Controversial teacher reassigned to Graham Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Mountain View Voice Online, on Jun 15, 2009 at 12:07 pm
A former fourth-grade teacher at Huff, who left the school last spring after some parents complained that she was "verbally abusive" to her students, will be returning to the district this fall to teach sixth graders.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Monday, June 15, 2009, 11:46 AM
Posted by Parent, a resident of another community, on Jun 15, 2009 at 12:18 pm
Teacher issues happen everywhere. In any public school ditrict, you will find parents who have long-standing gripes with a teacher and grumbling about how the district "won't do anything about them." District employees don't like headaches and complaints any more than the rest of us, so you can be that if they could do something about the controversial teachers, they would. Would make life so much easier for everyone.
And, I don't think the union spends much time or effort on local school board elections. My observation is that very few people run for the job. The last few board members who got seated were unopposed. I've never seen or heard anything from teachers or the unions on school board elections, that's just silly. Besides, the board can't hire or fire teachers.
Posted by Graham Mom, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 3:39 pm
I have never heard of unions having anything to do with school boards. As I recall, we the people elected the school board members. The fact that some parents stood up for this teacher means she was doing some things right. She might be a better fit for middle school students. I think she should be given a second chance, and if complaints continue, then the powers that be have the right to terminate her.
Posted by The Dad, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 3:49 pm
I thought her stint at Huff was the "second chance"
Apologies for the extreme analogy, but I know a priest that did many wonderful things and was loved and adored by 99% of his Parish but he still has no right being around kids and now sits in jail. It matters not what she's doing right if what she's doing wrong is abusive to even one of our children.
Posted by Betsy, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 4:22 pm
As if the transition to Middle School is not challenging enough - now we have to contend with a controversial teacher. I also need to say that two teachers who did get fired this year from Graham, Mr. Fanali and Ms. Gilbert were very upsetting to kids and parents alike. Both teachers were really loved by the kids and seemed great at their jobs - It is a sad state of affairs when the great teachers get fired and the contentious one's we can't get rid of.
Posted by no, a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 4:54 pm
The Dad from Cuesta Park brings up a key point. Good teaching some of the time does not mitigate verbal abuse the rest of the time. Also, for every 3-4 students who do come forward, it's probably safe to assume that there are other students and parents who are afraid and just try to get through the year. There seems to be a pretty consistent pattern and number of complaints going back years. Are they waiting for 50% of a class to complain? Is there a magic number? It just seems like a slap in the face to the families with kids who have dealt with her once to now have to worry about running into her or having her at middle school. Principals come and go, but where has the HR department been in handling this?
Posted by district parent, a resident of another community, on Jun 15, 2009 at 5:19 pm
Mountain View Whisman School District
Board of Trustees Meeting
Tuesday, June 16
at the district office board room at 750 San Pierre Way (near Stevenson Park and Theuerkauf School)
5:30-7:30pm --- closed session (to talk about personnel issues)
7:30pm --- meeting resumes open to the public
agenda items include approval of 2009-10 budget (what student programs will be cut, what will be saved?)
also a Study Session starting at 8:55pm on the architectural consulting services related to the district's proposed Facilities Master Plan....which is being paid for with money from the General Fund, MONEY THAT COULD BE SPENT ON STUDENTS
Please note the meeting is on Tuesday night, not Thursday.
Mountain View Whisman School District
Education for the World Ahead
Board of Trustees ̶ Regular Meeting
750-A San Pierre Way
June 16, 2009
Demonstrate, daily, a relentless commitment to the success of every child.
Academic Excellence « Strong Community « Broad Worldview
Any person wishing to speak on any item on the agenda will be granted up to three (3) minutes at the time the item appears on the agenda, or in the case of a non-agendized item, may do so under Community Comments. Comments for each agendized item will be taken for 10 minutes, with extra time allowed for translation, as needed. Please see the Board's “welcome” brochure for protocol. Prior to addressing the Board, each speaker is requested to complete a speaker card (located on the counter near the door), give it to the Superintendent's Executive Assistant and state their name for the record. Persons addressing the Board are asked to speak from the podium provided for that purpose.
Under Approval of Agenda, item order may be changed. All times are approximate.
I. CALL TO ORDER 5:30pm
B. Roll Call
C. Approval of Agenda
II. OPPORTUNITY FOR MEMBERS OF THE PUBLIC TO ADDRESS THE 5:35pm
BOARD CONCERNING ITEMS ON THE CLOSED SESSION AGENDA
III. CLOSED SESSION 5:40pm
A. Public Employee Discipline/Dismissal/Release
B. Student Discipline (Education Code 48900)
C. Public Employment: Principal
D. Public Employee Performance Evaluation: Superintendent
IV. RECONVENE OPEN SESSION
A. Closed Session Report
V. COMMUNICATIONS 7:35pm
A. Employee Organizations
1. Mountain View Educators Association
2. California School Employees Association
B. Community Comments
This is the time reserved for community members to address the Board on items that are not on the agenda. The Board and Administration welcome this opportunity to listen; however, in compliance with the Brown Act, the Board is not permitted to take action on non-agenda items.
