Wednesday, October 08, 2008

Board Meeting Report – October 7th

I want to start this off with KUDOS to Director McMurray. Marla Miller presented a bunch of material regarding a new amendment to the Facilities Use Policy (never really answering direct questions) and Director McMurray pinned her right to the carpet. She asked what was the SPECIFIC IMPACT of the policy to groups such as mine (blush) and others. Marla did a dance about where she collected the information and laid out page after page of information but McMurray didn’t take the bait. She insisted that she understand the IMPACT before voting on it. Good Luck – Marla is a professional in diverting the issue away from what she wants. I know first hand. Director Noble also joined in and asked a few questions as well – good for him! Once I see the proposed changes, I’ll comment on it as well.

In my 3 minutes of public comments tonight, I dedicated my time to informing the board that my experience in this matter has been that the employees of the district were fearful of retaliation of expressing contrary positions to District Policy. See my letter to the Board explaining my position in greater detail. I mentioned as the only place that people can express their opinions freely. Most of the Directors said nothing on the topic. Director Paine was tactful in recognizing the issue but noted that the board “needs to be sensitive” in addressing the issue. To that I agree but there is still the need to do something about it.

Nick, on the other hand, dismissed my concern outright and went on a bit of a rant about the evils of anonymous feedback. My letter details the exchange in more detail. Now, let me be really clear here – It’s not doing anyone any good to make personal attacks on the blog about others. I know there is a lot of frustration out there but it really damages the effectiveness of what the blog is trying to do – to get issues addressed and changed. I urge everyone to make sure we STICK TO THE ISSUES. That is the best way to make change occur and be taken seriously.

Rick Jorgensen


Anonymous said...

That's just the problem: there is no SAFE, OFFICIAL way to express your concerns in the Edmonds School District. Many employees understand that you will either be ignored or targeted; your concerns will not be addressed. Example:

In Nov. 2004, the office manager made her first overt, private, verbal assault on me. Later, there was an Instructional Council meeting on January 31, 2005 where she insulted me publicly. Twice. Privately, colleagues asked "What have you done to piss off (the manager) so much?" I had no idea. As per District policy (go first to the person directly concerned), I requested a meeting with her and the principal to air the matter. I was ripped apart by them and told that I was a bad person for even thinking that she had insulted me (even though other witnesses had taken the remarks as insults toward me as well). So much for that; do you think that I will try to follow THAT board policy again?

By the end of May 2005, the "treatment" had become even more aggressive. With the help(reluctant: "Let's just say this is a personality conflict between you and the principal because the building survey doesn't support a charge of bullying"-Dan Wilson) of the Union, a meeting with HR was arranged for June 10, 2005. I was to be able to outline the evidence of my charge (document, document, document) that I and other senior staff were being bullied by the principal and office manager; there was to be an "investigation" of the charges. Unknown to me, however, no investigation was conducted by HR. Somebody was withholding the truth; HR or Union? I never found out. As the date of the meeting approached, tension built up (more bullying) and I was placed on medication for high blood pressure. On June 9, the day before the meeting, I was informed that the meeting had been cancelled because "HR has more important things to do." The "more important things" was to show the new guy, Tam Osborne, around the office. Problem ignored again. (Months later, I was given a different reason for the cancelation: since I was unwilling to file a formal complaint, they weren't going to investigate. 1) I don't recall ever being asked to file a formal complaint 2) "mandatory reporting" laws seem to indicate that once a problem is suspected, an investigation MUST be done just as in the case of possible child abuse.

Having been blocked from having my allegations heard by HR, I again followed District policy: go to your bosses boss. I wrote an e-mail to Ken Limon. It started out as four pages but I edited it to a little less than two. Because Limon was on vacation before the end of the year and I was returning to school to finish my MEd during the summer, I did not hear from him until I returned to my classroom (after kidney surgery) in late August, 2005. Even before I hooked up my computer again to access his reply, the level of bullying from the principal and office manager increased three-fold and spread to other staff in the building, primarily my "teammates" who made it pretty much a daily thing to perform an act or make a comment that contributed to the bullying atmosphere. Limon's answer? "Sorry things aren't going well. Change your attitude and have a nice year." AND he sent my e-mail to the principal, "outing" my concerns which explained the increased bullying that I was experiencing. Thanks, Ken.

