Cobb Inclusion Teacher Targeted after "Prima Donna" Regular Ed Teacher Makes Baseless Complaints! 
(All names have been redacted except for those of MACE personnel, Cobb County Central Office staff members,
Harry Wong, and Bill and Melinda Gates.)


February 24, 2007




Fred Sanderson, Superintendent

Cobb County School District

514 Glover Street,

Marietta, GA  30060


Superintendent Sanderson:


     I am in possession of a Professional Development Plan (PDP) on which Ms. Alison Burana, a teacher of special education at South Cobb High, was placed.  Ms. Burana’s placement on this PDP, I believe, is unfair and unwarranted and apparently the result of unprofessional communication that the regular education teacher (RET), with whom Ms. Burana is forced to work, had with certain members of South Cobb's administrative staff.  Ms. Burana, although a special education teacher, functions in an inclusion mode with two RETs at South Cobb.  She enjoys a productive, professional relationship with one of them, but the RET of the ninth grade English class to which Ms. Burana was assigned appears to have difficulty working with another adult in the classroom.  This particular RET, a twenty-something African-American female, seems to think of herself as better than Ms. Burana, a fifty-something African-American female.  According to Ms. Burana, this RET routinely diminishes Ms. Burana’s authority in the classroom by ignoring her, by interrupting her when she is dealing with the class, by making disparaging comments about her content knowledge and ability to teach to colleagues and to administrators, and by making unfavorable comparisons of herself to Ms. Burana.  For instance, Ms. Burana tells me that this RET has embarrassed her by implying that because she, the RET, attended Xavier University on a scholarship from Bill and Melinda Gates’ Foundation and because she, the RET, possesses an advanced degree from Xavier, the RET believes that she is in control of Ms. Burana and that Ms. Burana should answer to her as if the RET were her supervisor.  Such is not the case.  New rules for special education mandate that special education teachers instruct their students within regular education classes alongside the RETs of those classes in a co-equal manner.  Each teacher should be listed as the instructor of the course, and the teachers plan the lessons together to ensure that optimum learning will occur for both the special and regular education students.  This arrangement works well at South Cobb for Ms. Burana with one of the two RETs with whom she has been placed; however, the arrangement with the RET for the ninth grade English class has apparently been negatively affected by that RET’s alleged attitude of superiority over Ms. Burana.  Ms. Burana believes, and I have no reason to doubt her, that her placement on the PDP occurred because of complaints and negative comments about her by the RET to administrators.  If there is a problem with the teaching of that class, the fault should not lie with just the special education teacher alone, but it logically must be shared between the special education teacher and the RET.  Why then was the RET not placed on a PDP, too?


     One of the “Specific Objectives for Performance Improvement” states that the “teacher will demonstrate effective questioning techniques, [sic] use verbal/nonverbal prompts to increase the level of student engagement from the onset of the lesson.”  Ms. Burana tells me that, on the day of her evaluation, the evaluator saw the initiation of a continuing lesson that was begun on the previous day.  She writes:  “Those particular questions were to get the students back on track from the previous day.”  This indicates that Ms. Burana demonstrated “effective questioning techniques” so that her special education students would connect that day’s lesson with that of the previous day.  As for “verbal/nonverbal prompts,” Ms. Burana writes:  “Although verbal/nonverbal prompts may increase student engagement and are used frequently, open-ended questions are necessary to draw upon student experiences, to determine a student/subject connection, and to gauge student comprehension.”  I would think that Ms. Burana, as a special education teacher, certainly possesses a repertoire of “verbal/nonverbal prompts” with which “to increase the level of student engagement from the onset of the lesson.”  Ms. Burana assures me that, in her many years of teaching (approximately double the number of years of the RET), she has had few problems with conveying her intent to her students.  She believes that this “Specific Objective” was included on the unfair, unwarranted PDP because of a day when the RET was absent and she, Ms. Burana, was forced to pen a number of referrals for students in that class, not just for her special education students.  She tells me that the substitute teacher for the RET sat “glued in the chair” and apparently provided no assistance in managing the classroom.  In fact, during a meeting in which Ms. Burana was required to participate on January 5, 2007, this classroom episode was discussed.  Ms. Burana writes:  “I was told that when my Co-Teacher is absent, a sub should not have to be called for our class, but our class explodes every time the General Ed teacher is absent.  This, of course, is not true.  I can only recall one incident (day) whereby several Referrals were written.  These were written mainly as a last resort to impact the students who were off task and to send a message.  However, it seems that I made a terrible mistake brining administration into the situation.”  First, it is against the law for Ms. Burana, the special education inclusion teacher, to be left in control of that ninth grade English class when the RET is absent.  The administrator who made that statement about not needing a substitute teacher should immediately be required to take a refresher class pertaining to school law.  Second, how telling that Ms. Burana believes that she “made a terrible mistake” in involving South Cobb's administration in regulating the behavior of recalcitrant students.  Just because Ms. Burana is the special education inclusion teacher hardly means that she possesses superhuman skill at behavior modification of students who are not deemed special.  Ms. Burana’s expertise is with smaller class populations or with larger class populations in unison with a regular education teacher.  That day might have gone better had Ms. Burana been apprised of the RET’s absence prior to walking into the classroom.  Is this Ms. Burana’s fault?  No, it is not.  Anyway, why was this concern voiced in that meeting and included as a “Specific Objective” on the PDP when, Ms. Burana tells me, the referrals were ultimately ignored by South Cobb's administrative staff?