Speakers are requested to complete a speaker card and state their name for the record.
If there are additional comments after 10 minutes have elapsed, this item may be continued after all the action and discussion items are completed.
VI. REVIEW AND DISCUSSION
A. Mountain View Educators Association (MVEA), CTA/NEW Initial Proposal 7:45pm
dated June 5, 2009
The Board will hold a Public Hearing regarding MVEA’s Initial Proposal for a successor collective bargaining agreement with the District.
The Board will hold a Public Hearing regarding MVEA’s Initial Proposal.
VII. REVIEW AND ACTION
A. Approval of Final Budget for 2009-10 7:50pm
The Board will consider approval of the Budget for the 2009-10 school year.
The Board will hold a Public Hearing on the budget for the 2009-10 school year.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: That the Board approve the Budget for the
2009-10 school year as presented.
B. District Revised Initial Proposal to the California School Employees Association 8:20pm
(CSEA), Chapter 812
The Board will consider approval of a revised district initial proposal to CSEA.
The Board will hold a Public Hearing on the revised Initial Proposal to CSEA.
RECOMMENDED ACTION: That the Board approve the revised District
Initial Proposal to the California School Employees Association, Chapter 812,
VIII. CONSENT AGENDA
The following items will be handled with one action; however, any item may be removed from consideration by individual Board Members or the Superintendent. Copies of the applicable documents have been sent to the Board and will be available at the meeting.
A. Personnel Report
Certificated: 3 requests for leave of absence, one new hire, two returns to assignment
Minutes for the meetings of May 7, 21 and 28 and June 4 and 8, 2009
D. Consolidated Application for Funding Categorical Aid Program, Part I
E. Administrative Regulation No. 1312.1, Complaints Against District Employees (Second Reading)
F. Crittenden Middle School Request for Title I School-wide Program Status
The District has received the following gifts:
· 250 tickets to Sleeping Beauty, donated by Peninsula Youth Theatre:
· Books, donated by Kathleen Gerds;
· Chairs, donated by Rob Nagle;
· $37.50, donated by Kaiser Permanent Community Giving Campaign;
· $2,327, donated by VeriSign;
· $400, donated by John Novat;
· Office supplies, donated by Deborah Mallon.
A. Board and Superintendent Updates
1. Board Members
2. Board President
a. Administrative/Student Services
b. Educational Services
c. Business Services
X. STUDY SESSION 8:55pm
The Board will discuss program versus facilities input into the School Facilities
Improvement Plan. Preparation for summer work by Bill Gould Design will be addressed.
XI. CLOSING COMMENTS
XII. ITEMS FOR FUTURE AGENDAS
XIII. FUTURE BOARD MEETING DATES
August 20, 2009
September 3 and 17, 2009
October 1 and 15, 2009
November 5 and 19, 2009
December 10, 2009
XIV. ADJOURNMENT 10:00
The Mountain View Whisman School District is dedicated to providing access and communication for all those who desire to attend Board meetings. Anyone planning to attend a Board meeting who requires special assistance or English translation is asked to call the Superintendent’s Office at (650) 526-3552 at least 48 hours in advance of the time and date of the meeting.
Documents provided to a majority of the Governing Board regarding an open session item on this agenda will be made available for public inspection in the District Office, located at 750-A San Pierre Way during normal business hours.
El Distrito Escolar de Mountain View Whisman esta dedicado a proveer acceso y comunicación a todas las personas que deseen asistir a las reuniones de la Junta. Se pide que aquellas personas que planean asistir a esta reunión y requieren de asistencia especial llamen a la Oficina del Superintendente al (650) 526-3552 con por lo menos 48 horas de anticipación del horario y fecha de esta reunión, para así poder coordinar los arreglos especiales.
Los documentos que se les proveen a la mayoría de los miembros de la Mesa Directiva sobre los temas en la sesión abierta de éste orden del día estarán disponibles para la inspección pública en la Oficina del Distrito, localizada en el 750-A San Pierre Way durante las horas de oficinas regulares.
