Dr. Trotter Writes To Cobb Superintendent

About A Principal.

[The names of the teacher, the principal, and the school
have been changed.]

                                                                 October 6, 2009

Mr. Fred Sanderson, Superintendent

Cobb County School System

514 Glover Street

Marietta, Georgia 30060

                   Dear Mr. Sanderson:

I am writing to you today on behalf of Mrs. Jenni Love, one of our valued members at MACE. She came to our office last week to share some concerns and some situations that are apparently going on between Ms. Picayune, the principal at Tension Elementary School, and her. Obviously, I do not know about the situation firsthand, but I feel compelled to share the essence of what she has shared with us at the MACE Office.

First, I want to congratulate you and the school board for the many accolades that the school system has received this year. I believe that I recall that you were willing to come out of retirement to lead the school system as its superintendent, and this is very commendable because I know that it is not an easy job. I perused the website, and I noticed that the school board members are obviously very educated and committed to serving the needs, as they see them, of the system’s children. I noticed that the members of the school board have served in many capacities in their personal lives (e.g., minister, engineer, business people, educator/child advocate, principal/educational leader/church volunteer, U. S. Army officer with a PhD, MPH, and MBA, et al.). I am also aware that the Cobb County School System is the second largest in Georgia. Therefore, I am quite sure that you are a busy man. Thus, let me share Mrs. Love's concerns as best as I can.

Mrs. Love is a career educator, having taught for 20 years, and the last few years she has taught at Tension but her other schools include Alpharetta Elementary and Crabapple Crossing Elementary in Fulton County. She became a fulltime mom after her children were born, but her husband was severely hurt in a major accident at work a few years back. He is now on fulltime disability. When the accident occurred, Mrs. Love, returned to teaching. She has been, as evidenced by about twenty years of evaluations, an exemplary educator. She is a family woman with very strong traditional values. But, something rather strange apparently began to unfold this past August at her school.

Let me recount the story as told to me by Mrs. Love. This is off the top of my head. Apparently, one of the teachers who teaches on Mrs. Love’s grade level had told the parents of her children last Spring that she wanted to loop with their children. (Looping is, as I understand it, the practice of staying with the same children through another grade level.) But, Principal Picayune apparently did not approve of this teacher’s desire to loop with her former students for the full day in this year, but this teacher’s parents had not been notified that full looping would not take place. Therefore, when parents showed up in August for the “Meet & Greet,” some were apparently disenchanted that the full looping which had been promised to them was not happening after all. (Mrs. Love teaches these same students in Math and Science.)

Apparently, a PTA “guru” at the school informed the principal that Mrs. Love did not provide her with “warm fuzzies” on the night of the Meet & Greet. Principal Picayune, so I am told by Mrs. Love, apparently told Mrs. Love that this PTA “heavyweight” (no reference to physical stature; I would not know her if I saw her) “didn’t get a good feeling from you [Mrs. Love].” Lo and behold! This PTA “stalwart” had not even darkened the door of Mrs. Love’s classroom on the night of the Meet & Greet! They had only exchanged pleasantries as they passed each other in the hallway that afternoon, according to Mrs. Love.

Suddenly, it appears that Mrs. Love was the object of constant and petty “snoopervision” and the tyrannical power of evaluative minutia. Two students were evidently taken out of Mrs. Love’s class to be put in the same class where Principal Picayune’s child attends. Apparently, after 20 years of superlative evaluations (were all of these administrators blind or incompetent?), Mrs. Love is treated as a sub-part teacher. Could it be that Principal Picayune is offering up Mrs. Love as a “sacrificial lamb” to the gods of parental impertinence? Is she being treated as a Levitical “scapegoat”? Of no fault of her own, she now suffers from the vicissitudes of a principal apparently failing to notify the parents that full looping was not going to take place. This hardly sounds fair, When Mrs. Love met with Principal Picayune, she told me that she simply asked the principal if she had even looked at her past evaluations to which the principal apparently retorted: “Well, this is this year.” Mrs. Love also apparently offered up to the principal that she felt like she was working at a “slight disadvantage” since the parents had been expecting the full looping, and Mrs. Picayune, according to Mrs. Love, replied: “Well, that was yours to make or break, and I guess that you didn’t make it.” Can anyone say “Corporate Execution”? I have been around public education for 55 years (with nearly all my relatives serving now or in the past as teachers or administrators and my brother currently serving on a public board of education here in Georgia), and I have seen my share of corporate executions carried out. If this is allowed to go on in this instant case, then it would be a travesty of justice and a sin against humanity itself. It, in my opinion, certainly is an affront to the Judeo-Christian Ethic of treating your fellow humans justly and mercifully.

Mrs. Love is a good teacher whose life apparently has been tormented by some of the actions of the administration at Tension. She came to the school on one Monday and discovered that nearly every piece of furniture in her room had been moved and re-arranged. (I presume that the administration moved her furniture and supplies.) She could not find certain school supplies as well as some of her personal belongings. The same PTA mother who allegedly had told Mrs. Picayune that she had not received enough “warm fuzzies” from Mrs. Love, apparently told Mrs. Love, “To be frank with you, you’re the one being thrown under the bus.” This is sad.

It would be nice if the principals in Cobb (as well as the principals in other districts) had some scant knowledge of social psychology. The actions of many administrators are so apparently devoid of even a scintilla of understanding of negative forces or valences which are touched off by the I gotcha approach to supervision. The top-down, heavy-handed “snoopervisory” tactics which so many employ runs counter to rudimentary theory of human behavior (be that theory gestalt, behavioral conditioning, etc.). If we want our classroom educators to be self-actualizing human beings, then our administrators need to help satisfy the teachers’ lower needs (physical, safety, belonging, and esteem). This is very basic stuff…almost sophomoric in nature. A satisfied need no longer motivates. If we want self-actualizing educators who are not worried about their own basic needs but the needs of the children in the classroom, then the petty vendettas need to cease. Perhaps the principals have never been exposed to Abraham Maslow’s “hierarchy of needs” or Kurt Lewin’s discussion of positive and negative valences within a field force (and a classroom and even the larger school environment are two classic examples of a field), or Carl Rogers’s understanding of the actualizing tendencies of humans and the importance of authentic behavior.

It appears to me that Mrs. Love got caught up within a vortex of administrative mishaps which has apparently now spun out of control. I understand that Tension is a racially and ethnically transitional school. I hope that the hue of Mrs. Love’s pigmentation is not a factor in this novella of sorts. Racial insensitivity cuts both ways. I cannot but help to believe that one factor in this dramatic equation is the notion that both Ms. Picayune and the teacher who allegedly told the parents that full looping was going to take place are apparently members of the same sorority, Delta Sigma Theta. If this is the case, then this favoritism also needs to cease post haste. Mrs. Love needs to be freed up to concentrate on teaching the children under her care at Tension. This is her mission. This is her hope. Playing “bureaucracy” with the administration hardly serves the interests of the children. At MACE, our mantra is the following: You can’t have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions.

Mr. Sanderson, I felt compelled to share my and Mrs. Love’s concerns about what is apparently happening at Tension. Of course, I could not expound upon the matter from first-hand knowledge, but Mrs. Love came to our office in hope of finding some resolution to her situation. She is a good woman and does not deserve any unfair treatment.




                             John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

         Chairman & CEO



c. U. S. Office of Civil Rights
   Board of Education Members

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