Contradictory Evaluations Created in Effort to Non-Renew Veteran Teacher in Fulton
(All names have been redacted except for those of MACE personnel and Fulton County Central Office staff members.)


March 12, 2007




James Wilson, Superintendent

Fulton County School District

786 Cleveland Ave., SW

Atlanta, GA  30315


Dear Superintendent Wilson:


     I write to you today out of concern for Ms. Petulia North, a teacher at Buckminster High School.  I fear that Ms. North has become the target of a “witch hunt” at Buckminster.  Last year, Ms. North tells me, Assistant Principal Jacinnia Christmas apparently told Ms. North to resign or “if I did not resign, they would pursue non-renewal of my certification for the next school year.”  So far, Ms. North has been observed at least six times this school year, beginning, appropriately enough, on Friday, October 13, 2006.  The horror that Ms. North feels about this apparent mission to non-renew her has affected her well-being.  She writes:  “Why am I being punished like this because I would not resign like Ms. Christmas wanted me to do last year.”  Ms. North indicates that she is “seeing a therapist” now and that, because of the undue stress apparently being placed on her by Buckminster’s administration, she “went to the hospital with chest pain” and stayed an evening there under medical observation.  Teaching should not subject its practitioners to this kind of ordeal.  Ms. North writes that she fears her administrators:  “I seldom leave the school before 8 p.m. trying to do my class work like grading papers or putting in grades because I do not know when they [the administrators] are coming in.”  Sadly, because it appears that “they” have targeted Ms. North, “they” come in a lot and stay for long periods.  In doing so, Buckminster’s administrative team has apparently created a hostile working environment in which Ms. North is forced to ply her trade.  It is no wonder that “they” find her to be so mediocre; “they” have apparently caused her to be a nervous wreck through their intense scrutiny of her teaching. 


     As I said, this school year’s apparent assault on Ms. North began on a Friday the thirteenth.  I cannot help but think this purposeful.  Principal Dan Gregory stayed in her class for fifty-four minutes.  Most evaluators typically remain for twenty minutes.  Principal Gregory rated her as “Needs Improvement” in all three areas of “Teaching Task I: Provides Instruction,” but found her “Satisfactory” in all areas of “Teaching Task II: Assesses and Encourages Student Progress” and “Teaching Task III: Manages the Learning Environment.”  For “Teaching Task I,” he pens the following comments:  “In our Preconference [sic] on 10/12/06 [sic] I recommended you state a clear objective for your lesson [sic] such as ‘Students will be able to identify the basic parts of a recipe.’  Your objective: ‘ [sic] To understand how to read a recipe’ was too vague [sic] and students were unclear of your expectations.  When asked what the students learned at the end of the period, student responses were not relative [sic] your objective.  The lesson would have been more effective if you would have started with a more engaging activity rather than lecture.  You shared in our preconference that you had a sponge activity planned [sic] but it was never utilized.”  First, I am embarrassed by Principal Gregory’s apparent inability to use Standard Written English correctly.  The placement of commas, for instance, is not just a cute punctuation style; it indicates a person’s thought processes.  One pauses at a comma; therefore, lack of them shows that no pause is needed.  That gives me pause when the chief administrator of a high school is apparently unable to write his thoughts in manner that allows for clear understanding.  If the writer does not know how to bundle his thoughts, it makes this reader wonder whether the writer’s thoughts are worth bundling.  Second, carping about the wording of Ms. North’s objective underscores my previous point about whether the writer actually has his thoughts grounded in reality.  The only difference between Ms. North’s objective and that of Principal Gregory is that Ms. North opted to use an infinitive phrase (“To understand how to read a recipe”) rather than a declarative sentence (“Students will be able to identify the basic parts of a recipe.”).  I would think that Ms. North’s objective would allow for higher level learning by creating more of an expectation for student learning.  She clearly indicates that her intended desire is for the students to learn a process, whereas Principal Gregory’s objective indicates a lower level of learning mere parts in isolation.  Ms. North’s objective is, therefore, neither “too vague” nor conducive toward making students “unclear” about the expected outcome of the lesson. 