     A second “Specific Objective for Performance Improvement” states that the “teacher will foster and develop effective relationships with students, team teacher, and other colleagues.”  Ms. Burana is at a loss to understand why this “Specific Objective” has been included on the PDP.  She tells me that she had never been addressed by any administrator at South Cobb concerning this prior to seeing it on the PDP.  She did, supposedly, discuss with South Cobb's administration her belief that the RET was undermining Ms. Burana’s relationship with the students, as I indicated in the opening paragraph of this letter.  Apparently, Ms. Burana was instructed to discuss her concerns with the RET, which she says that she did to no avail.  Ms. Burana believes that the RET developed a personal relationship with the ninth grade administrator, Assistant Principal Hildegard Nurf, and through this closeness with her caused her to believe that Ms. Burana deserved to placed on a PDP.  Ms. Burana and the RET work with one another as co-teachers of the class, and, as I stated previously, Ms. Burana and the other RET with whom she teaches another class work well in tandem.  Why is there a problem with the other RET?  Clearly, as Ms. Burana has demonstrated the ability to work with her other “team teacher,” the problem apparently does not exist within her but within the RET of the ninth grade English class.


     The third “Specific Objective for Performance Improvement” states that the “teacher will ensure proper delivery of instructional modifications and accommodations for exceptional education students.”  Again, where are the prior notifications that Ms. Burana has failed to “ensure proper delivery of instructional modifications and accommodations for exceptional education students”?  Ms. Burana assures me that she “ensure[s] proper delivery” each and every day.  She offers a list of the “instructional modifications and accommodations” that she provides:  “assignments are explained individually to students[,] assignments are divided into parts or sections to be completed[,] extended time is given to students to complete assignments[,] assignments are checked by LRE teacher (one-on-one)[,] Study Skills teacher(s) are given copies of assignments[,] students are sometimes removed to a smaller group setting[, and] parents are usually notified if assignment(s) are not returned[.]”  Ms. Burana’s concern is that the RET, through continual complaints to Assistant Principal Nurf, has created this false sense within the administration at South Cobb that Ms. Burana is a failure at her job.  She believes that the RET does this because the RET does not want to have a “team teacher” in her ninth grade English class.  Ms. Burana tells me that several staff members have shared with her that they think the RET should not be assigned classes that necessitate team teaching with a special education inclusion teacher.  Apparently, other special education teachers have encountered the same problems with this RET.  The question looms as to why South Cobb's administration, knowing full well that the RET lacks the professionalism to be able to share the stage so to speak with another adult, continues to schedule classes for this RET that require placement of special education teachers.  It would appear that, by placing Ms. Burana in this RET’s class, South Cobb's administration has set up Ms. Burana to fail.  Besides, why would Ms. Burana be placed on a PDP because of this one instance with this one RET when her interaction with the other RET shows her to be a competent special education teacher whose professional bearing and expertise are appreciated and acknowledged by this other RET?  At the very least, the two disparate interactions with the two RETs should cancel one another and, thus, negate the viability of a PDP. 


     It is the “Activities” section of the PDP that Ms. Burana believes shows the RET’s influence in the promulgation of the PDP.  The first activity – “The teacher will meet with her team teacher to plan lessons on a weekly basis.” – is something that already occurs.  It is mandated by State law.  That is why Ms. Burana and her special education students are in the class in the first place.  By placing this as a required activity to complete, the RET has been made to have greater control over Ms. Burana when, in fact, they are supposed to be co-equal “team teachers.”  This is discriminatory.  The second activity – “The teacher will maintain a teacher/parent log.” – is again something that already occurs.  Federal and State laws require Ms. Burana to maintain detailed records of contacts with her students’ parents or guardians.  By stating this as a required activity to complete, it implies that Ms. Burana does not do this and, by thus implying so, is discriminatory.  It assumes that she does not when she does, so one wonders from where did this implication arise?  Could it have arisen from the RET through her apparent close relationship with Assistant Principal Nurf?  The third activity – “There will be an announced and unannounced PAI visits [sic] from administrators (Mrs. Black and Mrs. Nurf)) [sic]” – is hardly an activity for Ms. Burana to complete and should not even be listed in the “Activities” section.  What teacher in the State of Georgia does not realize that administrators have the right to make “announced and unannounced” observations of teachers?  It goes without saying, but, by saying it, it exists as a threat and, as such, is undeserved.  Because Ms. Burana is a “team teacher,” she is constantly being observed by the RET, and the RET is constantly being observed by Ms. Burana.  Since the two of them are supposed to plan the lessons together and to teach the class together, it is logical to assume that, if the lesson is poorly presented, the fault is not that of only one of the two.  By singling out Ms. Burana for placement on the PDP and for the threat of “announced and unannounced” observations, the South Cobb administration has apparently discriminated against her.