Posted by Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 8:49 pm
My child was a student of Ms. Polifrone a year ago, and will be entering 6th grade at Graham next year. The fact that the district has placed a MOST controversial teacher at a school where most of her former students are faced with the possibility of having her as a teacher again is negligent, at best. As a classroom volunteer, I have personally witnessed not "strictness" but verbal "abuse," as this teacher has referred to 9 year-old children in her class as "the thing," "dumbbell," and "stupid" on a daily basis. The Standard Encyclopedic Dictionary's definition of "abuse" is: "To speak in coarse or bad terms of or to; to insult; abusive language; slander." I have already contacted the school to request a different teacher (and have been told that the school will honor ALL requests of parents who do not wish to have their children placed with Patty Polifrone). Every Huff parent of an in-coming Graham 6th-grader with whom I have spoken has already made the same request (any pattern here?).
Posted by no, a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on Jun 15, 2009 at 9:04 pm
I notice that within the Board agenda for tomorrow night's meeting, there is a 2nd reading of the Administrative Regulation 1312.1-Complaints Against District Employees (Section VIII, Item E on agenda) People should find out if just registering a complaint with the principal is sufficient or if it is required to go over the head of the principal to get action. From prior posts, it sounds like most parents complained to the principals, but nothing happened.
Posted by Tina (Huff, Graham, and MVHS mom), a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 12:25 am
I have known Patty for 9 years and have volunteered in her classroom with all of my 3 children on a weekly basis.
My daughter's 4th grade year was disrupted when she was suddenly removed.....with several different explanations given to the students.
The entire situation was handled poorly by the district and I will always defend Patty and her reptutation.
Why is it that I have NEVER witnessed Patty humilate or degrade her students, yet many parents are quick to say so?
Unfortunately it is these few parents that are making their own issues her problem. Some of you may feel that Patty is protected because of her tenure with the district, but if she truly did harm to these children, they would have to let her go. Bottom line is she did nothing wrong. She is hardworking and commited to her work. I know first hand of her dedication and appreciate what she has done for my children. This district is lucky to have her and I know she will be an asset to Graham.
Posted by Another Ex-Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 8:34 am
To Ex-Huff Parent:
(I'm an Ex-Huff parent because my kids finished the school, not because we left.)
"2)Implementing trendy curriculum and programs without much regard for their effects on students' education. (spanish only, then careless mainstreaming.)"
Spanish only? That was dropped years ago, there have been no "primary language" classes in a long time. "Careless mainstreaming"--do you mean putting the non-English speakers in class with native English speakers and offering supplemental ELD? This is what I think they do. What do you suggest?
"3)Prying more money from the parents. (Hiring fundraising consultants)"
Do you mean the consultants they hire to pass parcel tax measures and evaluate whether or not to put a bond measure up? ALL school districts do this, it would be next to impossible to run a winning campaign without professional help, esp. with the 2/3 majority required. Even with help, it's an uphill battle. As for other fundraising -- that is done by MVEF and PTA, all-volunteer, non-profit organizations.
"4)spending it wildly, a la the $192M building proposal"
They are not moving ahead with this, you may have missed that in a recent Voice. The district does have a responsibility to plan ahead every few years and evaluate their facilities, as needs change. Just because they were investigating what they might need in the coming years, and considered the feasibility of placing a bond measure on the ballot (which is how all public schools improve their facilities) does not mean they are "spending money wildly."
"5)the gifted students."
Hardly anything is spent on gifted students, there is very little money for them. They are required to have a GATE program, and they do the best they can with the money they have. It means an after-school program for about 45 minutes, one day a week, for a chunk of the school year (not all year); and in middle school, one or two, one-day "GATE conferences." That's it.
"6)the "english learners.""
You mean the kids who make up a huge chunk of our district? I guess they should ignore them? Also, a lot of the money spent specifically on them is probably categorical money.
7)the other students who fall in the crack between 5) and 6).
"The middle schools are a waste of critical years for them."
Do you have kids in Graham or Crittenden? I had one go all the way through (that child is doing very well at MVHS, taking a heavy load of Honors & AP classes plus extracurriculars, and holding her own very well compared to her classmates from Los Altos), and one other at Graham now, who is also doing very well and has had great teachers, and a great experience. Nice friends, great performing arts program, supportive environment. I'm sure my kids aren't anomalies. Never supplemented their education, no tutoring, no Score, Kumon, nothing, and they are doing just fine. Our middle schools may not be a fit for every student, but they are very good schools that offer our children a very good education, and I am tired of hearing them maligned.