     As for the criticism that an “engaging activity rather than a lecture” would have been a better springboard for the lesson, I would suggest that Principal Gregory again has it wrong.  Ms. North was not conducting a lecture; she was leading a discussion.  Most of the students did not participate in that discussion, says Ms. North, because they were apparently negatively affected by Principal Gregory’s presence in the class.  Normally, Ms. North assures me, the students are quite responsive and involved with her discussions.  In fact, Ms. North includes a handwritten note from one of the students in that class, [name redacted], who writes:  “Thank you very much for being such a wonderful teacher.  I look forward to attending your class every afternoon.  It has been a pleasure having you as a teacher.”  Not only were the students seemingly affected negatively by Principal Gregory’s appearance in the classroom, Ms. North was, too.  He writes about a sponge activity that was planned but not executed.  Ms. North explains:  “I did say I would have a sponge activity; however, I forgot to put it out because I was nervous because I knew how important this observation was going to be.  I am not perfect, but they want me to be.    I wonder how they would feel to be under the microscope knowing that your job is riding on something someone else has to say when they have already told you that if you do not resign and are rehired for the next school year they would start procedures to have my certification non-renewed.”  Buckminster’s administrative team has Ms. North so rattled that their presence in her room causes her such anxiety that she overcompensates in the areas of “Provides Instruction” and “Manages the Learning Environment,” thus being unable to include all the activities that she plans for her daily lesson.  If Buckminster’s administrative team were to be less intrusive, Ms. North could be more inclusive with her lessons.


     In the second observation conducted on Ms. North’s teaching on November 28, 2006, her Department Chair, Ms. Marion Bernice, found her to be “Satisfactory” in all three “Teaching Tasks.”  In fact, in “Teaching Task I,” which Principal Gregory had marked her as “Needs Improvement” in all three areas and had written negatively about what he termed a “lecture” to begin the class, Department Chair Bernice also notes that Ms. North began with something similar, but the interpretation of Ms. North’s activity is much different from that of Principal Gregory’s.  Department Chair Bernice writes:  “Mrs. North began the class by giving a summary of creating a place setting.  She involved the students by asking questions about place setting, she provided feedback, and she clarified and answered questions that the students asked.”  It would appear that, if the evaluator actually goes into the observation without the apparent preconceived notion of Ms. North as a poor teacher whom the administration apparently wanted to resign at the end of the previous school year, a true and accurate picture of Ms. North as a teacher can emerge.  That does not seem to be the case with the next two evaluations.


     On December 8, 2006, Assistant Principal Christmas conducted an evaluation of Ms. North at the beginning of a class for twenty-five minutes.  Ms. North was found to be “Satisfactory” in “Teaching Task I” and “Teaching Task II;” however, in “Teaching Task III,” Ms. North was marked as “Needs Improvement” in one area, “Use of Time.”  Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “The physical setting of the classroom and Ms. North’s management of overall student behavior provided an environment that was conducive to learning, [sic] however [sic] the pacing of the instruction moved too slowly.  Please make efforts to accelerate the curriculum so that the pacing is appropriate with the expectations of the high school curriculum.”  This criticism of Ms. North begs the question of whether Assistant Principal Christmas just wanted to criticize Ms. North for something.  Assistant Principal Christmas’s observation occurred at the beginning of the class, and, as I have already pointed out, when Buckminster’s administrators enter Ms. North’s class to conduct observations, she becomes extremely anxious and makes a deliberative effort to her various tasks well.  This slows her down, but, once the administrator exits, Ms. North is able to relax and go ahead with the lesson in a less harried manner.  Plus, that Assistant Principal Christmas is conducting the observation really bothers Ms. North because, as she writes, “I do not think she should be evaluating me after doing so five times last year and giving me from three to five NIs.”  Ms. North continues:  “Where is the fairness in this?  It’s like double jeopardy.  I am being tried twice by the same person who gave me bad evaluations last year and will be doing the same this year.”  It was, Ms. North says, Assistant Principal Christmas who essentially told her to resign at the end of the previous school year or face non-renewal efforts during this one.


