Monroe teachers claim district bullied them
Disagreement over math curriculum leads to redoing selection process
Teachers united at last week's Monroe school board meeting wore stickers that said "Teachers Care".
MONROE — The Monroe School Board gritted its teeth over a disagreement on the math curriculum for Monroe schools at last week’s board meeting which left an indecisive chasm on what kids will be learning next year.
The board selected curriculum materials for everything except middle level math, which went to a separate 3-2 split vote with no decision.
Classroom teachers disagree with the district’s math curriculum selection and prefer a different set of textbooks.
Furthermore, the teacher’s union president stated teachers faced bullying by the district when teachers tried to raise their opposition on the curriculum.
Because of the impasse, this means the lengthy process of choosing a math curriculum will be reset, according to school officials.
A groundswell of teachers prodded by the union to speak up at last week’s meeting left the board with a quandary on the night of their set apex point to make a decision. The board took the topic to a closed-door discussion and came out with no consensus, and the board’s president openly questioned if the selection process was tainted.
The competing curriculum plans are Core Focus Math and Big Ideas Math. Both are Common Core Standards compliant, as statewide the criticized Common Core system comes into classrooms next year.
The process to select Big Ideas Math, which these teachers oppose, started months ago.
“Starting this process over this late in the game is not going to work for anybody,” school board member Jason Hutchinson said.
Middle school math teacher Annette Woolley, who supports Core Focus, displayed a passionate
advocacy effort for the curriculum.
Woolley said Core Focus is better for students.
“It is very clear, concise, and the textbook is strong,” Woolley said. “It is easier for parents to use. The online resources for parents to use are excellent.”
School board members countered that teachers were given the chance for input long ago, and said favoring a different curriculum deviated from the process.
“I believe we need to respect the policies and procedures that we’ve followed for years,” seasoned board member Jim Scott said. “This has gone through the entire process. And while it was split at the middle school math committee, a lot of those people said they would support (Big Ideas).”
Board president Katy Woods suggested there may have been a misinterpretation or “a breakdown in the process.”
“There’s just something that I just don’t feel right about moving forward,” Woods said. “But I don’t want to make us go backwards by not having a curriculum for next year.”
Monroe Education Association teachers union president Shaerie Bruton, who had spoken grievances to the board May 12 about teachers feeling bullied, intimidated and threatened to not speak up by the district was present at the meeting but did not speak before the board last week.
Post-meeting, Bruton said she was advocating for teachers and the desired curriculum.
Teachers should be able to speak up without retaliation, Bruton said.
Bruton’s efforts shed light on the curriculum issue and attracted a large crowd to last week’s meeting with teachers and supporters wearing adhesive badges that read, “Teachers Care.” People from outside the district came, wearing altered badges such as “Lake Stevens Cares,” “Skykomish Cares” and “Pilchuck Cares” to show support for teachers and the teachers’ union.
The badges and unceremonious spotlight on the teachers’ grievance seemed to inspire a few others to speak up on the alleged district “bullying” of teachers.
Former Monroe teacher Shane Fortune said he was deeply affected by anxiety from bullying during his time at the district. He said he knew of another Monroe teacher who had a similar experience.
“Recently, (Bruton) told the school directors that many of the teachers in the Monroe School District are living in fear and feel that they are being bullied, but that they are afraid to speak up for fear of retaliation,” Fortune said. “I urge the school directors to look into these allegations. I was a victim of bullying when I taught here in the school district. Mental torture leaves emotional scars on its victims long after the bullying stops.”
Woollley hopes the board will pivot to selecting the teacher-favored Core Focus curriculum next month. She said the board’s indecision last week sparked some hope in her.
The board will have to choose a curriculum, but they said they would decide in September. Few people said that will be too late.
“I’m very happy with the board’s decision tonight,” Woolley said. “I think they really did a good job of listening to the teachers’ input. I know that they did have a very difficult decision to make.”
Board members said the decision-making process turned into something nobody wanted.
“Whatever we do, people will be unhappy,” Scott said. “If community members that sent letters continue to support the committee’s decision — that they could support either program, is a step ahead for this district. We’re hearing from one individual and her supporters that there’s a huge difference in the quality of the programs. The committee didn’t find that. Either way, we’re disrespecting the wishes of the teachers. It’s a lose-lose situation. I wish it hadn’t turned into this, but it has.”
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