In Madison’s public schools,
being ‘positive behavior support coach’ is dangerous duty
The Madison Metropolitan School District is doubling down on its race-first, achievement-second philosophy.
This blogge first reported the frustrations expressed by a unionized teacher who is quitting teaching in frustration after 16 years in the district.
“I am leaving this district, because I cannot serve the children I love in the current climate,” teacher Karen Vieth blogged.
I have never seen a building as deeply in crisis as Sherman Middle School, yet my cries for help went unanswered for three years. I saw “Band Aid” fixes and many more promises. I saw a principal being given chance after chance and three years of her being coddled and coached with no substantive change. … Nobody seems to be steering the ship.
Vieth described a middle school of students fighting and cursing. Of the “positive behavior support coach” rushed to the hospital after breaking up a fight. Of nap time in Room 120, the restorative justice room where rowdies are sent according to the district’s abstruse Behavior Education Plan.
A three-year grace period
In response, Superintendent Jenniffer Cheatham, school board president Mary Burke and vice president James Howard signed an e-mail to Sherman parents Tuesday (06-12-18) playing the race card.
We have grave concerns regarding the type of personal, public shaming of a principal, in this case a principal of color, that has taken place in recent days.
WI State Journal Reporter Chris Rickert picked up on the story and Supt. Cheatham doubled down with this follow-up comment:
“There is a history in our community, and our school district, of not sufficiently welcoming, supporting, and providing grace to staff and principals of color,” she said. “This is not about deflecting criticism. We have to do better as a community.”
How about doing better as a school district?
Retired UW Law professor Ann of Althouse picked up on Cheatham’s language. “To my ear, ‘grace’ has a whiff of racism about it … It feels oleaginous and patronizing and quasi-religious.”
The superintendent is inviting the public to think of this former teacher as doing something that is wrong because of race. You’ve got a public and outspoken opponent and you try intimidate her by making her feel that people will think of her as infected by racism.
There is also an implicit message to others: This will happen to you to if you don’t keep quiet. So it feels like an effort to isolate this one person. Where’s the grace for teachers who want to speak up about problems?
The real problem is the disservice to the students, all of them. What student is benefited if the principal is immunized from criticism because of her race? Really, the higher-up officials are claiming immunity for themselves.
One of her commentators, Crossed Sabres, added:
The Calvinist definition of grace is “unmerited favor.” I think the superintendent unwittingly spoke the truth.
‘What about students of color left behind?’
Meanwhile, the comments have been pouring in to Karen Vieth’s blog, “Closing the Door on the MMSD.” One of which reads in part:
As a current MMSD teacher, I will say we have a batch of incompetent principals. This is not unique to Sherman. …
There are quite a few principals that should be under a microscope including Shorewood, Muir, Jefferson, Toki and many others. Teachers are being bullied. Some to the point of almost taking their own lives. Teachers are terrified to speak out because they are being put on improvement plans or targeted in other ways.
Cheatham is worried about publicly shaming a principal who is clearly terrible at her job? She should be worried about publicly shaming teachers who speak out and then are attacked!
Cheatham should be less worried about the fact that this principal is a woman of color and more worried about all the students of color who are being left behind.
… Cheatham should also look at principals at schools like Lincoln, Franklin, Mendota and Sandburg. Those principals know what they are doing. What is working? What makes those leaders so successful?
Blaska’s Bottom Line: Even The Capital Times has picked up on the story, even though no one is blaming Scott Walker and the Republicans. We’ll see if any local editorialist has the right stuff to demand our public officials quit the obsession with “racial equity” and demand educational excellence, instead. Meanwhile, school vouchers are looking mighty good.
Contact the Madison school board at firstname.lastname@example.org.