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By The Commentators

I still hope for change in the district

By The Commentators Posted October 2, 2012 at 4:48 pm

Dear Chapel Hill/Carrboro Community,
 
As a longstanding teacher in this district, I wanted to say goodbye to you. The Superintendent and School Board dismissed me last week, which was sad to me on many levels. Chapel Hill/Carrboro is not just the district of my employment, it is my community and home. Given other recent and highly publicized incidents in the district, my experience reflects a larger district culture – one that does not put student learning first, treat teachers as professionals, or follow its own policies.
 
It is my hope that my story may effect change– or at least provide the awareness that must come before change can occur.
 
My difficulties began several years ago, when I refused to tamper with grades for certain groups of students so they would appear more successful. I wanted to focus on individual students and their particular needs as related to skill development and give honest feedback to parents and students about progress. Over the next few years I experienced harassment, bullying, discrimination, defamation, and denial of due process as a result of my resistance to misleading grading practices. I responded by trying to work within the system to correct the wrongs I witnessed.
 
Seeing that my impact was limited as a teacher, I returned to graduate school to become an administrator myself, hoping to help guide our system back to a place where we do not ask teachers to engage in unethical practices, and where we live the vision embedded in School Board policy—the vision of working with teachers to further student learning.
 
Unfortunately, the system did not hire me as an administrator when I returned, so I continued as a teacher. A year later I was abruptly removed from a teaching position for which I spent 17 years developing myself as a professional by earning a Master’s degree, completing several specialized training programs such as National Board Certification, and developing an enriched curriculum. My students’ performance scores were consistently excellent and observational feedback good, reflecting these unique qualifications.
 
I was re-assigned to a “cart” position teaching multiple elective subjects in multiple rooms. I was qualified only in basic licensure area for this position, had no desire to teach the subjects involved, and my impact on student learning obviously would be markedly lessened by this move. When I tried to discuss the appropriateness of the assignment with administrators, their response was that principals can move teachers around in their building “as they see fit.”
 
I filed a formal grievance about the re-assignment. It was denied. The superintendent told me that he did not investigate my charges. He said he accepted the word of his principal over mine.
 
I did not want to leave my district, but I could not accept an assignment that contradicted my personal values, mission as a teacher, and the District’s own policies. I asked them to work with me to find a more appropriate assignment, but I was not selected for any of the jobs for which I applied.
 
I loved teaching your children. I was in my element in the classroom and as an administrative intern.
 
I still hope for change in the district. I was unsuccessful in creating change internally as an employee, so it must come rather from community awareness and involvement. I’ve started a blog to encourage thinking and dialogue on what I see as important ideas in education today (see robinwilsonjohnston.edublogs.org)
 
I hope that as community members, you will stay informed about school district practices and become involved in making the district one that follows its policies, treats its teachers as professionals, and puts learning first.
 
Thank you.
 
Sincerely,
Robin Johnston

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