     Assistant Principal Christmas apparently showed her low opinion of Ms. North’s teaching in the observation that was conducted on January 30, 2007.  Although Assistant Principal Christmas marks that the observation occurred at the beginning of Ms. North’s lesson, Assistant Principal Christmas actually remained in the class for fifty-five minutes, essentially the entire period.  Ms. North was marked as “Needs Improvement” in one area of each of the three “Teaching Tasks.”  In “Teaching Task I,” Ms. North received a “Needs Improvement” rating in the area of “Content Development.”  Assistant Principal Christmas appended a separate sheet for her comments about this rating:  “The puzzle review seemed to last too long and the lesson meandered.  Although this portion of the lesson was convoluted, it did expose students to terms utilized in sewing and can thus be interpreted as beneficial.  The activity portion of the lesson was rough in implementation.  Ms. North did not adequately prepare the materials needed for the lesson, nor did she demonstrate the task to be completed in advance.  As a result, students sat without materials [sic] and the lesson stalled.  After 15 minutes of material distribution [sic] Ms. North realized that the activity could not be implemented and told students that the exercise would be delayed until the next class meeting.  It was not evident that a concrete lesson plan had been implemented [sic] so I asked for a copy of the lesson plan.  At this point [sic] Ms. North revealed that she had not yet completed her lesson plans for the week.  It should be noted that the observation was conducted on a Tuesday.”  In her introductory sentences, Assistant Principal Christmas’s apparent intent to find fault in Ms. North’s teaching is noticeable through the choice of words.  For instance, Assistant Principal Christmas writes that “the review seemed to last too long” [my italics] and that, “Although this portion of the lesson was convoluted, it did expose students to terms utilized in sewing and can thus be interpreted as beneficial” [my italics].  What Assistant Principal Christmas does here – although I do not think that she meant to do it – is show how subjective her evaluation of Ms. North’s teaching actually is.  Either the review does last too long or it does not.  The lesson is convoluted, whatever that means in this context, or it is not.  It all depends on one’s interpretation.  If one enters the observation expecting to find fault with Ms. North, then the interpretation will be negative.  As for the lesson having “stalled” and Ms. North then stating that it would be conducted anew the next day, all that indicates once again is how flustered she becomes when Buckminster’s administrators, especially Assistant Principal Christmas, come to the classroom and stay, as in this instance, the entire period when they normally remain only twenty minutes.  Ms. North tells me that the activity went smoothly and successfully the next day.


     In “Teaching Task II,” Assistant Principal Christmas rates Ms. North as “Needs Improvement” in the area of “Promoting Engagement” and writes:  “The teacher called on various students for participation and responded appropriately to student performance.  However [sic], at times the instruction provided by the teacher was convoluted and [sic] thus [sic] students were only partially engaged within the learning experience.”  Assistant Principal Christmas apparently likes using the word “convoluted” to describe aspects of Ms. North’s teaching style.  No clear description of exactly what Ms. North did that could be classified as convoluted is provided.  That leaves it for the reader to wonder why Assistant Principal Christmas used the word.  Is the difference in age between the two women at the core of Assistant Principal Christmas’s word choice?  “Convoluted” is defined by The American Heritage Dictionary as meaning “intricate” or “complicated.”  Just because complication is involved in some type of learning hardly means that the teacher purposefully intended to make the lesson difficult to understand.  Some lessons are intrinsically difficult to understand.  Rather than cite Ms. North negatively for presenting a “convoluted” lesson, perhaps Assistant Principal Christmas, had she truly wanted to assess Ms. North’s teaching in an unbiased manner, should have praised her for making an effort to present difficult material to the students.  In fact, in the previous instance of Assistant Principal Christmas’s use of the word “convoluted,” instead of rating Ms. North negatively for a “stalled” lesson and attributing the stall to a dearth of materials, why not attribute it to the difficulty of the lesson itself?  Assistant Principal Christmas did note that “it was apparent that many of the students were unfamiliar with the terms in question because they had difficulty completing the worksheets and did not contribute to the review process.”  Ms. North should not be rated as “Needs Improvement” for her students’ inability to grasp difficult concepts within minutes of being presented with them.  In any event, Assistant Principal Christmas indicated that Ms. North “called on various students” and that Ms. North “responded appropriately to student performance.”  How, then, is it logical that Ms. North would be deserving of a “Needs Improvement” rating for “Promoting Engagement”? 