I was roundly criticized for "not following policy" when I sent my e-mail request for the office manager to stop bullying me to everyone in the building. I was accused of "harassment" while I was requesting that the office manager's harassment stop. Several staff (some the very people who were bullying me) sent me replies that were more sharply critical than my original request to the office manager. As far as I can tell none of them were ever disciplined. Because if the "gag order" issued by Tam, et. al. no one really knew that I HAD tried to get my concerns addressed through normal channels. Three times. And three times I was bullied, ignored, or put off.

WHAT DO YOU DO WHEN NO ONE WILL LISTEN? Hey, we even sent a four-page letter to each board member describing what had happened, requesting that they look into the situation. Not one of them contacted us or had HR or Nick or Ken or Tam contact us. It is disingenuous for the board and Nick to complain about anonymous communication. WHAT WAS THE PROFIT OF COMPLAINING OPENLY? I'll repeat that. WHAT WAS THE PROFIT OF COMPLAINING OPENLY? I was kicked out and Chris "retired" early and we lost $800K.

Mafia code: Kill one, teach a hundred. Whatever reason the principal had for targeting me, Chris, Judy, Brian, Debbie, Donna, Carl, Brian (a different one) and several others had nothing to do with competence. It had to do with striking fear into everybody's heart; it had to do with power. It had to do with bullying. "If they can do that to you, what can they do to me?" was the frequent question I heard. Fear ruled the faculty room. People wouldn't walk down the halls with us for fear of being seen with us. You cannot teach at your best, you cannot do ANY job at your best when you come to work in fear everyday.

Read the blog. People are angry; people are afraid. People are not able to do their jobs because of the atmosphere in the District. IF YOU KNOW THERE IS NO ONE WHO WILL LISTEN TO YOUR COMPLAINTS, YOU MIGHT TAKE AN OPPORTUNITY TO EXPRESS YOURSELF ANONYMOUSLY.

And yes, some people will do so in inappropriate ways. But that is a function of being shut out of the process; think squeezing a water balloon. I tried at least three times through regular channels to get my concerns addressed and I was shut down each time. What was left? An e-mail available to as many people as possible to get my concerns out in the open. The result was that THE VERY OFFICIALS THAT I WAS TRYING TO INFORM OF THE PROBLEM PRETENDED THAT THEY WERE NOT RESPONSIBLE FOR ANY OF THE PROBLEM.


"If you don't like it here, you can go someplace else." (one of the many public insults from the office manager and principal.)

Anonymous said...

Thank you, Rick, for writing the letter to the Board and for sharing your experience at the Board meeting. I was happy to read that Board member, McMurray, spoke up and asked questions. Your letter was well written and I agree, responses to Blog issues, must not be written as an ATTACK, but sharing concerns. The Blog is a place for the public, ESD employees to "VENT". Can't say enough for Mark for creating the BLOG!

Anonymous said...

I've worked in this district for sometime now. I wish, I could speak up. I know what will happen to me. So by saying that, I thank all of you, for standing up for all of us, who CAN"T.
Our jobs are on the line.

Anonymous said...

We need change bad.

Anonymous said...

I too attended the board meeting last night. As I told Nick this morning I was so unhappy about his speech to Mr. J that I walked out. I don’t need to attend a board meeting to listen to that kind of attack. Nick should be the bigger man. He responded to all other participates in a very kind and professional way but not Mr. J. I saw the school board freeze in their chairs maybe they were tired or they were embarrassed by his behavior. Nick told me two people applauded when he finished his speech but he didn’t say it was Mr. Harding and his friend or I would have had something to say regarding that issue too. I was very honest with Nick regarding how I felt about the board meeting. How many of those community members will continue to speak out after seeing and hearing this attack. I have lived retaliation I have felt retaliation and I know how it works. My example was an employee talks to their boss about a situation and the boss retaliates by cutting the hours for that employee. District says oh we had a budget cut in this department it has nothing to do with retaliation. The district is very good about twisting the retaliation problem to not be retaliation but a district decision. I have seen this happen in this district. Retaliation is BAD and needs to be dealt with and not brushed off as just a disgruntled employee. I have no problem speaking up when and where I see it is appropriate but I also know how to control my temper. I am a very passionate person on many issues and I accept those that have other views.

