Teacher Addresses MoCo BOE
A Montgomery County Elementary School (MCES) teacher and a former MCES School Resource Officer (SRO) approached the Montgomery County Board of Education (BOE) on Monday, November 14, with concerns about some policies and practices of the Board during the public participation segment of the regular monthly meeting.
MCES Teacher Tamra Rodgers spoke to the BOE about an ongoing situation with one of its members which has been discussed in previous Board sessions and which has continued to cause problems.
The situation first developed… “I grew up here, graduated from this school, and have always loved being an Eagle,” she reassured the Board. “Through all of life’s ups and downs, losses of loved ones, and becoming a mother of three girls who also attend this school, I have always felt supported personally, as well as professionally. I have been an employee here for 17 of my 19 years of teaching, and have never felt the need to address the Board of Education until tonight.”
Rodgers continued, “After submitting a formal complaint, along with an abundance of evidence of unprofessionalism, I received a letter from the school attorney, dated May 17, 2022, stating that this Board member was in continued from page
agreement to not contact me anymore. This Board member has not adhered to this agreement as mentioned in the letter.”
According to the teacher, the Board member has contacted her on three occasions: August 11, 2022, August 14, 2022, and November 2, 2022. “The most recent contact was the final straw for me,” Rodgers told the Board. “I am speaking to you now as an employee who does not feel protected from a Board member who has literally harassed me, mostly through social media, who has attempted to tarnish my reputation, and who has blamed me for decisions that were made in which I had zero control.”
She explained that on Halloween (October 31), she made a social media post with pictures of her family’s night of trick-ortreating, and provided the Board with a print copy of the post and comments. “On November 3, I woke up to read comments from this Board member on my personal Facebook. This Board member set out to publicly humiliate me, referring to me as “Michael Jackson” due to a cosmetic procedure I had.” Rodgers told the Board that the procedure she underwent was a common practice for those who had experienced large amounts of weight loss, which she stated she had experienced throughout the last few years.
“To try to body shame me on social media is unprofessional, unethical, and vile,” she emphasized.
The teacher shared that she believed the issue of the Board member’s behavior would not still be ongoing if the Board had acted differently in the dealing with the matter several months ago. “This has greatly affected my family, and my own physical, mental, and emotional wellbeing,” she said. “I am not here for sympathy, but more for the sake of awareness, and to show what I call ‘a slap on the wrist,’ has not only allowed a very embarrassing situation to continue, but to escalate.”
Rodgers noted, “As you know, my job is to give my students the best education I possibly can; but more importantly, my first job is to protect them, to keep them safe at all costs. As a teacher, I feel that I should be, or should have been, protected as well,” she emphasized.
Rodgers told the Board that she is aware that the Board member’s term will end in January, but that she now fears for what is to come within the situation. “If [this individual] is going to harass me as a sitting board member, what will happen when [this person] is no longer a Board member?” she questioned. “I pray no other employee will ever have to deal with anything remotely close as the harassment that I am dealing with. What steps will you put into place to protect other teachers and employees from harassment — particularly on social media — by those affiliated with our school system?”
Former Montgomery County Elementary School SRO Mickey Moore addressed the Board about practices within the School System during the public participation portion of the meeting.
“I noticed on the school website that you were looking for parent involvement,” Moore began. “We have some good parents, a great staff, great teachers, a good Board, and a good Superintendent; but our stuff just isn’t right in order.”
Moore gave as an example an experience he had while trying to get information about the School Board meetings. “When I went to look at some things on the School Board website, such as minutes, I couldn’t find anything.”
He continued, “In previous times that this has occurred, we did not have the previous month’s minutes, and I was told at the time that the last month’s minutes would not get posted until the next month, after they had been approved.”
According to Moore, this practice, and the practice of holding public participation at the opening of the meeting rather than at the conclusion, limits the public in addressing the Board. “We have no idea what you are going to say or what is being discussed later on in the meeting besides what is on the agenda, and that’s generalities.”
He added, “Also, if we’re not here, we have to wait two months until you post the minutes to read what y’all discuss.”
Moore told the Board that it is important that the public have access to the reports of meetings in order to address matters in a timely fashion.
He emphasized, “We have not gotten to the point to where we are making it beneficial or easy on the public to participate with the Board and have a say-so in how their children’s education goes about.”
He told the Board that several teachers and other members of the community contacted him with their own concerns over this matter.
“They feel intimidated enough that they cannot come before this Board to tell [you] how they feel. The only way that your policies within the schools will get better is if you listen to (teachers and community members) about the outcome of all these policies and whether they actually work,” he emphasized.
He emphasized the need for not only keeping the public and teachers informed of actions, but also advocated allowing teachers to give input on how policies are working in the classroom.
“I support everyone of you the best I can. I support the teachers and the School System, but please let’s work together to get this right. Our kids deserve to be treated fairly,” he commented.
BOE Chairman Jim Paul Poole responded to Moore’s address. “Mr. Moore implied a few things there that certainly nobody was aware of,” he said. “I think technology is a wonderful thing, but sometimes, it takes a little time to get those things right.”
He continued, “But, the other implications that I heard, have no foundation whatsoever. For the 17 years that I have been on the Board, we have appreciated and encouraged public participation, except for 4-5 years when we had a superintendent that did not allow anyone to speak at the Board meetings. That all changed, and since that time, we have gone back to public participation. I hope that we will continue to have that policy.” Poole added that sometimes the Board is not aware of problems until someone comes forward to make the Board or individual Board members aware. “So, we want to encourage the continuation of our teachers, all of personnel and the public, to come let us know and give us their opinion.”
Poole noted, “The Board does not take these things lightly. We go into executive session to discuss a lot of things in our meeting. So, don’t think you are speaking to deaf ears when you come to tell us about things we may need to take a closer look at.”
A $25,000 Term Life Insurance Policy will now be provided annually for employees after the Board’s approval at the meeting. Premiums for these policies will be paid for by the Board.