At first blush, Joel Fortner’s piece this week “Will The Underground Surface? A case study in dealing with online movements,” http://joelfortner.wordpress.com/2011/03/07/will-the-underground-surface-a-case-study-in-dealing-with-online-movements/appears to urge a reasonable compromise to what seem to be two diametrically opposed camps—administration on the one hand and a pretty representative group of teachers on the other. In paraphrasing Mr. Fortner’s colleague, Matt Lacasse,the answer is rather obvious. He writes, ”The first thing Superintendent Morton needs to do is to stop insulting the teachers behind the blog. Whether or not he agrees with their methods of airing their grievances, calling them cowards in a roundabout way paints him as unwilling to listen to his employees. I’d recommend assuring Voltaire (who appears ready to reveal his identity) he won’t lose his job due to his beliefs, and encourage an open and honest dialogue in a public forum; perhaps even a debate.”
This is an imminently rational approach to the current impasse (more on Voltaire coming forward, later). Or at least it would be, if all actors were reasonable people. There is no shortage of teachers who have made sincere attempts to communicate with the Superintendent using his committee structure, through his working groups and via informal one on one and small group meetings (both realized and not responded to). As part of this posting, I’m inviting teachers to share the frustrations that they have encountered when making good faith efforts to engage Mort on issues of importance to us educators. In short, it’s not for lack of trying.
Why, then, have these attempts at reaching out and reaching accord failed? First, Sherman will not listen. I was there when the now infamous “Let me give you a quarter to go to Fairfax County” dripped from his lips. I have been in several meetings where those voicing dissenting views are derided or ignored. Second, and more importantly, Sherman’s actions demonstrate contempt for teacher input. This is evidenced by the rapid fire imposition of policies, personnel and initiatives without a whit of consideration for what those of us “in the trenches” think. The experience, the vision and the practical know how of ACPS teachers is routinely ignored.
After reading Mr. Fortner’s piece, we went back and forth a bit…a smart guy. One part of the conversation was, at once, disturbing and reassuring. Here it is…first my comment, in purple, then his response in red.
In response to Voltaire on March 8, 2011 at 10:00 am:
This is an excellent case study and the contributor’s comments are both articulate and germane. What is missing in their heartfelt advice is the recognition that we did attempt an open and honest dialogue with Sherman. His direct response was, “If you don’t like it here, here’s a quarter for a bus ride to Fairfax [...]
It’s good to know that was attempted. Sounds like it didn’t go so well to say the least. As outsiders, Matt, Lisa and I are limited in knowledge on what’s happened to date. That said, I chose to do this post to primarily highlight Sherman’s response in the Alexandria Times and get my fellow PR pros’ thoughts about how they would advice him, again, based on what we know. I think it’s safe to say we’d all advice him differently than how he’s doing things. Best of luck in trying to improve ACPS. And thanks for sharing your thoughts!
Again, here’s an opportunity to show the readers of this post just how reasonable we, as teachers, have been. Take time to think of the ways in which you’ve tried to work with this administration. It’s always more instructive (and interesting) to hear your voice.
"Every man is guilty of all the good he did not do."