Town Square

Huff teacher is out for the year

Original post made on Mar 26, 2009

A fourth grade teacher at Huff Elementary School teacher who some accused of having an "abusive" teaching style will not return to her classroom this year, according to a letter from the principal sent out to parents late last week.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 26, 2009, 11:01 AM


Posted by USA, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2009 at 11:44 am

Right or wrong, good or bad -- the atmosphere is so poisoned now that she will not ever be able to return and teach effectively.

Posted by memory, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 26, 2009 at 2:41 pm

I wish I had spoken up louder and done much more when my son was ridiculed by his first-grade teacher at Monta Loma 21 years ago. I still think about that time with sadness at my lack of nerve. The parents did a good job getting rid of abuse in their school. Good for everybody.

Posted by Parent, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 2:59 pm

If she lands at Bubb in the Fall I'll organize the picket lines

Posted by curious, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 4:23 pm

So, is she going to stay on the payroll? Given the power of the teachers' union, the odds are she is. Come on Voice, help us find out and let the sun shine on the school district bureaucrats.

Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 26, 2009 at 5:07 pm

This is absolutely pitiful on every level.

that the district didn't act earlier in a manner that acknowledged parent's concerns, apparently because their ""tied hands" prevent them from making any meaningful response to parents or to the newspaper

that parents who dislike Mrs. P were willing to air their dirty laundry in public and risk trashing the reputation of the district in exchange for getting some action from the district

that the Voice published a completely one-sided article that effectively ended the career of a teacher who has is loved by many past and current students

that our whole stinkin' public school system is underfunded, understaffed, underappreciated, still based on an archaic agricultural calendar, and employees are recognized only by seniority and not by competence.

the list goes on.

Posted by Bill W., a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2009 at 5:20 pm

I agree with you Robin, this story had no business in the paper.It was totally one sided,and unfair.I hope Mrs.P sues the voice for slander,and ruining her career.Who's next? It's a public witch hunt.

Posted by class mom, a resident of The Crossings
on Mar 26, 2009 at 5:24 pm

So what are you saying Robin are you in line to picket. Or are you one of thoese that sits on the fence. You cant have it both ways.

Posted by Bill W., a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2009 at 6:03 pm

Hello class mom, Can't you read? You sure can't spell. "those" Why would you picket? Didn't Mrs P suffer enough?

Posted by if you can't say something nice..., a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 26, 2009 at 6:28 pm

Shut up, Bill. That is ridiculous. Have you ever heard of a typo? Based on punctuation and grammar, your response wouldn't merit an A either. If I was grading it on content I would give it a big red F. At least the class mom had something interesting to say.

Posted by love of learning, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 6:38 pm

The teacher is a grown up. The ones who suffer are the children whose love of learning and self esteem is crushed by teachers who are demeaning, uncaring, rigid and negative. Learning should be a positive, caring and open experience.

Posted by sam, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm

The principal and the district handled the whole situation badly

Posted by Huff parent, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 7:04 pm

It is what it is. Her students loved her or hated her. She became student's favorite teacher or worst nightmare all in the same class year after year. I think that it depends on the temperament of each child in her classroom on how they enjoy the rollercoaster 4th grade ride.

Posted by Bill W., a resident of Shoreline West
on Mar 26, 2009 at 7:45 pm

My point is, this teacher issue had no business being published in the local paper. It should be handled by school superintendents and the principal, not for the village idiots to gather a lynch mob and put her up for the Salem witch trial.I have an idea! Let's go to your place of employment and judge you in a public forum.

Posted by Ned, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2009 at 8:09 pm

It's funny how the superintendent is loathe to speak up or be quoted when the news is bad for the district, and is only heard when things are positive, there is an agenda to spin, a bike ride to be made, or a opportunity to show off his guitar playing. Get a clue Mr. Ghysels. Lead from the front or get out of the way. Clearly Totter hasn't been able to handle this. How about showing some real leadership rather than just talking about it.

Posted by Long Time MV Tax Payer, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 9:15 pm

It is unfortunate that the parents had to resort to the Voice to help push home their concerns. It is also unfortunate that Mrs. P did not get a fair shake to voice her side of the story.

