Published: Jul 19, 2012 12:44 PM
Modified: Jul 19, 2012 12:45 PM
CHAPEL HILL - A big crowd is expected to attend Thursday night’s Chapel Hill-Carrboro school board meeting to protest the involuntary transfers of Chapel Hill High School teachers Bert Wartski and Anne Thompson.
The public meeting begins at 7 p.m. in Chapel Hill Town Hall, after the school board hears from both Superintendent Thomas Forcella and the teachers in a closed session. In an interview last week, Forcella said 15 teachers are being transferred after extensive interviews with school personnel. He would not discuss the details of the decisions.
Thursday morning, Forcella sent a letter to school faculty and staff. He says the teachers being transferred were not moved because of instructional issues or to punish them “speaking one’s mind.” Both Wartski, an A.P. biology instructor, and Thompson, an honors English instructor, have opposed some school policies.
Here is the full text of the superintendent’s letter.
Dear Chapel Hill High School Faculty and Staff
I hope your summer finds you enjoying the break from routine and that you have been able to relax and enjoy the season. The purpose of this letter is to provide you with information regarding the current issue of teacher transfers.
As I stated at my meeting with you in June, I believe that the four pillars of a successful school include a clear vision, outstanding leadership, high quality instruction, and a positive school culture. Each one of these ingredients impacts the other. In short, all of these pillars need to be in place if a school and/or school district are to reach its potential in terms of student achievement.
My intent during my two spring visits with the faculty was to address the issue of culture. It was clear to me from feedback provided by you on both index cards you submitted and from the NC School Climate and Culture Survey that a climate/culture problem exists at the school. I also shared that I felt that as the superintendent I could not sit on the sidelines and not address an issue that has existed for a number of years at the school.
To address the problem a number of transfers were pursued. To be clear some of the individuals to be transferred either left the district or they took care of their assignment in some other manner. In addition, the decisions to transfer some individuals were based on my opinion after a year of observing, listening, and talking with staff members from CHHS, district staff, former staff members, parents, and SIT members. The decision was not about punishing individuals who “speak their minds about school or district policies.” In all cases the individuals to be transferred were notified in a face to face meeting.
In a collaborative culture it is important that everyone feel it is safe to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal. I want to be clear that the transfer decision was not about instruction nor was it about speaking one’s mind but rather it was about placing individuals in the right place in order to take advantage of their skills and talents. Of utmost importance was providing the best opportunity for the school to create a positive school culture.
Also, it is not my intent to implement any further involuntary transfers for the 2012-13 school year. My hope is that with a new principal who has a focus on vision, leadership, instruction and culture, CHHS will become a school that achieves at even higher levels. With all staff including teachers, administrators, and support staff pulling together with a common focus, a very good school can become one of the rare truly great learning organizations.
Finally, I realize this decision has been difficult for many of you but I urge you to do your best to assist the new principal in moving the school in a positive direction. The school requires outstanding leadership not just from the principal but also from the staff. I have witnessed many outstanding initiatives and programs at CHHS due to the effort and dedication of the individuals who work with the young people in the school. I am confident that the positive things that you all do for kids will not only continue but expand and grow as you move forward.
Thomas A. Forcella