Friday, February 17, 2006

Retired teacher decries 'culture of intimidation' by 'bully superintendents'

A veteran MCPS teacher wrote a letter to the editor in the Potomac Gazette, commenting on a "culture of intimidation" by "bully" superintendents and their minions in the school system. Such individuals might make the school system and local politicians look good, the retired teacher argues, but they do a disservice to education and harm the children.

The former teacher writes in general terms, but the points that the blogger has emphasized in bold text reflect exactly the way MCPS leaders and bureaucrats have treated taxpayers on the Seven Locks issue:

I retired from the Montgomery County Public Schools after 47 years of service. I am going to miss MCPS, not the way it is now but the way it used to be before No Child Left Behind, when teachers could teach and before test scores and data-driven documentation became the only thing that mattered in MCPS and in many other school systems in the country.

It is now fashionable for school boards around the country to hire bully type superintendents who in turn hire subordinates and county superintendents to whip us all into shape.

These superintendents develop a culture of intimidation
. They raise some test scores and the prestige of their school systems, and the politicians are satisfied. They appear to be successful, at least on paper.

To the public and school boards they are charming and utilize public relations very effectively with dazzling charts and power point presentations. However, with staff they use power tactics such as arrogance, sarcasm, fear and intimidation to build themselves up while bringing others down. They are also quick to fire anyone who does not agree with them. These tactics obviously cause poor morale, fear and the departure of many fine teachers and administrators.

We treat our teachers shabbily. Instead of believing in them and providing incentives, decent wages and good pensions, we disrespect them. We challenge them at every turn; and the government, with its No Child Left Behind Act, has created a monster.

Meaningful reform and test scores are important, but educating young people to be productive, compassionate, creative and skilled is more important. It is up to our teachers and school administrators to nurture these qualities in their students.

Our goal should be to give as many of our students the best chance at being as successful, happy and productive as they can be, and it is not going to come about by bully superintendents whipping us into shape to produce higher test scores.

George A. Cokinos, Potomac

Blogger's note: MCPS has an official "Harassment and Intimidation (Bullying) Reporting Form." If a parent, teacher, or MCPS official feels intimidated by the superintendent or his enforcers, he or she can report the incident by clicking here.