Posted by no, a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 9:17 am
No doubt there are differences in perceptions of Mrs. P. If this was a black and white situation, it would have been handled years ago. What seems clear from all the info that has come out is that for lots of years there have been consistent complaints by more than just one child. It's great that Tina's kids had a good experience, but that doesn't make it okay that many other kids over the years have been traumatized. Also, if Mrs P is so great, you'd think she would have been concerned about this perception of her, and worked to be more aware of the variety of needs of the children in her classes and adjust her style a bit. The fact that there seems to be a pattern of similar complaints over many years and several schools weakens Tina's argument. I wonder if Tina will continue to defend her if the district has to shell out lots of money if/when a lawsuit comes up. Teachers, like any professionals that deal with the public, are employees who must present a public persona that allows both they and the public to take care of business. The classroom is not their living room. If a firefighter or police officer doesn't control their temper and use some self-control, there is a mechanism for the public to complain. The same standard is true for teachers, and just because their clients are children does not mean that those children forgo their right to a respectful learning environment managed by the teacher.
Posted by Myra, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 11:52 am
I have never met this teacher, and I know nothing about her other than what I have read in the media. But the one thing that bothers me every time I read these postings are when parents who have had no problems with her directly, think she should not be disciplined for her actions against other students. Just because you have not personally seen her abusive side does not mean that it does not exist. How many times have you heard about a man abusing or even worse, murdering his wife only to hear his neighbors say that "He seemed like such a nice guy". Why is it okay for her to abuse other children just because she did not abuse your child?
Posted by thomas garipoli, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 12:37 pm
My daughter graduated from Huff a few years ago, and just a week ago Graduated she graduated from Graham. She had Mrs. P at Huff,and I wish my daughter would have had her again at Graham. It's Mrs. P style. Do not take that away from her. I know this is California, and there are a lot of sensitive people here, being from back east myself, I have and my daughter has thick skin. My daughter was a better person for being in Mrs. P's class. Did we agree on everything? Heck no. But yes she was fair. If we agreed on everything, life would be boring.
Posted by Mom from Huff, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 1:01 pm
This is an HR issue. If you had an employee that was offensive or created what several perceive as a hostile work environment then he/she gets written up, put on performance review, etc. Too many offenses, no matter how skilled you are at your work, you are out. This is not about East Coast style, this is about offensive behavior. Just because my style may be to use somewhat inapproporiate vernacular, I curb my mouth around a school and children. I can't just fall back on "this is my style" or "this is the way I am." People have to know the difference. The MVWSD HR Dept either hasn't been doing their job or should have a file big enough to put the matter to rest. Moving Ms. P around within the district is neither a service to her or the community.
Posted by sophie, a resident of the Whisman Station neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 2:20 pm
to pta, who said "give her to the pact" - Mrs. P taught in the pact program for many years before going to huff - there were many complaints about her there and also much divisiveness- it seemed like she did well with the kids who were white, compliant high achievers and not so well with many others. She's not a demon, but she does tend to label kids, so they take that with them when they leave her class - whatever the label
Posted by Come On, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 2:35 pm
Someone like this can do permanent damage to the future confidence and desire to learn of kids, especially at the middle school age. This is when future school habits are broadened and solidified, but if verbally abused, it can also be when a young person's interest in school can be ruined.
I would never gamble with mu child's future and "hope for the best" if
he were in her class. Be parents! Do not gamble with your child's future.
Posted by curious, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 2:56 pm
eric said "Curious, what are you talking about? Mtn View schools have a very low dropout rate"
per the CA Dept of Education statistics for 2007-2008 Web Link
Hispanic/Latino Grade 9-12 derived dropout rate is 19.7% and African-American 14.3%
Those are not "very low" but very disturbing.
With such poor performance, why is the school district protecting this teacher with obvious problems? How does this make teachers who do a good job feel?
Another fact not mentioned is that it is obvious Ms. Polifrone was been paid during her leave and the district had to pay for a replacement for her. Well, maybe they will just hire another fundraising consultant like "all the rest of the districts do."
Posted by Another Ex-Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 5:16 pm
To Ex-Huff Parent: On the contrary, I praise Graham all the time. I thought that saying my kids had a great experience there and are doing well beyond Graham was praise, but if not, here it is: "I think Graham is a very good school, from personal experience!" I know a lot of other parents who think the same way and say so. Not perfect -- even Blach isn't a "perfect fit for every kid", I've had parents from there tell me their kids didn't like it at all for various reasons -- but that doesn't make it a bad school.
Test scores of subgroups are definitely low. As they are across the county, state and country, with the exception of some charter-type programs. I think this is a national issue as much as a local one. Do I think the district need to keep working harder on this? Yes. Do I think it's all their fault because they don't know what they are doing? No.
You can try to reduce everything to simple, black-and-white, this is bad and this is good, I know everything and the district knows nothing; but I find that very few situations in life actually work this way, including educating a widely disparate group of students in the same classroom, and personnel issues with teachers.