At the round table today their was a great conversation. The conversations started when Sue Venable talked about what process the parent should use to work out problems at the building level. The conversation turned to retaliation between teacher and/or principal and parent. The student is retaliated against or the parents are labeled as problem parents in the district. One parent who happened to also be a teacher at one time told how teachers would talk about the “bad” student and/or family in the staff lounge. When it was time to place the student no teacher would want that student maybe because of the family or maybe it was the student. It is so sad to know that students are used in such a way. I’m sure every district could have this scenario happen in their district.

In closing I think Mr. J. you have made an enemy and you will never win the war. They will be no winners and the losers will always be the students.

As Linda H saw it.....

Anonymous said...

ESC, Education Supports Children, Everyone Serves Children, ESC, Edmonds Saves Community, Each Student Counts, ESC, Every Slice (of)Cheese, ESC, Energy Sapped Continuously, Edmonds Schools Chief, ESC, Eloquent Speeches Created, ESC, Ever See Children?
Escape Serious Challenges, ESC, Establish Standards Culture, Ethics Segue Conduct, ESC, Elephant Sized Contracts, Ever Seriously Contemplate what the ESC WAS CREATED FOR? Command and Control? or Support and Serve?
You should be asking me every day, "How can I help you?" Not making piano deals. Not skimping on meals. KIDS, KIDS, KIDS! That's why you and I have jobs. Board Members--it is your duty and job description to serve this community by asking WHY? WHY? WHY?
We need to see more intentional leadership, questioning, probing, and taking action. This blog has been around for over a year and have I ever seen Board Members walking through our buildings to talk with their most important resource? Their human resource? Never! Pathetic.

Anonymous said...

I was also at the board meeting and heard of this blog for the first time. I have alot of reading to do.

Rick Jorgensen said...

Thank you everyone for commenting to my post. I fully expected that it would not be as popular with this audience on some points and am willing to take anonymous criticism (that was a joke, all). I don't take it personally.

I understand that we may disagree on some points but what we DO agree on is the fact that the problem exists and must be changed. Based on my personal interaction with Dr. B, I have little confidence that the situation will change under his leadership but he IS accountable to the Board and the BOARD is accountable to the election process. My comments are no longer addressed to Dr. B - they are to the board at a policy level and to bring to light issues that they can address. If they choose not to, they can be accountable at election time. If Director McMurray (or others) continues to take appropriate action, then we should support her. If not, make her accountable at election time.

There are a number of people that are considering running against some of the board. I'm also one of those people. By obtaining 3 board seats, we can change the direction of the District. In order to do that, we need campaign funds and media coverage of the issues. Both are occurring. Mark and I are talking about a couple of options that will support local candidates to oppose Board members that are ineffective. Additionally, I have been in contact with a reporter for with the Enterprise to attempt to raise issues on a media level.

I believe that the public will better support change if we stick to the issues. It's completely within your rights to "flame" but truthfully, I think it doesn't serve the cause. We can respectfully disagree on this point.

I understand that I have made an "enemy" by speaking out. Well, that just goes with the territory. One must be willing to take the heat if they want change. I'm willing to do that for a better environment for our kids. I'm not out to "win" - rather to do my best to make our environment better. That includes working with anyone to make that happen. Dr. B, if you would like to work together toward a solution instead of attacking, I'm ready and willing to do so.

Anonymous said...

