Angry Maple Grove Teacher Calls Her Sudden Transfer 'Unethical'
Kerri Jo Patten, formerly a first-grade teacher at Maple Grove Elementary School, has been reassigned to the Middle School, and she questioned the administration's decision at Monday's School Board meeting.
A Greenfield School District teacher displeased with what she felt was a surprising and unwarranted reassignment aired her grievances in front of the School Board on Monday.
Kerri Jo Patten, previously a first-grade teacher at Maple Grove Elementary School, told the board she found out at the end of the school day on June 7 that she had been reassigned to the Greenfield Middle School next year, where she will teach five different subjects.
Teacher transfers are common, according to Superintendent Conrad Farner, but the circumstances surrounding Patten’s is what has the teaching veteran confused and upset.
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Patten told the board that during her seven years with the district, her performance appraisals from administrators described her teaching as “commendable.” She said she had met twice with former Maple Grove principal Michelle Weisrock during the year and once with Farner, and was not made aware of any specific performance concerns.
“Treating employees this way is unethical, if not legal. Either way, it’s unacceptable."
But on June 7, Patten said Weisrock told her she was being reassigned and was then handed an eight-page “performance improvement document.”
“The document is full of untruths and includes false charges about practices and events that allegedly occurred over the last seven years,” Patten said. “It’s irrational to think that someone who had consistently received commendable performance reviews would suddenly receive reprimands covering that same timeframe seven years later. If these issues were real they would have been raised and investigated, documented and addressed at the time.”
Patten did not talk about specific allegations and said several colleagues experienced the same treatment that day. But she said teachers have been reluctant to speak up because of the fear of retaliation by administration
“Treating employees this way is unethical, if not legal. Either way, it’s unacceptable,” Patten said.
Farner would not address Patten’s statements made to the School Board, saying only that the administration does not discuss sensitive personnel matters in public. He did say staffing decisions are based on a number of reasons: retirements, resignations, medical leaves, maternity leaves, program changes, budget cuts, transfer requests, administrator requests, enrollment fluctuations and students’ needs.
Farner said Maple Grove had two leaves of absence, one retirement — 27-year veteran and teacher union president Doug Perry — and a “couple” resignations. He said the district also had retirements at three other schools and four other resignations.
The superintendent described the number of retirements, leaves and resignations as normal or low, and that the number of between-building transfers, such as Patten’s, might be up slightly but not abnormal.
He also said the district does not track those moves and that the district can have anywhere from zero to five annually. From this year to next, the district is currently looking at six such transfers — three Maple Grove teachers, two Edgewood teachers and one Elm Dale teacher are switching schools.
“Because we have the combination of retirements, resignations and leaves, we have opportunities to look at how we assign staff to maximize student learning,” Farner said. “And we are actually minimizing the number of transfers because of the retirements, resignations and leaves.”
The moves are made based on improving student achievement and building effective teacher teams at each grade level, according to Farner. A simple example is the educational need to have teachers who are most effective at using balanced literacy practices teaching at the primary grades to enforce strong reading habits, Farner said.
“It has been a time-consuming process involving many variables,” Farner said, “but we are confident that by matching our teachers’ skills sets, experiences, training and expertise to the appropriate grade level team, we will best serve our students.”
Resident Kathy Wiemers, whose child attends Maple Grove, believes the moves made at the school, including Patten’s, were calculated by administration and did not address parents’ concerns about lack of resources and lack of support given to teachers.
“Instead of taking responsibility, building and central office administrators manipulated that information and assigned it to the teachers who were trying to act in the best interest of the children they are supposed to be serving,” Wiemers said.
“The moves these teachers (are) making were a power play to control the culture at Maple Grove.”