On June 4, 2018, the Randolph Board of Education (BOE) held a special meeting, at which they discussed the recent vote of no confidence by the Randolph Education Association (REA) regarding the leadership of Superintendent Jennifer Fano. In passing a resolution that unanimously expresses confidence in Superintendent Fano, along with their related statement, the Board unfortunately chose to dismiss several legitimate concerns raised by hundreds of REA educators and members of the Randolph community.
The REA would like to respond to two issues in particular. First, the Board asserts that the REA never expressed their concerns prior to the vote of no confidence; second, they profess to be unclear on the meaning of several of our “vague” charges and even go as far to say they are ‘false or misleading.’
Because the Board arranged a special meeting with only 48 hours’ notice, the REA was never able to sit down with Board members for a dialogue on this contentious issue. We made no statements on this matter until that public meeting precisely because we never intended to without first meeting with Board members. The REA was instead forced to present this issue in public.
The Board also states that they do not understand the REA’s reasons for taking a vote of no confidence. For instance, the Board ’s statement questions our president’s comment on Superintendent Fano’s dramatic shift in educational vision. How else could we define a leader who directs or oversees:
• Intimidation tactics by at least one Central Office administrator intended to force non-tenured teachers to change student grades, in violation of the REA contract? This harms students as well as undermines teacher’s authority.
• Fundamental changes to how the district tracks students into academic levels at RMS and RHS, without meaningful input from any stakeholders or seasoned educators? This pushes students into classes and environments that don’t fit their educational needs.
• Policies that force teachers to take on unwanted 6th classes when other teachers retire or go on leave mid-year, rather than providing job postings and/or an adequate salary for long-term substitutes? This overloads teachers’ already taxing schedules.
• The expectation of elementary teachers to transition their students to the new LATIC teaching system, with training only occurring over eight unpaid days over the summer? This impacts an educator’s evaluations, summer planning and child care, and teaching practice.
• Arbitrary and overly-strict interpretation of graduate reimbursement guidelines, discouraging the development of talent at all levels simply to save a few dollars? This prioritizes less costly educators over well-trained ones.
• Cancelling and not rescheduling all but three Superintendent’s Liaison meetings with the REA in the last two years? This severely limits the ability of educators to ask important questions, bring forward concerns, and be involved in educational decision-making.
The REA indeed shares the district’s vision as it appears on paper – we have always and will always work and advocate for our students and their growth into young adults full of potential and promise. If the board finds our reasoning and evidence to be “vague”, all they need to do is ask, and the REA can and will provide more specific feedback, examples, and evidence in private, as we have during numerous grievance processes under the current administration.
Demoralization is at the heart of this issue. REA members have spoken publicly and privately about the intense and aggressive culture of fear and coercion. For Randolph educators, working under these conditions has made paranoia, anxiety, resentment, and unhappiness everyday experiences, not exceptions. Educators who once felt great pride and enthusiasm now find themselves beaten down and broken. How can anyone be expected to give their all to their students under conditions like these? And yet our members do, every day.
We believe the REA and the BOE certainly can find common ground on several counts. Moving forward into the end of the school year and summer break, we hope to:
• Continue our efforts to improve communication with the Board.
• Discuss with the Board the genuine, first-person feedback from our members and help explain what it really feels like to work in Randolph Township Schools.
• Continue to share more information with the community to ensure the essential voices of educators are not ignored.
• Encourage our members and the Randolph community to attend the Board meeting on June 19 to make those voices heard on critical issues facing our district, including the proposed removal of Mrs. Iosso as principal of RHS.
Finally, in the spirit of transparency and representation, we hope that the Board, in keeping with their stated commitment to communication, will solicit the opinions of ALL stakeholders regarding the question of Superintendent Fano’s impending employment contract. These stakeholders – students, educators and support staff, parents, and taxpayers – deserve to have their voices heard and considered, without preconception or prejudgment.
We ask the Board to please work to ensure and promote the climate and working conditions that allow Randolph educators and administrators to thrive in delivering the finest education to our students. We want to work in an environment where teachers are not blamed for spreading false information and misleading statements, but rather respected for their professional insights and opinions. Contrary to the Board’s statement, we have always adapted to change; our ability to continue teaching under recent district turmoil, including administrative and staff turnover, is evidence of our versatility. To imply otherwise discredits our experience and the contributions made over the years to the Randolph community.
However, we would like to clearly and enthusiastically accept the Board’s good-faith invitation for dialogue. While we stand behind our actions and criticisms in regard to Superintendent Fano, we believe the path to forging a new and healthier relationship with the Board is through candid and fair discussion.