Thursday, December 11, 2008

Recent film has much in common with our district.

We went to the movie Changling last night. We were expecting a mystery, but got something much larger. We saw our lives at Edmonds School District from 2003-2006 when we “left.”

The lead character, a single mother, returns home from work to find her son has disappeared. We assumed that we would see the unfolding of the police search for this child. Instead, we saw a corrupt organization, the L.A. Police Department, applying psychological pressure to the lead character in order to cover-up the fact that they had “found” the wrong child. The lead character claims that the replacement child is not hers, but the police pressure her by telling her that she is mistaken, she is wrong, she doesn’t see that her son has changed during his ordeal. They begin to call her an unfit mother, because, now that the child has returned, they claim she wants to get rid of him because she wants to be free of the “responsibility” of motherhood. When she refuses to go along with the police, they bring even more psychological pressure to bear, essentially declaring that she is mentally unbalanced and is therefore not a credible person, not a good mother. She is whisked off to an asylum without cause and without proper judicial procedures; she is essentially “disappeared” from the community. Her supporters had warned her that because she was potentially an embarrassment to the police, they were likely to move against her; she believes that the police are good and would not do such a despicable thing. The actions of the police prove her wrong.

As all good movies do, this one circles back to the lead characters’ central philosophy: never start a fight, but if you get into one, make sure you finish it. As the police continue to pressure her (and some of the tactics brought groans of disbelief from audience members, even though it is clearly noted at the beginning of the film that this is a true story), she doesn’t bend or give in. She has self-doubts but she continues her fight with the assistance of others who are interested in eliminating the corruption in the L.A. Police Department. And she continues the search for her son.

The parallel to the District is clear. If you disagree with management, you are labeled a “disgruntled employee,” even to outside agencies that might be drawn into an investigation of the actions of the District, potentially tainting any investigation they might conduct. It is made very clear to all other employees that if they stand up against District actions (or inactions, as the case may be), they will suffer the same treatment as the “disgruntled employee.” If you object to the way you are being treated, there are a variety of ploys the District has to minimize your ability to bring those concerns to light. When you take your complaints public because the administration has failed to deal with them through proper channels, the District suggests that you are mentally unbalanced. If you try to explain to a colleague that their concern for the safety of the bullies is misplaced because victims of bullying are 5 times more likely to harm themselves than the bullies, the District reacts by issuing a no trespass order against you, and they assemble your former colleagues and they lie, calling you a threat to the safety of the students and faculty. And there is no one brave enough to speak up in your defense because it is clear that they will be treated the same as you if they speak up. Oh, and remember, you are still under a no contact order with any past or present employee, so you are not legally able to tell your side of the story to any of your former colleagues.

This is the Kobayashi Maru scenario; the no-win situation. No matter which course of action you choose, you will fail. This is what the District has done to us. Stay in the situation where students and older faculty are being bullied by the principal, office manager and their allies or try to get the District to stop the bullying; but they, unknown to you, are openly or tacitly approve the behavior. Either choice will end with bad results. I was encouraged that among the several e-mails excoriating me for my actions (these writers were never disciplined for electronic bullying which is banned by Board policy) there was one faculty member who gave me the benefit of the doubt and suggested that my actions were uncharacteristic and there must be something else going on that others were not aware of. Chris was not in a position to tell others what had happened; she would have been open to greater bullying (which ultimately did come her way even after [or perhaps because of] asking Osborne to make sure that the next principal be made aware of the truth of the situation) and, theoretically, I could have been additionally charged with violating the terms of the administrative leave that I was placed on in that I was not to talk to any present or former district employees. (I asked Tam how that was supposed to work since I was married to a staff member who was perfectly aware of everything that had gone on; he had no suggestion.) So, just as the lead character in the movie, I was “whisked away” from sight, unable to talk to any potential allies; unable to say “good-bye” to my students; unable to clear my name; unable to tell the truth to colleagues or the public. I was branded a “disgruntled employee,” as if that were MY fault. Actually, I was perfectly happy until I was set up for failure by Houser and watched as he went about harassing other staff as well.

To state this again, I was not the one bullying staff members of a certain advanced age; I was not the one bullying students; I was not the one who would do nothing to stop the bullying or make excuses for it or to warn the bullies that I was on to them so that they could bully me more. No. That was Houser, Bradshaw, Limon, Wilson, Woods, and Osborne.

How much higher in the system does this behavior go? Read the blog; it will soon be clear to you that it is a behavior pattern that is endemic to a significant segment of the administration. It is not a valid argument to call my sanity, or anyone else’s, into question just because I am opposed to this behavior from my superiors. Issuing a “no trespass order” against BOTH of us without going through the court system is neither fair nor appropriate nor in the spirit of the Constitution. Name-calling of employees (disgruntled, crazy, lazy, old, traitor, worn out, old-fashioned) who oppose the administration is not appropriate. Placing targeted employees on administrative leave with a gag order is not democratic behavior; what about freedom of speech rights? Administrators often bully employees that they cannot control in order to get rid of them so that they can hire others who are then beholden to the administrator for their job and who will therefore do as they are told (especially if they are related or socially connected to the person hiring them). Every time someone leaves the employ of the District, willingly or unwillingly, administration has the opportunity to hire people who will bow to their every desire.

That is the object; to hire sycophants who will never question the authority figure so that the authority figure doesn’t have to explain or defend any of their stupid moves.

This is a bankrupt management style. This is management by intimidation and coercion. It is wrong. It is not the model that should be presented to our children. Somebody needs to stand up to it.

Look guys, I didn’t start this fight. But I intend to be around to end it.


Anonymous said...

Regular readers of the blog will recognize who wrote this entry, but perhaps a byline should be included for the newcomers...

Anonymous said...

Guilty. I didn't put my name on the word document that was attached to the e-mail and it was simply posted in that format.

Anonymous said...

That is OK Richard it takes a while to recover from the ESD torture program. Who knows you may never fully recover.

Anonymous said...

Tam Osborne is especially good at "applying psychological pressure". He should be ashamed of himself.

Anonymous said...

My research indicates that sufferers of "prolonged duress stress disorder" (PDSD) can take up to 5 years to recover. That doesn't include recovery time off from the stress of caring for your elderly parents and burying your father-in-law and brother within three weeks of each other. As I said, I'm in it for the long haul.

Still, I am constantly amazed at the stupid things that administrative people continue to do, on and off the job. But then again, there is no leadership, no moral compass in the ESC. Ships without compasses will eventually run aground; then they become the province of the scavengers who will be left to pick up the pieces for sale as scrap.

Edmonds School District 15: educational and moral scrap. Still, with the right resignations, it could change course and be a leader in education once more. Comes under the heading "acting for the greater good."

Richard Reuther said...

I would add that since this posting, my father had a heart attack but recovered and my mother died in February of '09 and my 2-year old grandson, Ethan, died in September '09.

Stress has become normal here.