For those who think a school district's HR issues are identical to any corporations, I think ou may be mistaken. The teacher's union contracts are such that it puts a much higher burden of proof to terminate an employee than if you were working at Google, at least that is my understanding.
I have spoken with parents at schools in other districts who have complained for years about bad teachers, librarians, etc., and get enormously frustrated that nothing is ever done about them. Same old story. So keep blaming HR in the district -- maybe it's their fault, maybe not. But I don't think we'll ever know. HR people never say a word about personnel issues, no matter whether it's a school district or a business.
Posted by Observer, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 5:24 pm
The ones to blame her are the principals, past and present of Huff, and the small-minded administrators sitting barricaded in their district office. They failed to document parent complaints and take corrective action. It's called leadership, and they've failed at it. It's as simple as that. How could the teacher be to blame at all for the current mess? The conscious and subconscious, written and verbal, formal and informal signals she has been gettng from her leadership is, "you are doing just fine. She very well just may be a nut as well, incapable of knowing right from wrong. The adminstrators, however, have no documentated pattern of behavior to sack her for. [Portion removed due to personal attacks.]
And one other point... I find it hard to believe that the district office couldn't find something constructive for this teacher to have done in the last months of school while she was STILL BEING PAID that didn't involve interaction with kids. Instead, they give her a nice long vacation. Someone please explain the logic of that one to me.
Posted by Ex Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 5:40 pm
Hey "ex-huff parent"
At least you stood up for Graham, a first in my hearing.
What about the 2 good teachers who were cashiered, to be replaced by Polifrone?
So who bears the responsibility for the poor performance of "subgroups?"
Go all gray about abuse and the enablement of it. What if she were sexually abusing children, whould you get all wishy-washy on that too? I don't know everything but I can see co-dependency a mile away.
Posted by Another Ex-Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:00 pm
Ex-Huff Parent: If you read my posts here, you'll see that I have said nothing either supporting or condemning Mrs. P or her move to Graham. What I said was -- I think people may be wrong in placing all the blame on the district. It could be that it's the teacher's union that needs to give on this one. I support teachers, I support their right to collective bargaining, but I have come to believe that the union does, indeed, have too much of an iron grip on personnel matters, among other things.
As for responsibility for subgroup performance - I think the district has responsibility to do whatever they are able to allow all children to succeed academically. I also think that societal and cultural factors play a huge, huge role in how different groups perform. To single MVWSD out as being any more to "blame" than the thousands of similar school districts around the country is not logical. That does not give them a free pass on this, but if there were a quick fix, I think they and all the other districts would have done it by now. Do you know the magic bullet? Please share it if you do, we ALL want all of our students to succeed.
Observer -- do you work in the district's HR Office? If not, how have you gotten access to Mrs. P's personnel file? You must have, since you know that no one has ever documented anything. This would, of course, change the discussion. Until the public sees a personnel file (which will never happen, in a school district or at a private company) we have absolutely no idea what might be in there.
Curious -- the dropout rates you reference are for Mountain View Los Altos High School District, not MVWSD. And yes, most of the Hispanic and African-American kids probably come from MVWSD. And yes, we'd all like to see those rates much lower. No argument there. But -- take a look at other districts and other counties on that web link you posted. MVLA's dropout rates are way lower than the county and state averages. Again, lots of room for improvement, but much lower than average. And our continuation school, Alta Vista, consistently wins awards for the best continuation school around, with the highest graduation rates and the highest rates of kids moving on to college. (FYI--not every Alta Vista kid went to MVWSD. I think the district contracts with school districts, like Palo Alto, that do not have continuation schools of their own.)
Now before you all call me an apologist -- this does NOT mean that I'm saying that a 16% dropout rate for Hispanics is OK. I'm saying that, compared to similar schools, our schools are doing a better job at keeping kids in school, and that I support them and their efforts to reduce those dropout numbers.
Posted by Parent, a resident of another community, on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:39 pm
No: That doesn't mean the union isn't keeping her employed. This process would work for all teachers, so I'm sure they don't comment on personnel matters either. Doesn't put the blame on the district,just because the teachers are silent.
Posted by no, a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 7:47 pm
Parent- The union is made up of regular teachers working in the district. They do not have supervisory power over each other-that role falls to the district administrators. As I said earlier, school principals come and go, but there is at least one Assistant Superintendent who has been witness to these complaints since the merger of the two districts back in 2001. When you go back and read the posts from when this story first broke open, it's clear that there have been consistent complaints going back to that time, and it doesn't sound like the teacher was able to adequately adjust her demeanor to create an atmosphere more conducive to learning.