     In “Teaching Task III,” Ms. North is rated as “Needs Improvement” in the area of “Use of Time.”  Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Pacing of instruction and use of time in the classroom are continued areas of concern.   [sic] Although the class period began at 2:41 [sic], instruction did not commence until 2:49 [sic].  The time allocated for worksheet [sic] / [sic] puzzle review (27 minutes) seemed disproportionate to the rigor and importance of the task, [sic] and did not leave adequate time for the patterns exercise to be implemented.  Appropriate preparation for the pattern cutting activity (i.e. – [sic] cutting material swatches for the students in advance) was not evident and [sic] thus [sic] valuable class time had to be allocated to this task.”  Again, Assistant Principal Christmas’s use of the verb “seemed” is problematic.  Either the amount of time spent on the review was “disproportionate,” or it was not.  That the time spent on the review was specified as “27 minutes” indicates that Assistant Principal Christmas had nothing better to do than spend virtually an entire class period timing Ms. North’s teaching.  Of what worth is such information other than to pad a file with negative documentation so as to justify Ms. North’s possible non-renewal?  Besides, the amount of time was not “disproportionate.”  Assistant Principal Christmas had already indicated that the students were “unfamiliar with the terms in question,” so Ms. North spent a greater amount of time dealing with those unfamiliar terms so that the students would be fully prepared for the actual lesson.  That this took up more time that planned is not something for which Ms. North should be faulted.  She should be complimented for making an astute teacher decision that resulted in an enhanced learning opportunity for her students the next day.  Also, in a sewing class, why should Ms. North do the actual sewing for her students?  How will the students learn to sew if Ms. North is doing the cutting and using the patterns?  In a class like sewing, much if not most of the learning is hands-on; the students do the work.  I would much rather hire a seamstress who learned her trade via using her hands doing the sewing rather than just reading a book about how to sew or merely watching someone else sew.


     The final evaluation of Ms. North was conducted by Principal Gregory on “23-Feb-06 [sic].”  Although he marked the “Lesson Segment” as “Beginning,” he remained in the room for fifty-four minutes.  In “Teaching Task II,” Principal Gregory rated Ms. North as “Needs Improvement” in the areas of “Promoting Engagement” and “Monitoring Progress.”  He writes:  “Although Ms. North was very helpful to the many students, several students waited up to 15 minutes at the beginning of class before Ms. North responded with demonstrating the next step to show students how to use the tracing paper.  After the demonstration [sic] the work required only lasted 5 minutes for the 11 students that [sic] saw the demonstration.  Several students sat quietly and were not engaged until Ms.North [sic] conducted a review.”  The key word in Principal Gregory’s comments is “many,” as in “the many students.”  Obviously, in a large class, each and every student will not be engaged for the entirety of the class, and how would one gauge such total engagement?  A student sitting quietly in his/her desk with his eyes wide open could actually be engaged in a reverie having nothing to do with what was occurring around him/her.  The only way an observer would be able to determine whether each and every student was totally involved in a lesson for its duration would be if that observer is God Himself.  Omniscience would allow such knowledge, and I doubt that Principal Gregory is possessed of it.  He is apparently possessed of a bias against Ms. North, as his negative comments in “Teaching Task III” indicate.  He rates Ms. North as “Needs Improvement” in the area of “Use of Time” and writes:  “Ms. North did not utilize the full class period for her lesson as the students returned all the tools to her and packed up their belongings with 10 minutes still left in the period.  After the students sat for five minutes [sic] Ms. North tried to conduct a review of the patterns [sic] but ran out of time.”  It would appear that Ms. North cannot win for losing with Principal Gregory.  He appears to deride her for either wasting time through alleged indolence or wasting time through alleged botched attempts to make use of the time.  Why is the fact that Ms. North had her students begin to clean up their work areas worthy of a negative rating?  She did what she was supposed to do.  After instructing her students and after allowing them to make use of the tools, she had them tidy their spaces for the other students to use.  After making sure that she had obtained all the tools from all the students, she then endeavored to make use of the time with a review.  That the bell rang for dismissal during the review shows that she made the effort to teach bell-to-bell and, thus, not waste instructional time.  Apparently, Principal Gregory wanted to see Ms. North in negative light.


     It should come as no surprise then that Assistant Principal Christmas placed Ms. North on a Professional Development Plan (PDP) on January 25, 2007.  The first “Specific Objective for Improvement” – “To increase the effectiveness of instruction through efficient planning.” – deals with lesson plans and is something that Ms. North does every week anyway.  In the “Activities” section, Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North is required to submit a copy of all lesson plans and supporting materials (worksheets, tests, etc.) to Ms. Bernice on a weekly basis.  All plans should be submitted one week prior to instruction, [sic] with Monday as the submission date.”  Ms. North assures me that she consistently completes and submits her lesson plans and that the one instance that Assistant Principal Christmas cited in the observation from January 30, 2007, was an aberration.  Ms. North had not completed the lesson plan for that particular class because she was still gathering the materials and deciding the time line to be followed. 


