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School district confirms Polifrone's departure

Original post made on Sep 8, 2009

Patty Polifrone, the longtime teacher at the Mountain View Whisman School District whose "tough love" teaching style sparked a backlash among some parents, has left the district effective Sept. 1, according to school administrators.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Tuesday, September 8, 2009, 4:01 PM

Comments (26)

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Posted by Macho Man
a resident of Martens-Carmelita
on Sep 8, 2009 at 4:51 pm

[Post removed]

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Posted by Teacher
a resident of Whisman Station
on Sep 8, 2009 at 5:05 pm

I've heard the same rumor that she took a job in another district in the South Bay. So in the end, the MV district just passed the problem to another district without any warning. Ridiculous.

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Posted by Bertha
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 8, 2009 at 5:55 pm

Good ridden!!!

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Posted by Jay
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 8, 2009 at 6:54 pm

Even in the aftermath this school district cannot be up front. A deal was obviously struck. Teachers don't move between districts without recommendations from the previous district.

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Posted by localmom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2009 at 8:45 pm

Basically if you think your child is being verbally abused/harassed in school by an employee, and your initial complaint is not addressed to your satisfaction and your child is supposed to spend 6 hours a day with this person, then notify local law enforcement. Not only that, you can call Child Protective Services on a teacher, day care provider, dance instructor, etc. They will investigate your complaint whether the district wants to protect the teacher or not. Same with the police. Just work outside the system, as the system does not work, obviously.
For example, you can document your claims with the MV police and ask for a Restraining Order for a Minor due to harassment. Good luck to all you parents out there.

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Posted by localmom
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 8, 2009 at 8:48 pm

One more thing, there is a legal complaint called "annoying a child" which is a misdemeanor. This can bring jail time on the person who commits such acts. Honestly, the schools sound bound and determined to protect teachers rather than kids. Try the cops or CPS next time, when you think "there should be a law against that!".

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Posted by Stacey
a resident of Cuernavaca
on Sep 9, 2009 at 6:54 am

If laws were being broken, or at least laws that the police and CPS would follow through on, aren't the school admninistrators all guilty of a criminal conspiracy in this regard? Where are the lawyers when you need them?

On another matter, if MVWSD administrators passed this teacher off to another school district, what does that tell you about their own agenda.

"She has resigned," confirmed Stephanie Totter, director of administrative services for the district. "My understanding is she is planning to move out of the area." Give me a break. That's that typically canned response you get when you try to get a straight forward answer from these people.

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Posted by Steve
a resident of The Crossings
on Sep 9, 2009 at 7:07 am

Say what you like, but fourth grade STAR scores at Huff were way up this last year, and mostly due to Polifrones tough love approach.

I say put some blame on the Voice for running a witch hunt based on rumor. I know I sure would hate to be tried and convicted in the newspaper by the words of middle schoolers and a few disgruntled parents.

But far more blame goes to the MVWSD adminstrators of all this. The wizards of spin, who time and again lack the courage and integrity to stand up and admit there's a problem, and moreover fix it.

These people would have been long gone in any real professional organization with a bottom line.

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Posted by Citizen
a resident of another community
on Sep 9, 2009 at 9:20 am

Any human resources department in the country, whether in education or in the business world, will deal with a resigning employee the exact same way. Just ask the HR department in your company what sort of information they give to other employers who call for recommendations. They will most likely tell you that their policy is to provide only verification of employment, whether the employee was fantastic or a total disaster. Again, everyone is always so quick to blame the district for following the same rules and procedures that every HR department follows.

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Posted by Zorro
a resident of Rex Manor
on Sep 9, 2009 at 2:24 pm

"Good ridden"?!?!?!

English, do you speak?

Invest in a dictionary.

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Posted by curious
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 9, 2009 at 2:58 pm

The LA Times, of all places, is really on top of the teachers' unions out of control story. Here is an interesting article:
Web Link

Here is an excerpt:

"To cite just one terrible example, a New York City teacher is paid more than $100,000 not to teach. Thank her powerful union. ... (the teacher), who makes more than $100,000 per year, nonetheless insists she is a prisoner of conscience forced to spend her workdays in the rubber room -- at full pay -- until the system can adjudicate her case. She cannot be fired, at least not without the school district spending gobs on legal fees, because she has tenure and her union, the United Federation of Teachers, would rather protect 1,000 lousy teachers than let one good teacher be fired unfairly.

So (the teacher) and her rubber-roomies report for duty typically from 8:15 a.m. to 3:45 p.m. every school day and do nothing. They all get the usual vacations, including the entire summer off."

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Posted by HS dropout
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 9, 2009 at 3:56 pm

There is a good chance that her new employer has no clue about what happened at her previous position. The east side is desperate for teachers. Their current sup. was hired without a clear explanation of why he quit his previous Socal job (SJMN article).