I was at the Board meeting of Oct. 7, 2008. After that meeting I wanted to write an email to Director McMurray, but I couldn't find her email anywhere on the district web site. So I attempted to call the "switchboard" at 425-431-7000. I started calling today at 3:30pm and I kept receiving a recorded message saying they were busy and I needed to call back. So I tried 3 or 4 times and I just got annoyed that I couldn't get an answer. But then it became a challenge. I thought, "By golly, I'm going to see how long it takes to talk to the person at the switchboard." I kept redialing, waiting a couple of minutes and redialing again. Finally at 3:57pm, after at least 12 tries, I got a person at the switchboard. I asked for Director McMurray's email and the gal had a terrible time finding it. Finally she said it was Other people might have given up after dialing for 27 minutes! They sure don't make it easy to contact a school board member!

Anonymous said...

How many times have I heard this statement in the district "lead by example" when will I see the leaders start to lead by example?

Linda H as she sees it

Anonymous said...

Writing on the blog is a lot like being a "whistleblower". Many workers know it's just too dangerous to reveal the truth. We see it in the newspapers all the time--whistleblowers are fired, demoted, ridiculed. Oh sure, sometimes they sue their boss and win a huge lawsuit, but not without loss of self esteem and sometimes loss of family. It's safer to write on the blog and hope that some blog-friendly Board members are soon elected.

Anonymous said...

I've decided to post using my first name I will sign this one with my full name. Now remember all of you bloggers if I get fired or pulled into a meeting to discuss my constitutional rights to freedom of speech I may need your support. After all the district does not retaliate. My comments will contain my first name after all Nick's big complaint about the blog is being anonymous. And everyone if I can do this so can you. Just make sure the postings are your precipation or the truth as you know it. We don't want any untruths posted of course

As Linda H sees it

I am Linda Herr from the ESC said...

Bravo. Your strength and courage are enviable.

I know several great lawyers - and a few firms to avoid.

Always Mark Zandberg.
Never Anonymous.

Anonymous said...

I would say Linda Herr's decision to take a stand and speak is admirable--not enviable. Thank you, Linda. You are definitely part of the backbone of this district. Who else will join and support this district and come together in dialogue? I feel a fresh wave of change coming....
Retaliation Worshippers beware...

Anonymous said...

Goodbye Linda Herr. It was nice knowing you.

Anonymous said...

What's the story with the Food Services gal who was mentioned in the newspaper as complaining that kids' lunch trays were being thrown away? Did she contact the newspaper or KOMO TV or what? How is she doing after some sort of whistleblowing? Does she still have a job?

Anonymous said...

Thank you Linda.

There IS strength in numbers, guys. They can't retaliate against everyone at once. The bully wins when you keep quiet while they pick you off one by one.

That is worth repeating: the bully wins when you keep quiet.

You cannot let that continue to happen. The way to defeat them is to stand as a block, draw strength from each other. If you stand together it's harder to isolate you and make you feel alone.

Who else is going to stand up with Linda? said...

I stand corrected. I do not envy Linda. I admire her.

To envy the path she has chosen would be seeking to relive the process that resulted in my unpreventable departure. I wouldn't wish it on anyone.

Anonymous said...

Thank you Rick for this timely entry. We have and are suffering at the district office. Nick has said he has an open door policy. while that might be true, he shares everything with Marla and she has and will always use her position to retaliate against anyone who gets in the way of what she wants. She has Nick brainwashed. Nick needs to take off the rose colored glasses and put on reality. If he could see that every subject that has come up in the blog or the newspaper, Marla is in the subject line whether direct or indirect. If she suspects that you have said something that does not agree with her ideas or methods, rest assured that she will find a way to retaliate against you.

I believe that if Nick would just put Marla on an administrative leave of absence, and do an indepth investigation into the matters that have arisen, I feel that 100% of the issues mentioned in this blog could be resolved. I can't for the life of me understand why Nick has not ordered an investigation. He has an obligation to the taxpayers to insure that there has been no misuse of public funds. If indeed documents have disappeared, this would be all the more reason to have an investigation. I would think that Marla would want her name cleared. I would imagine that the district has spent thousands of dollars that could have been used in the classroom. Marla being in charge of so many areas, only make the taxpayers more suspicious of her dealings. Common sense would tell you to remove the suspect until they have been cleared of all wrong doings.