     The second “Specific Objective for Improvement” – “To maximize student learning by increasing the amount of relevant instruction delivered within each class period.” – is inherently biased.  It assumes that Ms. North does not deliver an appropriate “amount of relevant instruction” during a class period; however, I note that Assistant Principal Christmas, in her great wisdom, fails to specify what the appropriate “amount of relevant instruction” should be or how it could possibly be quantified.  Recall that she herself used words/phrases like “seemed” and “can thus be interpreted” to qualify her written comments about Ms. North’s teaching.  Those are not semantic choices that bespeak of a quantifiable “amount of relevant instruction.”  In addition, the “Activities” outlined for attainment of this “Specific Objective for Improvement” offer no device for quantification.  Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North will participate in the cooperative planning of (5) [sic] FCS lessons with department [sic] person [sic] Marion Bernice by 5/21/07.  Ms. North and Ms. Bernice will meet on the identified dates:  1/29, 2/13, 2/27, 3/6, & [sic] 3/12.”  While Ms. North has no problem engaging in cooperative planning with Department Chair Bernice, the one person who, I contend, fairly evaluated Ms. North, she questions how this engagement will enable her to understand how to provide the appropriate “amount of relevant instruction” that Assistant Principal Christmas would like.  Cooperative planning is not a cloning operation, and what works well for one teacher might not necessarily work as well for another teacher.  How does what Assistant Principal Christmas included in the “Activities” section enable Ms. North to achieve this second “Specific Objective for Improvement”?


     The third “Specific Objective for Improvement” – “To increase the teachers [sic] repertoire of instructional strategies, [sic] and [sic] therefore [sic] improve opportunities for student learning.” – is a valuable objective for any teacher in a school, not just one who has apparently been targeted for non-renewal.  The “Activities” section, however, does not adequately provide a basis by which Ms. North will be able to achieve this objective.  Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North will observe one colleague during each instructional month, selected from a designated list, and write a summary of the observation detailing effective aspects of good lessons.”  I would suggest that, were Assistant Principal Christmas really interested in assisting Ms. North in adding to her “repertoire of instructional strategies,” then, instead of a list of teachers selected by, I presume, Assistant Principal Christmas, a list of specific “instructional strategies” for Ms. North to add to her “repertoire” would have been more worthwhile.  I suggest that Assistant Principal Christmas’s rationale for including this proviso in the “Activities” section is either to generate additional stigma for Ms. North among her colleagues or to set up hoops for Ms. North to jump through that would be more time-consuming and bothersome for her.  In fact, were Assistant Principal Christmas so intent upon Ms. North adding to her “repertoire of instructional strategies,” she, as an expert assistant principal, could have herself modeled certain “instructional strategies” for Ms. North’s edification. 


     The fourth “Specific Objective for Improvement” – “To provide opportunities to observe teachers who employ a variety of instructional methodologies and who have demonstrated success in increasing student learning.” – is patently inappropriate.  First, it is not an objective for Ms. North to complete.  By its wording, it is an objective for Ms. North’s administrators to complete; therefore, there is no way that Ms. North would be able in her capacity as a teacher to achieve success for this objective.  Second, the objective is essentially the same as the previously-discussed objective and, as such, is redundant.  This begs the question of why it was included on Ms. North’s PDP.  The answer that I would posit is for the padding effect.  The more objectives that are included on the PDP, the worse it makes Ms. North appear.  Third, what Assistant Principal Christmas includes in the “Activities” section does not correlate with the intent of the objective and is confusing.  She writes:  “Ms. North will enroll in an identified staff development course on effective planning and instruction to be completed during the spring semester.  The identified courses are ‘A Simple Approach to Classroom Management’, [sic] ‘Best Practices in Curriculum Strategies’ [sic] and one additional class TBA [sic].”  Assistant Principal Christmas writes that Ms. North must take “an identified staff development course,” but then she lists three, including an unspecified one, in which Ms. North must enroll.  Five days after receiving the PDP, Ms. North wrote to Principal Gregory about her concern about enrollment in the second class.  She writes:  “I am willing to take the first class that I can use as duty leave; however, I cannot take the class that meets from 4:30 to 8:30 p.m. because I am concerned about leaving my children alone at night for that long.”  According to Ms. North, Principal Gregory never responded to her letter. 