Posted by Ex Huff Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 16, 2009 at 8:33 pm
Let's make a stream of excuses for the administration and their abusive employee. Let's pretend that Polifrone's really a nice lady and the host of eyewitnesses, including my child, aren't enough to root her out of her job because the educrats are too corrupt and cowardly to protect the students. We wouldn't want do be judgemental.
Let's settle for abjectly mediocre schools, mollifying ourselves that *our* district is just a little better than the others. Let's delude ourselves that we have done all we can for the disavantaged students, while saddling them with the latest crummy curriculum from Sacramento.
Let's...It's getting late and you likely don't know what I'm talking about.
I'll work hard to pay private school tuition so my kid will be taught by dedicated teachers led by administrators who are committed to the students, not their own pensions.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 6:55 am
No -- I don't disagree, except that no one in the current administration at the district (at the Supervisor - Assistant Super level) has been there since 2001. But no matter. I am not saying that there have not been complaints over the years, I am not saying that the situation is OK, I am not saying that the teacher should still be there. What I am saying is that it is my belief that the teacher's union has rigid guidelines in its contract that state what is and is not a fireable offense, and that according to their guidelines this has not reached that. It is also my belief that if the district tried to fire her anyway they would be faced with long, drawn-out and expensive legal action which they would probably lose. It is also my belief that they will not tell us this because they are prevented from doing so by the same teacher's union contract. Do I know this for sure? No more than you all "know" that the administration chooses to protect a teacher who has caused them years of headaches. I have worked in private companies that took years to get rid of ineffective, unreliable and lazy employees, even when their poor performance had been documented, because they were afraid of a wrongful termination suit, and they weren't even protected by a union. And the teacher's union is a pretty strong one, so I'm sure they make their contracts bullet-proof. That is all I am saying.
I know that teachers have no supervisory authority over others, that's not what I was saying. I was saying that just because teachers aren't speaking up in her defense that doesn't mean that it's the district that is choosing to keep her on. That was not logical at all. The teachers won't advocate for getting rid of someone if their contract does not call for that person's removal, is what I was saying. Whether they think that or not, I'm sure that it's not OK for them to speak about a union issue related to someone else, anymore than it's OK for the district's HR people to talk about it.
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 7:08 am
Ex-Huff Parent: I take extreme exception to your last comment about administrators only being concerned about their own pensions. I have spent years in this district volunteering at Huff, at Castro, with the district, PTA and MVEF. I have never met a more hard-working and dedicated group of people than the ones who work in the local public schools (all of them, MVWSD, LASD, and MVLAHS). The Superintendents work brutal "start-up hours," year after year after year, and get nothing but abuse from the public. Their salaries are often criticized, but are less than an engineer in the valley with equivalent years in the workplace. Far, far less than the CEO of a company with the same number of employees. The vast majority of our teachers are dedicated and hard working. Our schools are not mediocre.
I respect anyone's right to choose private school for their children, but please stop maligning our public schools just because it wasn't right for your kid. Believe it or not -- we have had kids transfer to public from private because the private wasn't right for them any longer, and have had great experiences.
So please, enjoy your child's school years, wherever they may be. And let those of us who are happy with our public schools enjoy ours without abuse.
Posted by love of learning, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 9:11 am
She is not the only teacher guilty of verbal abuse. Some teachers think it is necessary to "break" a child to prepare them for middle school. My child was told he "wasn't good" at Social Studies, which then made him tell himself he wasn't "smart". It took me a long time to change this perception and he still doesn't like Social Studies-I wonder why?? The MEANS and END of all education should be to instill a love of learning and positive sense of self in ALL children.
Posted by ex huff parent, a resident of the Whisman Station neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 9:43 am
This is classic modern debate technique. If you're loosing an argument based on the facts, get personal and attack your opponent.
We're discussing an abusive teacher, so you accuse me of abusing you and your fellow travelers because I criticize the administration. Can you tell me why you are equating me with Polifrone while lionizing the people who perpetuated her reign of terror?
The public school system is broken to the point that only toadies who don't mind being being owned and operated by the teachers union end up in administration.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Sylvan Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 11:54 am
To Ex Huff Parent - in regard to your comment:
"I'll work hard to pay private school tuition so my kid will be taught by dedicated teachers led by administrators who are committed to the students, not their own pensions."
I just want to say that private schools are not completely without their controversy either. You may have seen in the news recently that a female teacher from "The Kings Academy" in Sunnyvale was arrested for having a sexual relationship with a female student. The Kings Academy is an excellent school, but it is not sheltered from bad teachers. We all would love to believe that the answer to the public school problems is to move our children to private school, but the only way to have complete control over your childs teachers is to home school (which I do not do). We have to place a certian amount of trust in the schools, whether public or private, and there will be great teachers in both public and private schools, and there will be horrible unethical teachers in both public and private schools.
