Some have questioned why would a frustrated parent go to the school board meeting to discuss his concerns over privately discussing the matter. The answer is Alex Gates tried. These emails obtained by Political Insiders Report show a frustrated parent plead with the superintendent a month before he went before the school board to no avail. Not only was there no resolution to the parent’s concerns, Mark Evan’s replies could be deemed dismissive and condescending. Here is the exchange.
“Alex P. Gates” <firstname.lastname@example.org> writes:
Mr. Evans -
My name is Alex Gates. My daughter XXXXXXXX is a 1st grader at Edison Elementary, and my other daughter XXXXX is a 3rd grader at Wilson Focus School.
I was wondering if you had a few minutes to share some insight. I’m copying in Melissa Comine (I’ve spoken with her about this issue) and also XXXXXXXXX, another parent from Edison.
The bottom line is this: We need new leadership at Edison Elementary, and I’d like your advice about what steps we should take to have the district consider our request.
I’ve had the opportunity to chat with Mrs. Comine about this a couple times. She has been incredibly helpful, and we’re tremendously thankful to have her as our Executive Director at Edison. I’m honestly blown away by her willingness to provide feedback and advice. However, we’ve managed to reach an area where Mrs. Comine isn’t able to offer any suggestions. So, I thought I’d turn to you.
This is my 4th year of involvement with the Edison Elementary PTA. Over the years, I’ve managed to develop close relationships with a few teachers at Edison who have been comfortable speaking with me candidly with me about the environment at the school. I’ve also met a number of parents who have had poor experiences with the leadership at the school, and because I’m involved with the PTA, they’ve turned to me.
Our principal has been at Edison for 16 years.
I’m certain that over the last 16 years, teachers have spoken pretty openly on the end-of-the-year environment surveys. I’ve also been told about a situation that came up years ago (perhaps 6 or 7) where four really wonderful teachers decided to unite and speak up about the bullying that happens in staff meetings and behind closed doors. The following year, all four of those teachers were transferred to different schools.
We’re losing great teachers at Edison because of what’s happening with the school leadership. Our teachers are sick of waiting patiently for our principal to retire, but they’re absolutely terrified of speaking up. They don’t want to rock the boat.
Mrs. Comine had advice for the teachers. She suggested that, since there are channels, they absolutely need to speak with our principal about their concerns. Unfortunately, I know they won’t do this. They don’t want to be shamed at staff meetings or bullied.
You certainly don’t advocate for a policy at OPS that suggests students who are bullied have no other recourse than to talk to the person who is bullying them, so I don’t understand how this is an appropriate solution.
We need an environment where we can absolutely guarantee with 100% assurance that our teachers can speak up about the conditions at the school without fear of retaliation. This is essential.
While Mrs. Comine had advice for teachers, she wasn’t really able to offer any advice for a group of parents who are looking to unite and organize around the goal of getting new leadership at the school. It’s very important that we go about this in a way that is respectful and helpful. We don’t want to raise a stink, point fingers, or paint Edison in a bad light.
What would be the best way to approach your office and request that you consider placing a new principal in our school? Would you like us to compile a document of parent and teacher experiences? Would you like to us to come in and speak, face to face? Should we create a petition? What do you suggest?
We feel that 16 years is too long for a single principal to lead a school, especially after learning a about what happens behind the scenes. I feel compelled to speak up on behalf of the teachers at the school and for the parents who have come to me for advice.
Please let me know how we can work together. I’m happy to speak on the phone (402-XXX-XXXX), meet you for coffee, or drop down to your office to chat.
Thank you so much for your time and your dedication to our school!
As you know, this is a personnel matter and although we recognize your desire release the principal at Edison, we are not in a position to discuss this type of an issue. Improvement plans for all employees needs to be inclusive of multiple data points, including your perspective as a parent. Melissa has heard your concerns and you’ve also made some statements in this email regarding teacher departures, climate survey, etc. that will be reviewed with HR staff. If you have additional data that has not already been shared feel to provide that information to Melissa but again she is restricted on discussing with you the desire for the termination of an employee.
I appreciate your desire to be “respectful and helpful”, thanks again.
Mark A. Evans
Omaha Public Schools
Thanks so much for your quick response.
If I understand correctly, the only thing we can do is compile data that clearly shows instances of negligence, bullying, and poor leadership at Edison over the last 16 years and deliver that document for Mrs. Comine. Correct? Can you guarantee our teachers won’t face any retaliation from the district or the principal for speaking up?
I’m willing to organize this, but the purpose of my email was to ask that you and your team take a thoughtful review of the situation at Edison Elementary. This would include talking to the teachers and parents, and assuring everyone that they’re free to speak without the fear of retaliation.
That’s all I’m asking here. I’m not asking you to discuss every last detail of the process and your investigation. Instead, I’d just like assurance that you’re actually taking this seriously. I know, without a doubt, that other parents have spoken up about this issue. To be quite honest, they feel like the district has brushed them off. The teachers especially feel this way. I hate to sound melodramatic, but they’re hopeless over there and just waiting for the principal to retire.
Teachers at our school are bullied into silence, and that environment has an affect that trickles down to every single student in the classroom. This has been an issue for years, and nothing, it seems, has been done about it. It’s not right. I can’t sit idly by and continue to wait for our principal to retire so we can have fresh leadership in our school. It’s not fair to our teachers, our students, or our parents. It’s just not right.
It’s my understanding that principal swaps are indeed a thing. It’s also my understanding that 16 years as the principal of the same building is uncommon. I never suggested you terminate anyone. I’m just asking for fresh leadership at Edison Elementary.
It all boils down to this: I have tremendous respect for you, Mrs. Comine, and everyone at OPS. You all work tirelessly to make Omaha schools function. I know you inherited lots of challenges when you came to Omaha.
My point in emailing was to respectfully ask that you and your office address the issues we’re facing at Edison Elementary. All I need is an assurance that you’ve heard us loud and clear and that you’ll actively work to investigate the situation, and if necessary, kick off the 2015-2016 school year with fresh leadership at Edison.
Date: Tuesday, September 9, 2014 at 9:43:40 AM
Subject: Re: Edison Elementary needs a new principal, and we need your advice.
we have heard you “loud and clear” on your desire to have a new principal at Edison.
Mark A. Evans
Omaha Public Schools