     The fourth activity – “The teacher will complete assignments from The [sic] Harry Wong series [sic] “The Effective Teacher” [sic] addressing classroom management [sic]” – definitely clued Ms. Burana to her belief that the RET was the cause of the promulgation of the PDP.  In that January 5, 2007, meeting, the RET brought up Harry Wong, then, twenty-four days later, Ms. Burana was instructed to “complete assignments” from a Harry Wong “series.”  Is this requirement mandatory for all special education inclusion teachers in ninth grade English classes?  Or is this requirement mandatory for all special education inclusion teachers in ninth grade English classes where the RET is possessed of apparent delusions of self-grandeur?  The RET is not Ms. Burana’s supervisor and should not have this undue influence on Ms. Burana.  I would suggest that the RET would be better served being required to complete assignments from some series, not by Harry Wong but by someone specializing in interpersonal relationships and in professional ethics.  I recall hearing about a work that I believe was called Going Beyond the Me in which activities were provided for someone to work through so as to become less selfish.  Although it was geared toward middle school students, I believe that the RET could gain valuable insight about her psychosocial development. 


     The fifth activity – “The teacher will meet with Julie Berry (Academic Coach) [sic]” – underscores several of the points that I have previously made.  One, why should the special education inclusion teacher meet with the Academic Coach without the RET there, too?  That makes little sense.  The RET is the content expert of the class, not the special education inclusion teacher.  The latter is the expert at dealing with special education students, at which she does well, as her endeavors with the other RET’s class indicate.  Two, that the RET is not included in this required meeting with the Academic Coach leads me to believe that South Cobb's administration has targeted Ms. Burana.  By excluding the RET, it leads me to believe that this targeting arose because of the RET’s apparent complaints to Assistant Principal Nurf, at least.  Ms. Burana believes this, too.  She writes:  “I believe that I am being targeted and harassed by certain individuals because of the unfounded reporting of one individual in particular.”  This individual, of course, is the RET.  In fact, in that meeting on January 5, 2007, Ms. Burana was told “that the meeting was called because it had been expressed that [the RET] and I did not want to work with each other.  I told Ms. Susan Anthony[, the assistant principal in charge of the scheduling of classes,] that I had never told her that.  She stated that nonetheless, it was said.  It was said by whom to whom?  I believe this to be hearsay or gossip.  Why am I being questioned about something someone else said?  No name, dates or reasons were given.”  The logic of Assistant Principal Burana’s comments to Ms. Burana escapes me.  Why is it Ms. Burana’s problem that the RET, apparently, had told administrators that she did not want to work with Ms. Burana?  The problem is with the one who made the statement.  That individual should receive counseling and be placed on a PDP, not Ms. Burana who has clearly demonstrated her ability to get along with her colleagues and her ability as a team teacher with another RET.  The particular RET of the ninth grade English class apparently has an ego that prevents her from team teaching with any adult.  I posit that the RET would find fault with Harry Wong were he to be assigned as her special education inclusion teacher.


     In conclusion, I urge you to rescind Ms. Burana’s PDP and to caution South Cobb's staff to treat with her in an equitable and fair manner.  The RET of that ninth grade English class apparently needs assistance in professionalism, namely, in the proper way to interact with her colleagues, especially those assigned as team teachers with her.  Certain of South Cobb's administrative team, especially Assistant Principals Nurf, Burana, and Cooper, the one who placed her on the PDP, should receive counseling about how to handle special education inclusion teachers and about how to avoid engaging in discriminatory conduct toward those they supervise based on the unprofessional, unethical comments of others they supervise.  In Ms. Burana’s case, it would appear that South Cobb's administration has enabled the RET to assume a supervisory role over her peer, and that cannot be countenanced.  Ms. Burana writes:  “I consider myself just as professional, ethical and effective as my colleagues, and I am requesting to be allowed to do my job with the utmost respect that is expected of a teacher.”  Ms. Burana has every right to have this expectation, and she should be treated in such a manner.  In speaking with Ms. Burana, I had the pleasure of looking at the photographs of her children and of hearing the story of how she adopted her youngest child.  I nearly wept, and, knowing what little that I do about Ms. Burana’s character based solely on what she has done for children in her personal life, I have no problem believing that she extends that same love and concern toward the children whom she teaches.  Her apparent mistreatment at South Cobb makes me ponder the reason why South Cobb's administration would apparently go along with the apparent opinion of the RET that Ms. Burana deserves placement on a PDP.  Could it be Ms. Burana’s age?  Is Ms. Burana in her fifties being unfavorably compared to the RET in her twenties based on the difference in their ages?  I can think of no other reason, especially considering that Ms. Burana’s interaction with the other RET has resulted in no formal meeting with South Cobb's administrators and in no PDP.  If age is the reason, such obscene discrimination will not be countenanced.


     I await your timely response to this letter.           






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





Copy:  Alison Burana, Teacher

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

          Jay Saxon, Principal

          Cathy Cox, Superintendent, State of Georgia Schools

          Members, Board of Education

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