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 1:23 pm
Fact: teacher has had complaints lodged against her over the years
Fact: she is still employed by the district
Opinion: the district chooses to do nothing about it(yours)
Opinion: the teachers union contract is keeping her employed and the district's hands are tied (mine)
Opinion: the administrators are not concerned about kids and are a bunch of low-lifes milking the public (yours)
Opinion: the administrators are hard-working employees whose hands are most likely tied in this situation (mine)
We are not disputing facts, we are arguing about our opinions.
Neither yours nor mine can be proven unless we can see the personnel file. Stating what I think is going on is not making excuses. In fact, I am trying to place blame for this situation continuing, but I place it on the union and its contract rules rather than the administrators. Why does this mean I am making excuses for Mrs. P? Because I don't agree with your version of events? Could I be wrong? Sure. Could you? Sure. About the opinions, not the facts, of which there are really only two, as I stated above.
Posted by ex huff parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 3:02 pm
Fact: Polifrone profoundly and systematically abused students for years. Huff parents and students have suffered the abuse, read the letters and heard the first-hand testimonies. The evidence is sufficient for a reasonable person.
We're not arguing about opinions, we're arguing about values.
Value: Leaders should do everything in their power to protect those in their care. For you appeasers, that means firing Polifrone, and risking a lawsuit from the union.
Value: Children are more important than legal bills (Read:money) and district employees.
We do not have leaders in the adminstration. Leaders do things. Speculating about technicalities will not get the abuser fired. How about a petition to the school board to stop hiding behind legalities and explain itself. When it won't, vote in members who will.
Are we all such lap-dogs that we can't get up on our hind legs and defend our kids?
Posted by imho parent, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 5:07 pm
The solution should have been to have Mrs. P assigned to the other middle school Crittenden- under close watch. Huff is not a feeder school into Crittenden and would have been less controversial. HR is not always the problem- although they get blamed. Yes, they should be strongly advising on these issues and not playing the "yes men", but bottom line it is the Superintendent and Principal that make these decisions.
Posted by Graham student, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 8:39 pm
I think many people are just making assumtions about Polifrone based on what they have heard or read, without any first-hand experience with her.
I went to Slater while Polifrone taught there. Many of my friends had her, and I briefly had her for science on occasions when she mixed up the classes. Most of us were very happy with her. Yes, she was strict at times, perhaps a bit more than other teachers, but she was always fair and we never felt "abused" by her. She had her own unique style of teaching, which often made her classes interesting and fun, unlike several other teachers I know of, who focus almost entirely on giving lectures and assignments. She also put hours of her own time into the school walkathon every year, a great experience for us.
I think Mrs. Polifrone is one of those people that you like better when you know them better, which is possibly the reason why many people seem to dislike her so much.
Posted by Gary Rosen, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 10:59 pm
"This is classic modern debate technique. If you're loosing an argument based on the facts, get personal and attack your opponent."
I didn't hear you raise any objection when someone compared Mrs. P. to a child-molesting priest. I guess "personal" is OK when it supports your argument. And if you read the posts from "Parent" they contain vastly less personal invective than yours ("ex-Huff Parent").
I know many students and their parents who think Mrs. P. is a great teacher. I don't claim to be in possession of all the facts, but that is going to carry more weight with me than all the anonymous attacks in the world.
Posted by no, a resident of the Cuernavaca neighborhood, on Jun 17, 2009 at 11:28 pm
It's nice to see that, in general, most everyone is trying to discuss this in a somewhat reasonable manner. It seems like the crux of this is whether the community accepts that it is okay to employ a teacher who has a pattern of being damaging (not just strict) to some students but is liked by others. Again, if this was clear cut, black and white, it would have been solved years ago. Just because not every kid complains, does it make it okay or tolerable? If she is really a good teacher, wouldn't she have taken this under advisement and been concerned that 9 and 10 year olds who are terrified of their teacher won't likely be learning a whole lot in her classroom?
Posted by ex huff parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 8:58 am
You another post-modern guy, no? The value of a post is how inoffensive and nonjudgemental it is?
You must not have a kid in a school where polifrone taught.
I think the comparision of polifrone to abusive priests is an apt one. The only difference is the level of abuse. They both certainly attracted a crowd of accomplices.
You all don't want to get it. There is overwhelming evidence, not all of it contained in the Voice. You don't have the wherewithal to admit that abuse trumps good teaching. But that pedophile was a good preacher.
"All that is necessary for the triumph of evil is that good men do nothing."