This is just an indication that the problem we have in the MV elementary school district is more than just an isolated issue surrounding a teacher at Huff. We are dealing with a system that is broken. We have a system where the administration and the Teacher's Union are playing a chess game of their own. Our children and the non-tenured teachers are only the pawns in the game.

In this game, we have Teacher's Union and administration forgetting their mission as educators and became of a protector of teachers' tenure system. The Huff and similar situations show how the teachers union is committed to protect one of their tenured teachers with little consideration to the well being of our children. It's no difference when it comes to lack of consideration for the un-tenured young, bright teachers of the future. When MV elementary district forced the resignation of a dozen or so bright, un-tenured teachers recently, the teachers union also did not lift a single finger on their behalf.

This is very similar to the disasters we are facing in the auto industry. Where union and management were so committed to playing the game they forgot how to excel as auto companies. Many analysts are saying no amount of money will turn the companies around. The only way to change is to withhold further financial assistance and force the companies to re-organize first.

The school district is in similar situation. The school board, administration and the union are so committed to playing the same game; they forgot the well being of our children. Like the auto industry, no amount of money will turn this around. Maybe we need to withhold further tax dollars from the school district until it decide to re-organize and refocus itself for the well being of our children,

Maybe then we can recreate an environment where good, motivated teachers are nurtured and provided with better compensation and tools so they can focus on nurturing our children and make a difference.

Posted by parent, a resident of Castro City
on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:15 pm

Mrs. P has the opportunity to defend herself here but she hasn't yet.

I am just happy the children are free from her and they can move forward now!!!!!!!

Posted by Mr. Messering, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:21 pm

Robin's sad because the teacher she loves is gone.

Posted by another parent, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:21 pm

to parent from casto city good point.

Posted by parent, a resident of Cuernavaca
on Mar 26, 2009 at 10:56 pm

The principal has some blame in all this.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 26, 2009 at 11:16 pm

Well said, Robin.

And, again, for the rest of you anonymous posters, put your money where your mouth is and contribute HALF the effort to the district that Robin does before you start bashing good people.

Posted by Torie, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 26, 2009 at 11:30 pm

I had Ms.P in third grade, 2000-2001, and I'll never forget her. Yes, her teaching techniques have been known as out there, and she can be very harsh at times. But, from what I've read, to me, it seem likes mostly 4th grades are complaining? I was a year or two younger then these children and i never found Ms. p's ways to "hurt my self esteem."
She has a teaching method that makes you remember. for example i forgot my name on an assignment and she crumpled it up and threw it at me. now it was a piece of paper, and i was fine, but i cried because i had worked soo hard on that assignment, and i didn't' even get credit. but you know what? I've never forgotten my name ever again. Also, i never pee at school, and all my friends ask, wow how can you hold it for that long? well i have ms. p to thank for that. she wouldn't let me pee during class, and i didn't want to at break. and because of this, i never have to miss class time for a bathroom trip. Also, i have a leaning disability, so reading was very hard for me to learn, and i didn't' learn tell 3rd grade. i was often discourage and very behind my other class mates, but ms p believed in me, and didn't leave me behind like the other teacher have. Maybe it's the new environment at huff, but at Slater, she was one of the best teachers there. writing this has helped me remember soo many more things she has done for me. it really upsets me that the kids these days can appreciate a teacher who's "outside the box."

Posted by parent, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 27, 2009 at 8:01 am

Robin, Bill and Eric obviously don't care about children.

Great job Christine! You are a fantastic mother for protecting your children. It is sad it got to the paper, but there must have been a good reason it got this far. Just remember you are responsible for your children and you are not responsible for this problem.

Take care!

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:20 am

really hard to take you seriously, parent

Posted by PARENT, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:33 am



Posted by parent past student, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:47 am

What are we teaching our children???? Really what message is the principal and board sending? That you can commit a crime as long as you don't do it to everyone. You can abuse as long as there are some that you support.
ABUSE IS WRONG and I am embarrassed for you parents that Justify the preying on of small children because you had dinner with Mrs P, or because YOUR child was not abused. That is not only pathetic, but I have to say a bit scary.. I don't want to have my children around you.

If you break the law or do something wrong, you should be punished.

THIS IS NOT ONE SIDED.... Mrs. P and everyone else involved has had at least 7 years to respond... as well as the past few weeks, but they CHOOSE not to.

