  25. To play devil's advocate, I'd say the students should have thought twice about circulating a petition (during class time!) knowing it may intimidate a fellow classmate, that for obvious reasons would want to maintain anonymity. Their actions helped get their beloved teacher transferred.

    Also, the "praised" curriculum, or teaching method, is rather controversial. Discusssions of race are not being barred from the classroom, the "Courageous Conversations" method is being barred for use with students.

    If this incident makes teachers more thoughtful in their choice of teaching methods and materials, then it's a positive outcome. Teachers are not being prevented from presenting controversial topics, they are getting the message that instruction needs to be age appropriate and they need to maintain a respectful atmosphere in the classroom.

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  26. National attention and a wide variety of comments

    http://news.yahoo.com/popular-seattle-teacher-forced-teaching-kids-racism-181200553.html



    PSP

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  27. Also not a Time subscriber: My child was in Mr. Greenberg's class and I didn't receive the email but I did have it forwarded to me. The email was NOT addressed to individuals rather he used a group email address so no one could tell who received it and as a parent I should have been informed about the curriculum suspension because the decision effected my student too but I guess my student wasn't as important as the ONE student who complained and refused all accommodations offered by the teacher and demanded that no racial terms be used in a class racism (I have do idea how that can be accomplished). I believe the family's intent was to have the curriculum removed from the school no matter what. The student-driven petition was circulated in ALL the humanities classes not just Greenberg's class. And yes, Times Subscriber, the students have learned their lesson that the Seattle School District can punish an award-winning teacher without due process and with complete disregard of the needs of the majority of families.

    Parent

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  28. What if the upcoming Seniors sue the district for not providing the class they expected next year? Open enrollment has ended and these kids aren't going to be getting the education they expected at the Center School.

    HP

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  29. Mirmac,

    You're the queen of public records requests-wouldn't Mr. Greenberg's email to the parents come under the law as subject to one of your requests? If it was as simple as the curriculum being suspended, that should have gone out both as an email to ALL and on paper as well (at least, major changes and projects are handled that way by my kid's school).

    If indeed it was sent through a PRIVATE email address, then that's even more hinkey. But we're getting a bit more information here from "Parent" saying that it was about the use of racial terms. That casts a whole new light-wasn't a teacher at Cleveland (?) suspended or removed for using a racial term with some of HIS students some years back?

    The more I hear about this, the more I want to know...

    Also not a Time(s) subscriber

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  30. It would certainly be subject to disclosure. But I've found that any records covering controversial subjects take an inordinate amount of time. In this case any third parties who are readily identifiable (and are not students) would be notified so that they may seek an injunction if necessary. Sounds like no students were identified via email address or reference. However, any emails forwarded from a seattleschools.org address would fall under a public records request on this topic.

    Interestingly, I see once again where SPS "releases" information when it suits their purpose. Did any media other than the Times get it? Did Shaw and Varner get the usual heads-up? I requested all HR investigations in March and have yet to receive a one. Not that I think they are truthful or objective. Frankly, those I've seen are crap and are obviously one-sided.

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  31. My daughter was in Mr. Greenberg's class 6 years ago. She was a bit shy, easily intimidated, and afraid to speak up. She didn't especially like Mr. Greenberg but she had a profound learning experience through the Courageous Conversations curriculum. It brought her out of her shell. She learned to advocate for herself. She developed confidence. She discovered what it meant to herself to be mixed race. She not only brought the learning home to me but took it out with her into the community, into her university courses, into her art, and her everyday life.

    Regardless of what happens with Mr. Greenberg within SPS, the curriculum should stay. It's value is truly priceless.

    The district handling of this deserves the lowest grade possible. How is it appropriate to move this teacher to a middle school? It feels, retaliatory, dishonest and passive aggressive. SPS needs to get a backbone and stop playing legal games. It's about THE STUDENTS and not the power of administration. Not the power of legal backing. The nation and community is watching.

    What about the student in question? Maybe that individual doesn't even want this. Is this a case of over protective parents with easy access to money and legal resources? There are too many unanswered questions.

    Let's not forget this is the same school district that contracted MAP testing with a company that had our superintendent on the board...

    Proud parent of a Courageous Conversations graduate.

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  32. You need to realize that this teacher was not admonished for his teaching of the class, but the actions he took when the students decided to sign a petition on his behalf. Get the full story before passing judgment on the district!!!

    Informed

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  33. Informed,
    I do not understand why he needs to be tranfered to another school because he allowed a petition to be passed around in class. It seems extreme, why not a repremand in his file? Someone with a child at Center said that the students also passed that petition around in other classes. Are all those
    teachers also transfered?
    Everyone is thinking the transfer IS because of the class because the effect of the transfer is that Mr Greenberg would not be able to teach that class anymore; and perhaps that class would no longer be taught also.

    CCA

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  34. Anonymous,

    It would certainly be helpful to get the full story... Where do you suggest I go for that?

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  35. I fear for our children. Who on earth would want to become teachers anymore? Years of schooling, have to get a Master degree, and for what? Reviled on comments sections in newspapers as leaches because they get health benefits and pensions. Called out by name on blogs by anonymous posters as incompetent and useless because they occasionally show films in class or assign readings that some does not like, or assign too little homework, or too much homework. It's like the three little bears fable: this bed is too soft, this bed is too hard. But unfortunately for teachers, no bed is ever just right.
    And on top of all this, if they get a little experience and senority, and, heaven forfend, a rise in salary, they are hounded out of the profession, harassed until they quit, so the district can replace them with younger, cheaper, newly graduated teachers.
    A few years ago, I thought about getting a teaching certificate for K-12 because I had young kids and could not leave them to go do field research as often; and I thought teaching K-12 instead of college would work better because I would have the same schedule as my kids. But then I started reading the education blogs and education news and the editorials, and er, NO THANKS. Totally do not
    need the grief and the endless disrespect!
    Poor poor teachers. Poor, poor children!

    CCA

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  36. Er, transferred, reprimand. Sorry, little phone buttons and tired brain.

    CCA

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  37. Is there a rule somewhere that prohibits the dissemination of petitions in class?

    Did the students break the rules or did the teacher? Are students allowed to do it, but teachers aren't supposed to allow it?

    Is this in the SEA contract - no distribution of petitions in class?

    What rule did Mr. Greenberg break when he allowed the students to pass around the petition?

    Isn't the class, in part, about activism?

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  38. I would bet that the other students had already figured out who the student who was uncomfortable was before the petition was passed around. If the petition was passed around in all the classes, then I don't see how this would be intimidation.

    HP

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