Hutchings, BOE Want Teachers to Talk it Out

SHTA open letter prompts roundtable invitation, but parties struggle to settle on date

Dr. John Morris, high school English teacher and Shaker Heights Teachers' Association president, wants the administration to address concerns raised in the high school membership's open letter.

Dr. John Morris, high school English teacher and Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association president, wants the administration to address concerns raised in the high school membership’s open letter.

Following the May 11 publication of a critical open letter written by the high school members of The Shaker Heights Teachers’ Association, the Board of Education invited SHTA members to a roundtable discussion.

Now, as summer approaches, both groups are scrambling to find an acceptable date for that talk.

This open letter, first published on the SHTA website, expressed high school teachers’ worries about recent changes in the district and, in particular, at the high school. The letter was organized around five main concerns: micromanagement of teaching, less autonomy, a lack of reflection, absence of communication between teachers and administration and unclear changes.

Superintendent  Dr. Gregory C. Hutchings, Jr. originally proposed that the roundtable discussion be held June 16. However, this date clashed with SHTA President Dr. John Morris’ schedule.

“I take a group of students to our sister school in Worthing, England from June 12th through the 24th, so I couldn’t be there on the 16th,” Morris said.

Hutchings first extended the June 16 invitation through his response to the open letter, published in The Shakerite May 12. Hutchings then reiterated the invitation at the May 12 Board of Education meeting. It was the only allusion made to the open letter at the meeting.

We realized there are several voices echoing the need for the same line of discussion. Whether they be the Faculty Senate in their survey, or the letter from Mr. Griffith on his departure, and of course our letter, all reiterate the same ideas. We need to keep that on the forefront. These issues don’t go away, and we won’t let them go away.”

— Dr. John Morris

Morris then proposed the roundtable occur June 10, but the date was quickly scrapped after all five BOE members said they would be unavailable. In order for the roundtable discussion to be a legitimate forum, at least three BOE members must be present.

“The Board is serious about the issue,” said Morris. “They want to make sure that all five of them can be there.”

In addition, Morris wants to ensure that the roundtable is accessible to community members and teachers.

“We want as many high school teachers who can or want to be, to be there,” said Morris. “Community members are involved in this as well.”

Most recently, community members and teachers filled the high school’s small auditorium and stood 10-deep at the two auditorium entrances during a Board of Education meeting on Feb. 10, which dealt with the potential termination of Lomond kindergarten teacher Cathleen Grieshop.

“I am supportive of our Shaker teachers and am pleased that they took the opportunity to voice their frustrations to the administration,” said Shaker parent and active community member Irene Meyerhoefer in an email interview May 17. “Our teachers, counselors and building administrators and staff are the foundation of the Shaker education. It is the reason our children are at Shaker and we have supported, and continue to support, the Shaker Schools.”

Morris also noted that the open letter’s publication was not the first time these issues were called to attention.

“We realized there are several voices echoing the need for the same line of discussion. Whether they be the Faculty Senate in their survey, or the letter from Mr. Griffith on his departure, and of course our letter, all reiterate the same ideas,” said Morris. “We need to keep that on the forefront. These issues don’t go away, and we won’t let them go away.”

Meyerhoefer expressed concern about the timing of the proposed roundtable discussion.

“I am disappointed that [the administration] have not made an effort to address the concerns of the teachers before this school year ends and while the retiring/resigning teachers are still here,” Meyerhoefer said. “I hope that the administration changes their mind on this and make the teachers’ concerns a priority. I hope they find a way to listen to the concerns with open minds and to trust what the teachers, who really are the ones on the front lines, have to say.”

According to Morris, as of now, the most likely date for the roundtable discussion is July 1. However, the date is not certain.

“This will continue to be an issue that we’re concerned about,” said Morris. “Until we have a new principal in place, and until we see guarantees about our concerns, about autonomy, micromanagement, reflective looks at the strategic plan and our direction of the high school, we’ll continue to beat the drum about these issues.”

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