     Also included on the PDP were sections dealing with “Observations” and “Criteria for Measurement of Progress.”  For “Observations,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North will be observed by three different observers in an attempt to provide varied and valuable feedback these observations will be unannounced.” [sic]  As I have noted, of the “three different observers,” apparently only one of them, Department Chair Bernice, entered Ms. North’s classroom with an unbiased frame of mind.  Assistant Principal Christmas, for instance, in her December 8, 2006, observation of Ms. North’s class, apparently displayed her negative opinion of Ms. North during Ms. North’s instruction.  Ms. North writes:  “Ms. Christmas also walked around my class during her observation asking different students questions about me while I was up front teaching.  Last semester she even went so far as to correct me in front of my class when I was teaching a unit on color, which was related to a sewing unit.”  These actions of Assistant Principal Christmas underscore the animus that I have postulated that she hold toward Ms. North.  An observer should not become an active participant in the events that unfold around him/her during the observation.  Assistant Principal Christmas’s involvement only served to undermine Ms. North as a teacher in the eyes of her students and seems intentional, thus invalidating Assistant Principal Christmas’s subsequent written record of her observation of Ms. North’s class.  (Please note that Assistant Principal Christmas failed to mention her direct interaction with the students and with Ms. North during the evaluation.) 


     As for the “Criteria for Measurement of Progress,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “This professional development plan will remain in effect until your [sic] next annual evaluation.  Completion of tasks specified in the activities and timelines [sic] section of this document should be document [sic] and completed by the individually identified dates.”  It seems highly unprofessional, then, that less than two months after being placed on the PDP, Ms. North received a letter from Principal Gregory, dated March 7, 2007, in which he writes:  “The purpose of this letter is to inform you that the school administration, Human Resources administrators and Board attorneys continue to have concerns about your performance as a teacher at Buckminster High School.  Therefore [sic] I intend to recommend to the Superintendent that your contract not be renewed for the 2007-08 school year.  The Superintendent will make a recommendation at the March 15, 2007, Board of Education meeting.”  If “Human Resources administrators and Board attorneys” did indeed have “concerns” about Ms. North’s teaching, these “concerns” were engendered through apparently biased documentation promulgated by Principal Gregory and Assistant Principal Christmas.  I would want to know, too, where the proof is that “Human Resources administrators and Board attorneys” did have these “concerns”?  Has Principal Gregory been maintaining a secret dossier about Ms. North with documents that she has not been allowed to see?  Also, according to Ms. North’s PDP, she is involved in on-going activities mandated by Buckminster’s administrators for her improvement as a teacher.  As of Principal Gregory’s letter, Ms. North still had a “cooperative planning” meeting with her Department Chair scheduled for “3/12”, still had three “instructional months” left to observe three different colleagues, and still had several staff development courses in which to complete participation.  How can it possibly be said that Principal Gregory’s decision to recommend Ms. North’s non-renewal is at all fair or ethical, especially considering the content of the “STEP Observation Instrument Summary” that he provided to her on the same date as the letter was dated, March 7, 2007?


     On the “STEP Observation Instrument,” which was completed by Assistant Principal Christmas, Ms. North is rated as “Unsatisfactory” for the “Duties and Responsibilities” and “Overall Evaluation Summary,” but she received a “Satisfactory” rating for “Observation Instrument.”  Five areas are marked for “Required Improvement,” and they include “Instructional Level,” “Content Development,” “Promoting Engagement,” “Building for Transfer,” and “Use of Time.”  For the areas dealing with “Teaching Task I,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North has experienced difficulty with designing lessons that are sufficiently challenging and instructionally appropriate for the high school curriculum.  She has been mentored in this process by her department chairperson, [sic] however [sic] significant gaps still exist.”  Assistant Principal Christmas faulted Ms. North for “designing lessons” that were too challenging for her students, not for being too simple.  Recall how Ms. North was rated poorly for students not knowing the key vocabulary and, therefore, not being able to complete the assignment.  Why has Assistant Principal Christmas written the opposite of what she originally wrote?  Also, it is implied that Ms. North’s immediate supervisor, Department Chair Bernice, has intimated that “significant gaps still exist” in Ms. North’s ability to design “challenging and instructionally appropriate” lessons for her students; however, the only documentation from Department Chair Bernice indicates her assessment that Ms. North provided satisfactory instruction to her students.  Why has Assistant Principal Christmas implied the opposite of what is the truth?