Posted by ex huff parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 10:24 am
Hey Graham student,
Why would you want to be in Mrs. P's class? Were you one of her students in the past? Did she treat every student with dignity and respect?
BTW vigorously advocating an opinion is a lot different than demanding that everyone agree with it.
The poster "no" put it best: "... the crux of this is whether the community accepts that it is okay to employ a teacher who has a pattern of being damaging (not just strict) to some students but is liked by others..."
Posted by Graham student, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 10:47 am
I would want to be in Mrs. P's class because I think she's a good and fun teacher, and that's my opinion. If you don't think so, that's your opinion, and I respect that.
I already answered your second question, yes, I was in her class before. It was a long time ago, so I don't remember all the details, but I certainly don't remember myself or any students being "damaged" by her, or not liking school because of her. She actually made a lot of students like school more. As far as I remember, she treated her students with dignity and respect.
Posted by J.Cooper, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 6:05 pm J.Cooper is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
There will be always a difference of opinion, those who are hyper sensitive & those who are "what's the big deal". Most of us are in the middle. Perhaps the old adage, "where there's smoke, there's fire", is applicable given the long standing nature & multiple sites of these complaints. The issue for those not directly involved, like me, is why the district waited until the end of school? Where's the so called "transparency" that Ghysels always talks about? What accomodations will be made for those students who had "bad" experiences with Mrs. P? Lots of questions & no leadership.
Posted by Ellen, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 7:16 pm
Either way you look at this issue it's a tragedy for all. If any one here bothered to attend the board meeting the other night they would have seen why. Any now the district is offering to pay for counseling for the affected students. A smart move on one hand, but something tells me the lawsuits are about to start flying. I can't help but think this could all have been avoided had people just done the job they are paid to do. Principals and administrators, put issues into writing if there is substance to them and work with the union to solve the issues up front and in a timely manner for the better of all, teachers, parents, and most importantly, the students.
Posted by Graham student, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 7:43 pm
I don't know about paying for counseling. After all, isn't the district, as well as the state, in a budget crisis?
Yes, parents might sue, but it seems like you can sue for just about anything these days. In my opinion, people who sue over such small things are unethical, especially since they are taking money from the students and their education.
Posted by Graham student, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 18, 2009 at 8:06 pm
I have seen many teachers (not Polifrone) make fun of students. These students' self-esteem and futures have not been ruined. A stuen't future would be much more at stake if there was a lack of funding.
Also, I believe there is a line when it comes to lawsuits, as to what is ethical and what isn't. In my opinion, this is small enough to cross the border into unethicality. In yours, it might not be. I respect that.
Posted by Ned, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2009 at 8:12 pm
If the district administration had done its job, none of the above would be an issue. The fact is they dropped the ball. I wouldn't be surprised if there is absolutely nothing in this teacher's file but glowing reviews. If she's smart, she would release them to the press (hopefully not this paper). In the meantime, turn all the opinions, criticism, and invective toward the disrict administration and the school board. Heck, start a movement to get them removed from their positions. If not don't be surprised if future tax hikes go to paying off lawsuits and counseling services offered by the district. But to attack a teacher based entirely on hearsay and rumor and what could have been done, said, or transpired is nuts. It's un-American and down-right disgusting.
Posted by Clio, a resident of the Rex Manor neighborhood, on Jun 19, 2009 at 8:44 pm
It is disgusting but its also time to move on. We need to start the healing process. We need to find a way to channel all of this negativity. I encourage everyone to get up early tomorrow and take a walk in the mountains which surround our beautiful city. Take you children. Enjoy the fresh air and the first day of summer!
Posted by to IMHO Parent, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2009 at 7:18 am
IMHO Parent said
"The solution should have been to have Mrs. P assigned to the other middle school Crittenden- under close watch. Huff is not a feeder school into Crittenden and would have been less controversial."
ACTUALLY, after Slater closed some of the boundaries were changed and a whole section falls into Huff and then goes to Crittenden. Also, most people from the Slater area, where Mrs. P taught previously, would be going to Crittenden, so I do not think that it would be less controversial, nor a better solution.
Posted by School Parent, a resident of the Jackson Park neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2009 at 12:07 pm
The best place for this teacher is with the PACT program, within eye and ear shot of the very same administrators who bunged this whole thing up to begin with. Instead, she is placed at the school the second most distance away from the district office. The first being Huff. Out of sight, out of mind as they say.
Posted by Frustrated, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Jun 20, 2009 at 1:50 pm
How is it we can't get rid of this teacher? Can't she just be put in a job where she has no direct contact with children? There must be a job somewhere within the schools where she can be made usefull. Maybe as a crossing guard.