Nick, there are folks in the district who remain anonymous because, you have not assured anyone that they would be protected against Marla and others on your Supt. Staff. What you have failed to realize is that even your support staff in the Supt. Staff office use their position and who they work for to threaten those working at the ESC. If they do not get their way, believe me when I say, they will with threats from your staff.

But I also need to make something clear in this mess. The junk taking place at the Edmonds School District #15 did not start with Nick. I believe when Brian Benzel left the Edmonds School District, every evil things came into being at the Edmonds School District #15. Brian Benzel was a true born leader and would not have tolerated the things going on right now. He would be over seeing the district. Not one Supt. since Brian Benzel left has worn the shoes of a leader. Every Supt. since Brian Benzel left has allowed Marla to run the Edmonds School District #15. Nick, was the hope we had that this hemorrage would stop. As it goes in life, things must get worse before they can get better.

As for Ms. McMurray, she want last long on the right side of things. I will bet that Marla will arrange a meeting with her and convience her to never raise a doubt against her.

I admire Linda Herr for standing up and using her name. Others would do the samething, but know that they would be on the hit list and eliminated quickly. But I know that change is coming and more will be joining Linda. For the person who said "Goodbye, Linda". If Linda is fired or released, we will, and I hope Nick will know for sure that RETALIATION IS ALIVE AND BEING PRACTICED AT THE EDMONDS SCHOOL DISTRICT #15.

Anonymous said...

If Linda is retaliated against, the bully identified is going to eat a few! That person or group will pay!

Rick Jorgensen said...

This is a truly amazing set of posts. It confirms my own personal experiences with the District (I have never before brought up the retaliation I personally experienced by Dr. Nancy Cartwright when my son was forcibly removed from the Challenge Program by her in retaliation for the advocacy of my child) as well as the personal accounts I heard while researching the Facilities Use Policy.

Unsurprisingly, I wrote a professional email to Mr. Harding requesting clarification on the proposed new policy and, after almost a week, have not received even the courtesy of a response acknowledging receipt much less a reply.

Linda Herr is a brave person for speaking up. One word of comfort we might offer is that the Administration knows there are many, many eyes on her and any hint of retribution will be seen and challenged by a lot of people - there are strength in numbers.

All I can say is that we need a call to action. Look in the upcoming days for such a call. There are 2 board positions coming up for election and we must be prepared to put our time into supporting candidates that want to change the Status Quo.

To the Board Members - I still remain focused ON THE ISSUES. If you wish support, then listen and take action to what is being said. Not just lip service, this has most definitely become a political issue and will begin to be conducted in such a manner. The culture of fear must end.

P.S. to Readers -- Check to see what "Director District" you live in if you are interested - especially #2 and #4.

Anonymous said...

Well guys I have been well known in the district to speak my mind. Not always a good thing but I do it any way. When I was involved with the union I always investigated information before I would report to either the union or the powers that be in the district. I did the same when filing a grievance. I guickly found that if you did not do the follow thru you usually ended up holding the bag. I can't tell you the number of members that would come to me but when I went to the district they would back down because they were afraid of retaliation. I don't blame them but I didn't want my neck on the line if they would not support the information they gave me. After hitting the wall a few times I decide I needed to make sure all information was correct. So I will do so with any posting I make on this blog. I would not be writing to the blog if I had not witness Nick at the board meeting. If I treated anyone that way I would be out of a job and should be. I know I have enemies in the district but when they come to me for help or information I treat them just as I would any other customer. I don't have to talk to those people on any other level but I will help them if they become a customer in my work area. I think Nick needed to take that high road he has talked about and show respect and great customer service even if he does not like Mr. J.

By the way I have no plans on leaving my job. thanks for the support!

through the eyes of Linda H

Anonymous said...

At his original mass meeting with all district employees, Nick vaguely outlined changes to come, then stated that if you were a longtime teacher and not interested in changing, you should find something else to do.

This was taken by many as a threat. Why not say, "We're all professionals and I know that we can pull together, make the changes in our teaching and improve learning for all of our students"? That would have been more inspiring, more like a leader. Why did Nick choose to frame his remarks in the negative rather than a more positive statement?