     In the comments relating to “Teaching Task II,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:   “Student engagement has sometimes suffered because of a lack of interest [sic] /connection with the curriculum and could be enhanced by more extensive planning and more appropriate pacing.”  In none of the remarks by any evaluator of Ms. North’s teaching was it written that “lack of interest” on the part of the students or “connection [of the lesson] with the curriculum” contributed to Ms. North’s “Needs Improvement” ratings.  I find it hard to believe that a high school administrator would actually rate a teacher as “Needs Improvement” for students’ lack of interest in a subject.  If that were the case for all teachers of all subjects in all high schools, then, I posit, no math teacher would ever receive “Satisfactory” ratings.  How can a teacher be faulted when students have no interest in the course for which they have been assigned?  Too often in elective classes like the ones Ms. North teaches, students are just placed in them as needed by counselors/administrators for scheduling purposes.  I have had many teachers of Home Economics and Art classes complain that their courses have been made dumping grounds for what typically are considered undesirable students, i.e., those identified as having special needs or low academic standing.  Also, as it relates to “connection with the curriculum,” all of Ms. North’s lessons connect to the curriculum.  Assistant Principal Christmas has provided nary an instance where a lesson lacked such a connection, so why would she write something that has no factual basis?


     In the comments relating to “Teaching Task III,” Assistant Principal Christmas shows the convolution in her reasoning about Ms. North’s teaching by writing:  “During several observations [sic] it has been noted that lengthy amounts of time have been allocated to very rudimentary concepts and that this practice has hindered her ability to maximize student engagement and adequately facilitate the learning process.”  Again, Ms. North is being penalized by her students’ apparent inability to learn as fast as Assistant Principal Christmas would like for them to learn.  It would be folly for a teacher simply to move on with lessons when the vast majority of the students have failed to learn information needed for success in the future lessons.  That Ms. North took the time to ensure that her students had acquired the “very rudimentary concepts” on which to base higher-level learning shows that she is extremely concerned about promoting engagement among her students.  If Assistant Principal Christmas truly believes that the students have had minimized engagement in Ms. North’s lessons, just think how much more minimal that engagement would have been had Ms. North not opted to take further time with the students making certain that they were in possession of all the mental constructs necessary for learning the objective at hand.  Why would Assistant Principal Christmas cite this as a negative when it is sound educational practice for a teacher to provide immediate remediation if deeming it professionally requisite?


     In the “Staff Learning and Growth Summary Comments,” although Assistant Principal Christmas indicates that Ms. North “is working on continuous improvement through staff learning and growth and  [sic] the application of concepts learned[,]” she writes:  “Ms. North has enrolled in several school [sic] based technology courses to assist in increased proficiency with IG Pro, Desktop Publishing, etc.  She has not [sic] however, taken recommended staff development courses to assist with appropriate lesson planning and differentiation of instruction.”  Here, the key word is “recommended.”  A recommendation is not a dictate and implies that Ms. North has a choice in the selection of staff development courses.  She did not arbitrarily chuck Assistant Principal Christmas’s recommendations.  Recall that I mentioned Ms. North’s letter to Principal Gregory, a letter that he apparently ignored, in which she asked for his input about staff development courses that she would like to take.  She stated that she would enroll in Assistant Principal Christmas’s first recommendation, but that the second recommended staff development class was one in which she could not enroll because of her concern about leaving her children alone from 4:30 p.m. to 8:30 p.m.  Assistant Principal Christmas’s third recommendation was a class “TBA,” but about which Ms. North never received further information.  Why would Assistant Principal Christmas apparently misrepresent Ms. North’s involvement with enrolling in these staff development classes?