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Posted by Jane
a resident of North Whisman
on Sep 9, 2009 at 5:01 pm

Glad to see her go. Sorry for the school that gets her.

2 people like this
Posted by heard this before
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 9, 2009 at 6:41 pm

First off - the district cannot respond to any personnel issue in any way. They can neither confirm nor defend what is being said. True, they may be bound by union laws that won't allow them to dismiss the teacher but to imply they don't care about the kids is absurd. We've been here before, a few loud, disgruntled parents get the ear of The Voice and we all hear one side of the story and are appalled. REPEAT - the school district CANNOT respond! Many of you are comfortable condemning a person with only limited information - what a terrible example for your children, you should be ashamed! Arm yourself with the facts before you drag another human being through the mud. I don't even know this woman but I am sorry for the disgraceful behavior of so many.

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Posted by Patio Bear
a resident of Blossom Valley
on Sep 10, 2009 at 10:12 am

Well said 'heard this before'. My sentiments exactly.

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Posted by frustrated beyond belief
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 11, 2009 at 12:04 am

I fully agree with Heard This Before, but I think Steve has a point.

When was the last time the Superintendent or Trustees publicly managed a challenging issue transparently and with integrity?

Seriously, I'm trying to remember.

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Posted by Ex MVWSD Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 12, 2009 at 2:15 pm

Calling abuse "tough love" shows that along with Steve, you side with the abuser's apologists and enablers. If this were a real newspaper you would have the name of the new school where she is teaching.

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Posted by Ex MVWSD Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 12, 2009 at 2:24 pm

We left the public schools in large part because they are run by "Heard This Before" and his/her ilk. There was overwhelming evidence in the Polifrone case. But always protect the bureaucracy and the teachers, blame the students and the parents.

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Posted by Karen Green
a resident of Shoreline West
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:47 am

I wrote an Op Ed in support of Pat Polifrone a few months ago that went over like a lead balloon. I did lay it a bit thick, I admit, but I felt she needed some support.

I've been a parent/stepparent in this school district for eleven years and she is pretty benign considering the spectrum of teacher behavior I've witnessed. I was a PACT parent at Slater, but I also volunteered in neighborhood classrooms and worked as an Instructional Aide in 2001. I've seen teachers treat children much, much worse than Mrs. P.

I reported an abusive 3rd Grade teacher to a principal. That teacher screamed at me in front of the students, and screamed at a child for not making his E's "perfect." When he erased his work, he made holes in the crappy newsprint, so she screamed at him again. Then he put his head on his desk and cried. He'd been learning cursive for two weeks.

That principal investigated for herself, saw what I was talking about, and kept that teacher on her toes for the rest of the year by dropping into her classroom at random to "read to the kids." The teacher came to me and complained that she felt stressed and anxious because her boss was now in and out of her classroom. Cry me a river. From then on, she was all smiles with me because she knew if she screwed up on my watch, I'd do something about it.

At least Mrs. P cared that kids did well in school; she rewarded good behavior and good work. As Steve said, Pat raised achievement. I worked with a 5th Grade teacher who was openly rude to me and the children, and complained loudly they were lazy and never did their work. It's no wonder she couldn't motivate them; I couldn't stand being near her myself.

I'm curious why Pat's story made the paper. Perhaps someone's goal was to run her out of town. However, in the middle of an education crisis, it would have been more productive to get a teacher with a proven testing track record sensitivity training rather than pushing her out.

Frankly, that piece I wrote was not just about Mrs. P, it was a test of our District administrators. Two of our school board members had nice things to say about it, but when I brought them an extremely serious complaint about one of our "community collaborators", their silence was deafening.

I wrote an Op Ed critical of that "community collaborator" and the editor who was eager to publish me over Mrs. P was oddly silent over my second piece, which described behavior that is frankly illegal. Et tu, Voice? I'm curious to see if this comment is removed by the editors.

Frankly, if anyone thinks the Mrs. P story is shocking, just you wait.

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Posted by Ex MVWSD Parent
a resident of Waverly Park
on Sep 13, 2009 at 8:33 pm

Spill it on the collaborator! If it's illegal, call the police.
I had forgotten that "collaborator" had a positive connotation, or does it?

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Posted by parent
a resident of another community
on Sep 14, 2009 at 2:41 pm

Good grief it's hard to resist jumping into the frying pan...

1. When my child had to write about a hero or favorite person in 5th grade, then again in 6th grade, she wrote about her 4th grade teacher Mrs. P. All of my child's elementary grade teachers were outstanding and Mrs. P was no exception. She bent over backwards to make learning fun and participatory. She certainly did teach straight from the textbook..."read the chapter, answer the questions" like many teachers do. She infused creativity and fun into all academic areas. My daughter adored Mrs. P and Mrs. P loved her students.