And I am sorry, those people that pick on or humiliate the weak, or vulnerable are BULLIES. We teach our children that it is wrong, we have specific bullying rules for our students, but we allow a teacher to break all of the rules.

Mrs. P's rights??? I wish one person had been caring about my childs rights. I guess you don't have any until you have tenure.

Posted by Rez, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:48 am

Does the buck stop with this teacher? How about the administration? Are they oblivious to what goes on in the classrooms? Who monitors these teachers? For the benefit of everyone involved - teachers, students, families - there should be more supervision of what goes on in these classrooms. Otherwise it is just going to be a battle of hearsay in these situations.

Posted by eric, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:57 am

parent, thanks for making my point

Posted by Christine, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:58 am

Looking back at my notes, I left a few things out last week.

When my daughter was in Mrs. P's class, everyone had a job to help out with the class... even my daughter... she got to put mrs. ps packet of powder (I assume vitamins) into her water bottle and mix it for her. One of her other jobs was to wash Mrs. P's dirty dishes from lunch. When I found out about this, I was blown away. I told Mrs. P that this was to stop immediately. My daughter stopped doing this, but I think the job was just given to another child.
This was also in my letter to Stephanie.

She also spoke MULTIPLE times in front of her class about her x-husband and all of the bar hopping she was doing, and how she was going to get a new man... blah blah. I still think this is wrong and maybe she should work in the Adult ED. I don't know too many of you that would take this crap from someone else, but you will let her do it to your kids..... sad.

I don't know about you parents that think yelling and humiliating and degrading is fine. I guess it is good that your kids are able to handle it, maybe they can Yell and degrade their kids too, and where does that line get crossed to another type of abuse...

Posted by parent of a 4th grader, and a teacher, a resident of another community
on Mar 27, 2009 at 9:59 am

Christine - I have seen a copy of the email you sent out to parents to incite rage and encourage the trashing of a teacher after the Voice editor told you that you needed 4 more angry parents before they would print the story. You are disgraceful!!
Where is your proof of these allegations? Do you have copies of any letters of complaint you or others supposedly sent to the principal/district office? If things were so horrible several years ago when your child was in Ms Polifone's class, why didn't you 1)remove your child from the class and 2) go to the newspaper then if the district wasn't responding to your complaints? Seems like you're harboring old grudges and just couldn't wait to jump on rumors surrounding this teacher's current situation. You don't know, nor do you have any right to know, the details between the district and ANY employee. Things certainly could have been handle much better without the mob mentality you created. Shame on you!!
I see some potential legal action in your future. My advice to you, Christine, is to get a good lawyer, but because of the damage you've done in this matter, I hope Ms Polifrone gets a better one!!

Posted by Christine, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:21 am

Dear Parent or 4th grader,
If you are in fact a teacher, please give us your name.. I don't want you teaching my children.
There was no letter to incite rage. After going to everyone I have stated before over the past 2 years and having them do nothing, I let them all know... Maurice, Craig and even days before I told Sharon. I told them that the voice wanted to do an article. Like I have said before, none of them said or did anything. They did not even say or act like they were concerned for the children. Nothing.

The Voice, wanting to make sure that this was not ONE SIDED said that they would need to talk to other parents/teachers that have had similar circumstances. I sent out the letter letting them know that if they wanted to call the voice they could and who they should contact.
This email was only sent out to 10 parents that have been talking regularly at school about what is still going on. They were parents that had stated that they wanted to be involved...

As for your legal advice.... No thank you. I have only stated things about Mrs. P that I myself have seen or heard. Mrs. P knows exactly what I have said is true, and I will stand up for everything I have said.

Once again, I did try to get her out of that class. You can speak with Craig Goldman about that..... funny but with the exception of that letter they have not addressed this issue at all.... Even after the articles and the many, many concerned parents and all of these comments....... It's like it is not going on.
Craig just did his finance report at Huff.... but not a word about all of this..... Maybe if we brush it under the carpet for a few more weeks it will go away, just like it has in the past.

Posted by Christine, a resident of Waverly Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:26 am

One last comment before I log off.

If anyone wants a copy of the email mentioned above, please let me know. I will delete the names of those that I sent it to and forward the body to you.

I don't get you.... you are the one that came and found me when I was setting up for the Silent Auction on Sat am. To tell me how sorry you were. That you were on "my side" because you have a child now going through what mine went through.
Make up your mind.