     In the “STEP Duties and Responsibilities Summary Comments,” a section for which Ms. North was rated “Unsatisfactory,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North received a letter of concern and participated in an administrative conference regarding her failure to adequately [sic] develop and administer an appropriate final examination for the fall semester.   [sic] In addition, the administration continues to have concerns about her ability to plan her lessons effectively.”  The criticism about the final exam is a red herring and, I believe, another example of Buckminster’s administrators trying to pad Ms. North’s file with negative documents so as to justify a recommendation for her non-renewal.  On February 1, 2007, Ms. North received a letter from Principal Gregory in which he writes:  “The most recent incident [of Ms. North’s alleged poor performance as a teacher] involves your inability to provide a final exam that was appropriate for your Foundations’ [sic] class.  These concerns were brought to my attention by Ms. Christmas, Assistant Principal.  A student receiving special education services requested that a special education teacher read the exam to him.  Upon reading the exam [sic] the student and teacher became very confused and concerned about the final exam and brought the exam to Ms. Christmas.”  Principal Gregory then cites one example of a “confusing” question and bemoans the fact that the exam “contained several misspellings and grammatical errors.”  That Principal Gregory and/or Assistant Principal Christmas would have the unmitigated gall to deprecate someone else’s spelling or use of grammar is the depth of hypocrisy.  In all the documents that I have cited that emanated from the minds of Principal Gregory and Assistant Principal Christmas, not one document has been devoid of a grammatical mistake; therefore, neither of those two individuals has an appropriate grounding in literacy to cast any such aspersions.  Also, it is quite telling that the special education student and the special education teacher chose to go to Assistant Principal Christmas with their concerns about the final exam and not to the source, Ms. North.  That implies that the special education teacher, Ms. North’s peer, and the special education student, Ms. North’s charge, apparently had an inkling that Assistant Principal Christmas would want to know anything negative about Ms. North and that Assistant Principal Christmas apparently understood that Principal Gregory would want to know, too.


     Principal Gregory did apparently want to know.  I base this on the fact that he penned a three-page letter about it in which he also delineated the “PREVIOUS ASSISTANCE OFFERED BY THE ADMINISTRATION[,]” [sic] in which he lists thirteen “efforts” made by Buckminster’s administration for the assistance of Ms. North in correcting alleged “deficiencies.”  Most of the list includes items detailed on the PDP, and none involves assistance with final exam preparation.  I would suggest that if there were a problem with that one final exam that Ms. North gave to her “Foundations’ [sic] class,” then the fault lies with Buckminster’s administrative team for failing to provide adequate oversight over the development and administration of final exams.  Principal Gregory writes:  “You shared that this was an activity that was put together by Ms. Straw some years ago.  It was designed to help with the 9th grade transition.  You also stated that the students received grades for this final exam and that it counted for 15% of each student’s final grade even though the final exam was not valid or reliable.”  In order for Principal Gregory to criticize Ms. North for having a “final exam [that] was not valid or reliable,” he would need to identify with what statistical design he determined its validity and/or reliability.  Once he identifies the statistical design used for determination of validity and/or reliability, he would then need to prove that each and every teacher who developed and administered a final exam at Buckminster also achieved appropriate validity and/or reliability based on the particular statistical design that he used.  If he is unable to do either of these, then he cannot single out Ms. North for opprobrium.  Plus, he indicates that Ms. North did not even design the final exam, that it “was put together by Ms. Straw some years ago.”  If Ms. Straw still teaches at Buckminster, was she given a similar letter?  Was she placed on a PDP?  Has she been told that she will be recommended for non-renewal? 


     Finally, in the “Student Achievement Summary Comments,” Assistant Principal Christmas writes:  “Ms. North is currently working on a school-wide continuous improvement plan aimed at improving teacher instruction through the directed observation and analysis of fellow colleagues and their use of effective teaching methodologies.”  Assistant Principal Christmas also indicates that Ms. North “is working toward the implementation of the school’s strategic plan.”  I cannot fathom how Ms. North would be recommended for non-renewal when all indications point to her absolute involvement in all efforts to improve her teaching so as to make Buckminster’s administration satisfied with her.  Apparently, her efforts have been for naught since the beginning of the school year, and, apparently, her fear that whatever she did in or out of her classes would be found to be lacking so that, apparently, Buckminster’s administration could justify a recommendation of non-renewal.  I would like to believe that you would not countenance this apparent injustice perpetrated against Ms. North by Principal Gregory and Assistant Principal Christmas.  I would ask that, if you do recommend to the Board of Education that Ms. North be non-renewed, you would reconsider the recommendation and extend a contract to her for the 2007-2008 school year.  She has shown extreme good faith in her endeavors to do what was required of her by Buckminster’s administrative team.  Show her the similar consideration. 


     I await your timely response to this letter.           






                                                                        John R. A. Trotter, Ed.D.,J.D.




Copy:  Petulia North, Teacher

          J. Anderson Ramay, Jr., Esq., MACE

          Dan Gregory, Principal

          Ron Wade, Chief Human Resources Officer

          Vicki Warren, Executive Director of HR Operations

          Pamela Gayles, Director of Secondary Personnel

          Cathy Cox, Superintendent, State of Georgia Schools

          Members, Board of Education

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