2. Yes Mrs. P has a certain "New York-ish" style, for lack of a better description. She could be blunt but it was absolutely refreshing that we always knew exactly what she meant. This is in sharp contrast to our current board members and district administrators, whose words and actions are miles apart.

3. There are some schools/districts/students for whom Mrs. P is the ONLY kind of teacher that could be effective. Maybe Huff was a little too genteel, but there are students whose behavior is completely out of control, and can only learn in a classroom with a teacher who runs a tight ship and speaks in way they understand. How absolutely unfair that a good teacher now has a horrible public reputation, simply because....

4. ...the school and district administrators were, for whatever reason, unwilling or unable to handle the complaints of a handful of parents who finally became so frustrated with the lack of action at the district that they had to take their gripe to the local newspaper!

5. if you feel so strongly about this issue, I suggest you GO TO THE SCHOOL BOARD MEETINGS and speak up.

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Posted by parent of past Mrs. P student
a resident of Cuesta Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 4:08 pm

I did not post a comment when this issue came up at the end of the school year, and I think I regret not saying anything.
People are diverse so it is understandable why some parents think that Patty's actions were acceptable and others did not. What is okay for my children may be completely unacceptable for your child.

My son was in Patty's class and just like the parent that was posting months ago, my son was also made to mix some powder in Pattys water bottle which I found to be a bit strange, but then for months he was made to wash her personal dirty dishes from lunch, this was crossing the line. There were many times that I witnessed Patty speaking inappropriately about her husband and other personal issues and screaming at children and parents. I can not speak for other parents, but when I went to the principal to address the issue, there was no follow through and he did not get back to me with what he said he would. It escalated to the board and to Ms Totter and again no one got back to me.
School can be hard enough as it is with the pressures of friends, school work, growing, sex and drugs. I keep thinking of those 'lost' and desperate teens that are stepping in front of trains because they can not see any other way to deal with their life. We teach our children that school is safe and that teachers are safe. My son did not feel this way at all. He was continually embarrassed and humiliated. Now again this may be okay for some parents... this may be how you get your children to learn... but it was not okay for me.
I am glad that someone finally spoke up and I am glad that the Voice printed the article. I do feel sorry for Ms. Polifrone because she did care about her children and unfortunately at the expense of other children. This is not okay. It is too bad that these problems were not addressed years and years ago when her behavior may have been modified and we would not have to trade some children self esteem for another that is okay with being yelled at.
If this was a business and she was an employee that had 3o customers and 5 of those were miserable... it would be her boss's job to make sure she changed her ways and that all 30 (or maybe 29) were happy, or they would find a job that she could do more with more consistency.
If her boss did nothing then it would be his or her fault.
Why would the business of our school system be any different. if I went to work and my boss was screaming and degrading and having me wash her dishes (even though I was getting paid), I would check my job description. My child was at school to get an education and grow socially not was dishes and administer meds/vitamins or whatever. Looking back he did not do much growing that year at all but is that something that is okay because your child had a successful year with her? One does not justify the other. ALL children need to feel safe at school, no exceptions.

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Posted by tax paying dad of 2
a resident of Old Mountain View
on Sep 14, 2009 at 4:16 pm

Resigned??? Give me a break, don't you think this would have happened earlier? I guess putting her into a middle school that Huff students feed into was not such a good idea after all. Do you know how many parents at Graham complained?

Resigned??? I don't think so... I know that she was Paid Not to Teach. Yes, I pay my taxes and I would think that this is information the public should have access to, since if you think about it, I paid for her to go away.
If there is anyone that has the details please inform us all? Do it anonymously if you need to. Just someone speak up.

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Posted by Reader
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Sep 14, 2009 at 5:52 pm

I blame the board and administration for handling this all wrong. It bothers me not knowing what other skeletons are hiding in the closets. I too once went to the principal and the district office, Ms. Totter, with an issue and was made to feel a little strange for having done so. The issue of Ms. Polifrone suggest other issues in the district that still need to be addressed. Perhaps now is the time to send accept Ms. Totter's resignation as well.

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Posted by Former Student
a resident of Sylvan Park
on Dec 11, 2009 at 3:15 pm

to Mrs. P student, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood.

For the record ms was a great teacher. Although she had interesting moments she was a good intentioned person. Also its no more wierd than making kids put their heads down. So wake up, [portion removed] she was the best teacher I ever had.

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Posted by Watchdog
a resident of St. Francis Acres
on May 11, 2011 at 1:17 pm

What gives? According to the Public Employee database, the teacher who "resigned" in 2009, was the highest paid teacher in the district in 2010!

Polifrone, Patricia E Teacher Substitutes $112,500

Sorry, but further commenting on this topic has been closed.

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