Posted by Franky, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:27 am

Teachers with mental health issues should not be teachers.

Posted by JGW, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 10:36 am

I have heard that Dr. Ghysel, Mr. Goldman and S. Totter have made a conscious decision not to do anything, so that it did get public and that their hands are not the dirty ones. It also keeps them safe in any legal matters.
Why else would something not have been done earlier with all of the parent complaints. They were fully aware of the circumstances and continue to say or do nothing. Let the community do all of the work.

Think about it.

Posted by Richard, a resident of Sylvan Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 11:43 am

What are Craig, Stephanie and Maurice doing? This is a reflection on all of them. They must be scrambling in their cubicles right now.

Posted by PARENT, a resident of Monta Loma
on Mar 27, 2009 at 12:33 pm

eric. . . . . . ANYTIME!!!

Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor
on Mar 27, 2009 at 12:51 pm

Don Frances is a registered user.

Hi everyone,

Because of the inflamed passions caused by this story, we're making this a registered-only comment thread once more, so that things slow down over the weekend and don't blow up out of control (leaving lots of hurt feelings, turned-off readers and a big job for the editorial staff on Monday). Please note that this comment thread is NOT CLOSED; you are still more than welcome to comment here after filling out this very brief registration form: Web Link. (Although we do ask that you give your name during the sign-up process, the name seen online by other Town Square users does not have to be your real name.)

Last week I set our first story on this issue to registered-only, which caused a great deal of questions and comments. I tried to address some of those here: Web Link.

Have a great weekend.

Posted by curious, a resident of Cuesta Park
on Mar 27, 2009 at 3:04 pm

curious is a registered user.

Hey Don, how about my question at the start of the thread: is the teacher still on the payroll?. Is she going to get a year off with pay and then return to her job? Sounds like a pretty sweet deal.

Come on. Speak truth to power and let us know.

Posted by Former Student, a resident of Old Mountain View
on Mar 30, 2009 at 1:57 am

Former Student is a registered user.

Mrs. P. helped many of my friends (and myself) overcome difficult social and academic disabilities. She is strong-willed, independent, and unconventional, and this scares many parents and children. I don't know details and so I of course will withhold judgement from all the complaining parents.

However, I would like to make a point here: I am 16 years old and even I know better than to write unfair, uneducated, and frankly childish remarks on a web forum. I don't care that it's "anonymous", if this is how you are raising your children to voice opinions than maybe it is the parents and not the teachers that are the problem. Now I'm probably going to get some rude and cruel comments because of this, but I consider it worth my own hurt feelings to point out that adults need to act like adults. Please consider growing up and keeping this site civil. It hurts me that so many of you are so hostile to complete strangers.

I really do wish your children well. I am a teacher myself (albeit a very young one). So if you're going to take a personal jab at me please take a breath and remember that not everybody has a personal vendetta against your kid. Feel free to tell me details and I'll buy it. Until I've got the proof, as far as I'm concerned, my dear Ms. P. is innocent until proven guilty. And common courtesy still exists so maybe take some deep breaths?

Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Mar 30, 2009 at 3:50 pm


I don't get you.... you are the one that came and found me when I was setting up for the Silent Auction on Sat am. To tell me how sorry you were. That you were on "my side" because you have a child now going through what mine went through.

Make up your mind."

Dear Christine Fortes,

When I saw you at a school district event recently, I could have easily pretended to not see you and walk right by.

Instead, it seemed that the right thing to do would be to go up to you and say I'm sorry that your child had a bad experience with Mrs P and the accompanying stress to your family. Trying to be empathetic, I confided in you that my other child had a similar experience with another teacher (in which he PERCEIVED that his teacher does not like him) and that I understood how problems like this can be hell for the entire family.

I don't recall saying that I was "on your side," just that I was sorry for what you and your child had gone through. Period.

Now I am sorry for saying ANYTHING to you, as I really did not expect you to broadcast it on a public forum.

So please understand that in the future, instead of trying to be cordial, I will, with much regret, have to pretend to not know you.


And goodbye to this conversation.

Posted by omg, a resident of North Whisman
on Mar 30, 2009 at 5:29 pm

You all sound crazy at Huff heres an idea. Why not move pact over to huff then all you wing nuts could be together