It seems to have worked out just as Nick said; if you were perceived to be against "the program" you would be pushed out and age was the starting point of the "evaluation."

I doubt that Marla is the "man behind the curtain." I have no evidence to disprove the theory that our issues with the principals (plural; the next one was equally ill-equiped to be employed in that position) started at a higher level of administration. Available evidence indicates the opposite. If the higher administration were not complicit in pushing senior staff out, Limon would have taken our (more than just me went to talk to him) concerns more seriously.

Silence is consent; Limon was silent, HR was silent, Nick had an opportunity to talk to Chris after the public meeting in which she expressed fear of the former principal who was up for promotion but he remained silent.

Silence kills. If victims remain silent, the bullies will continue to run the district. Remaining silent plays into the hands of the bullies.

Anonymous said...

KUDOS to Linda Herr for signing her statement on the BLOG. Linda has been active in PSE, Public School Employees Union, for many years, holding the position of President more than one time. Linda is a dedicated employee, working in Food Services, and has always given excellent customer service, knows her job inside and out, and is respected as an honest employee.
Julie DeNoma
Elementary Office Manager

Anonymous said...

I second the statement made herein, that no one will walk in the shoes of Brian Benzel, as a true leader. Brian was a Superintendent who was respected, and one who would LISTEN to the many groups of employees, i.e. EEA, Teachers union, PSE, Classified employees union, Warehouse personnel, etc. I remember when I organized an end-of-year Banquet for office personnel and invited Brian Benzel to come by and speak to the group. He not only showed up to speak, but sat down and had dinner with us, and mingled with all who attended. Brian had time for ALL employees of the Edmonds School District, not just a chosen "few".
The Edmonds School District was a place where jobs were respected, employees wanted to come to work and gave their "ALL" because they knew they were valued, no matter what position one was hired to do.
What ever happened to a District where parents clamored to have their children attend?? Let's find another "Brian Benzel" once Nick leaves. Julie DeNoma, Retired, Elementary Secretary/Office Manager

Anonymous said...

I have done many things in my life time that I never thought I could do and I survived. I am a survivor, life will not end for me when I don't have a job. I just want to leave the district on my own terms. I hope that all my years in the district I have helped just one person through a tough time and they kept their job if I have done that then life is good.

I have been known for writing to people at the top to get things moving. I wrote to OSPI when my grandson's district was not doing the right thing for a child with special needs. That district was audited and found to be at fault. I had teachers in the special needs program write letters to thank me for what I did. No I did not use the process of going to the teacher, principal and supt. - No I went to the top that is how I work. I wrote to the top man for SEIU when I saw that the members from that group were not getting the representation they should have been receiving. After all they pay union dues. I never heard from Mr. Stern but I sure did get some movement for those members. Their again I did not got thru the correct process but went to the top. Things seem to get more attention when you go to the top. After all it only took one parent to call Nick and complain about a tray of food being taken away, our Food Service Dept. went into debt big time from that one call. I think their were better choices to be made but we weren't give the opportunity to even discuss any choices. The Board and Nick had spoken. I would not want kids to go hungry but please tell me how many district in the state of Washington feed students free. Eating as much and as many meals as they wanted. No discussion with parents when that decision was made. Of the district in the state that fed students free how many were an enterprise program. And then how many fed free for 3 years and just decided the debt was too high and stopped the free for all program with parents being more than a little upset. Having the discussion with parents before the free for all and charging meals should have happened at the beginning not at the end.

through the eyes of Linda H

Anonymous said...

Thanks to all the blogger for your support. Together we can make a change. Sometimes change takes time but I know it can be done. I can't tell you how many thank you's I have received from district employees. I want to give my home email address. At this time I don't want anyone writing to me at work regarding the blog. Not that I don't trust the district but one never knows who is watching. Everett found out the hard way. email address:

Please attend the the 10/24 board meeting. I thought about everyone coming in wearing a paperbag over their head now that would make a statement.

thru the eyes of Linda H