I wasn’t going to speak tonight, because I believe part of my job as SHTA president is to support and facilitate the voices of my members. So that’s why I‘m here. But I’ve heard discussions over the last 48 hours that have compelled me to speak. And those discussions have been about a perceived “us vs. them” mentality (meaning teachers versus students) portrayed about the Association because of the letter I published sharing the harsh realities of Jody Podl’s treatment and the fact that she was disciplined without being allowed either to address student concerns or even know which students were registering complaints. You may disagree with the letter I felt I had to share, but I had no intention of identifying students. By putting Jody on administrative leave, the administration created a teacher vs. student dynamic. The responsibility here is squarely on the administration’s shoulders. It’s not clear the administration or the board understands, even now, how destructive that decision was.
Shaker teachers support students. We love them. We honor their voices. We listen to them and hear their concerns. We have processes in place where students can report their concerns to counselors, principals, school nurses, and other school personnel, and those concerns can be addressed. Of course these processes can always be refined, and we hope that restorative practices can help refine them.
But we must also have due process for our teachers, which was denied to Mrs. Podl. There is no “us” vs. “them.” The very notion that this argument would be entertained by members of this board or administration is deeply offensive. The reality is that educators in this school district would literally lay down their lives for their students. Call it hyperbole if you want, but that’s still a threat we face every day. Don’t perpetuate an “us vs. them” argument when we are among the most dedicated advocates and supporters of Shaker students. This damaging and divisive rhetoric has to end now.