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Posted: 06/11/14

RCS board ends
complaint from teacher

Observer Staff Writer
      Grievances filed by a math teacher at Romeo High School will go no further.
       The Romeo Community Schools Board of Education ended an anti-harassment complaint filed by math instructor Diana Hart during its May 19 meeting, deciding that a reprimand will remain on her record.
       Hart approached the board in December and again in January asking for closed session meetings to discuss anti-harassment complaints for a reprimand against her.
       Mary Amaradio, the Romeo Education Association (REA) grievance chair, addressed the reprimand at the May 19 meeting, which was given due to the amount of students dropping from Hart's classes.
       Amaradio requested the letter of reprimand be removed from Hart's file and destroyed, saying the union was concerned that students were placed in Hart's class without taking the pre-requisite classes.
       She said despite Hart's efforts to set up tutoring for struggling students, 17 pupils decided they were ill-prepared and dropped the class in the 2013-14 year.
       "Rather than fixing the problem of incorrectly placing students, the district instead formally reprimanded the teacher," Amaradio said. "Keep in mind this teacher had nothing to do with placing these students in her class."
       Amaradio said according to the teacher professional growth and evaluation system, the district is to "ensure that teaching and learning serve the needs of students to the fullest extent possible," and that reprimanding Hart didn't serve students.
       Superintendent Nancy Campbell said administration reprimanded Hart to "get her attention" and make her aware that multiple students viewed their interactions with Hart negatively.
       "Many students feel they are not supportive of them when they start to have difficulty in her math classes," she said.
       Campbell said the reprimand was necessary because Hart has refused to accept "that she has any performance problems at all." She said, though, that out of the 86 teachers at Romeo High School, nearly half of the dropouts due to teacher concerns are from Hart's classes.
       Campbell said discipline of tenured teachers is a prohibited item from negotiations and not in the teacher's labor contract, so in following the applicable board policy, teachers do not have a right to appeal a written reprimand to the Board of Education unless the board president decides otherwise.
       Campbell said Hart already met with the board in closed session regarding harassment complaints, and Board President Ed Sosknosi agreed with Campbell that the grievance should end with the superintendent's decision.
       "No further action will be taken with respect to the written reprimand," she said.
       Sosnoski said Hart's complaints were reviewed by the superintendent, legal counsel and personnel director, who all concluded that no harassments were found and were "without merit."
       "Such matters are closed and everyone is to move forward," he said. "The board will not be distracted in facing the new challenges before us by belaboring matters that have already been addressed."
       He further said the board is concerned that employees will use district policies and procedures to pursue agendas, and that employees should use common sense and courtesy when going through the procedures. Amaradio said the union prefers to resolve problems in closed session but was denied the opportunity.
       In addition to asking for removal of the reprimand, the REA asked for a policy to be written to address student placement at the high school.
       "How can teachers meet needs without being told what the expectations are," Amaradio said.
       Vice-president Chris Giancarli said if there was a problem with pre-requisites, there would be equal amounts of data showing students dropping out of other courses.
       "Statistically, the evidence doesn't support that," he said. "We're seeing a certain problem in a certain classroom about this whole topic that is statistically way out of bounds with all the others."
       The board took no actions regarding student placement policies, though Campbell said she would review them.

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