Originally published in The Commons issue #226 (Wednesday, October 23, 2013). This story appeared on page A1.
A woman, who later identified herself as a former teacher, hid her face with her hand as she hunched her shoulders and spine.
The hearing raised other themes echoed in letters to the editors that have been published in local media since early summer.
The first theme raised was the issue of workplace bullying and teachers feeling disrespected or harassed by the administration.
“I have tried for seven years to engage in professional conversations with my supervisors; however, I find that I have been portrayed as a distressed, disgruntled, and disagreeable employee,” wrote Ashley in the portion of her statement not read aloud.
“For the last seven years, I believe I have been the target of workplace bullying and harassment,” she continued in her statement.
Citing the costs that can be saved from hiring less-experienced, entry-level teachers in an allegation of age discrimination, Ashley also wrote, “Where is the evidence of efforts to improve my teaching performance on behalf of our students as opposed to push me out the door?”
Ashley’s concerns about workplace environment have been echoed in a letter to the editor published in the Brattleboro Reformer in June, where former teacher Anne Fines wrote, “Because of the federal pressure of testing and the threat of becoming a ‘failing’ school, diversity of opinion is becoming devalued and discouraged.”
“Teachers are becoming afraid to speak up, both because of harassment on the job and because of the fear of losing their jobs,” Fines continued. “When critical thinking and creativity are inhibited it takes a toll on the school experience for children.”
The second theme raised was that flaws existed in the formal grievance process.
Atkinson and Taylor pointed out that the board was following the procedure outlined in the union contract.
“It’s the process we must use,” Atkinson said. “It’s the process we have.”
Ashley pointed out during the meeting that no process existed that could bypass the administration or access an independent third party.
“One administrator can destroy the career of one teacher. The superintendent has always supported the administrator. That is the reality of our current system,” Ashley had written.
Editor’s note: Our terms of service require you to use your real names. We will remove anonymous or pseudonymous comments that come to our attention. We rely on our readers’ personal integrity to stand behind what they say; please do not write anything to someone that you wouldn’t say to his or her face without your needing to wear a ski mask while saying it. Thanks for doing your part to make your responses forceful, thoughtful, provocative, and civil. We also consider your comments for the letters column in the print newspaper.