Thursday, October 13, 2005

Making A Stand In The Land Of Enchantment

New Mexico's Teacher of the Year, Nancy Schick, is standing-up for what she believes is right: (emphasis added)
Nancy Schick, 2005 State Teacher of the Year, addressed the Los Alamos Board of Education with a serious allegation against one of their own at Tuesday night's school board meeting.

Schick, a long time Los Alamos High School history teacher, told the board that she wanted to bring a troubling matter to their attention.

She said a board member pressured a teacher at the high school to change the grade given to the board member's child.

When the teacher did not change the child's grade, Schick said, the board member entered the high school guidance office, requested a grade change form, took it to the teacher and pressured the teacher to fill it out.

She said the teacher felt intimidated and coerced by the board member and changed the grade.

"This is clearly an abuse of power by the board member," Schick said. "A board member's position is akin to that of a coach who is also a parent to a child. Sometimes the child has to take second place in the interest of the team. You can't be an advocate for your child in the same way you might be if you were not on the board."

Schick did not name the board member or teacher and also declined to reveal the names following the meeting.

In a telephone interview this morning, Board Vice President Louie Janecky said she is the school board member of which Schick spoke.

"She was talking about me and everything she said was a lie," Janecky said. "Last year, my son got a "D" in German, I talked to the German teacher, Anita Boshier, about the grade and she said it was OK to bring it up with extra credit work. There was no pressure. My son did the extra credit work and then the teacher said she was told she had overstepped her bounds and couldn't change the grade. I was told she could and when my son asked her about his grade, she told him to have me find out the process to change it."

Janecky said she was given a change of grade form by the school secretary and that no one told her the change of grade forms were only for teachers. She added that she sent the form along to Boshier with her son. She said she did not go to the classroom and did not pressure Boshier to sign it.

This morning, other members of the board weighed in on the abuse of power issue raised by Schick.

School Board President Ken Johnson said he was blindsided by Schick's allegations at Tuesday's board meeting and did not want to comment without having all the facts.

However, "If the allegations are true as stated," he said, "this behavior is inappropriate for a board member."

School Board Secretary Morrie Pongratz responded from a Colorado store as he traveled north to help harvest his brother's corn crop.

"Asking a teacher to change a grade is a very inappropriate action for a school board member to take," Pongratz said.

Board member Alison Beckman said, "I definitely think a school board member can't use their position to their kid's advantage; however, in this instance, I don't know if the accusation is true or not."

Board member Steve Girrens said he can't judge because he doesn't have all the facts on this situation.

"But we need to be continuously cognizant of the role we serve as members of the board and collectively we must set the highest standards," Girrens said.

Assistant Superintendent Barbara Lange said this morning the district cannot comment on the situation because issues involving individual students and individual teachers are protected and discussing them would be a violation of their rights to privacy.

The next board meeting is scheduled for Oct. 27.
Allegations of abuse of power, cover-ups, cronyism, and a lone teacher taking a public stand in defense of a fellow educator. You can be sure that we will be keeping an eye on this one.

Stay tuned.
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