Charter School Board Member Confronts Teacher, Denying Right to Counsel
Imagine being at your job, on your break, and chatting with your co-workers. You meet them sometimes for lunch or text each other in the evenings regarding your working day. You have made friends at work, which is very common. Workplace camaraderie makes the workday more enjoyable because you share, collaborate, innovate, and the world is pleasant.
Now imagine that same scenario but now your boss wants to call you into their office to talk about “concerns” they may have as they have heard you and other co-workers are chatting about workplace topics. What if the topic you were all discussing was your child and the problems they’re having in school? Why would that be a problem? We all talk to our friends and co-workers about our children, all of the time. Why is it suddenly a problem? Here is an account of a day when one teacher was scheduled to meet in the Principal’s Office for an admin-led meeting, and was denied representation with the meeting becoming combative and then, abruptly cancelled.
Our TPAU Rep describes the events surrounding an admin-led, teacher meeting from start to finish highlighting some glaring inconsistencies. The meeting was scheduled to start and our TPAU representative/advocate was ready, signed-in, and waiting in the outer office of the school. After being led to the Principal’s office with the teacher (a member of TPAU), the TPAU Rep was immediately questioned. It was explained that we are merely here for the teacher and the meeting may continue at the teacher’s approval.
The Principal sat quietly as the Administrator/CFO of this Charter School Board proceeded to get agitated and refuse to continue.
Admin (CFO): “We are going to be talking about employee/employer stuff so I don’t feel comfortable talking in front of a non-employee”.
Our Rep outlined their resume as a certified, fingerprinted, veteran, Master’s Degreed Educator whom this teacher has requested to represent them in this meeting but apparently this was not good enough for this charter school CFO. Even though the teacher gave verbal consent in the room, and without consulting the principal in any way, she proceeded to tell me she cannot share employee information.
The TPAU Rep asks, “Are you denying this teacher her right to counsel/representation?”
The administrator steps around the question but continued to say she is not comfortable having us here.
The TPAU Rep proceeds to explain to the CFO that this teacher has the right to have friends on campus and the right to speak to others regarding her son, rendering the need for a meeting like this, unnecessary.
The administrator (CFO) informed us (the teacher and TPAU Rep) that this meeting has nothing to do with that topic and is only between employer and employee. The teacher said, no problem and let’s talk about whatever it is you wish to discuss.
The TPAU Rep explains that the teacher has the right to representation of her choosing during meetings and wishes us to stay no matter the topic.
The administrator (CFO) never once consults with the principal, who is sitting silently in the corner of the room as if stunned by what is happening in her office.
Our TPAU Rep explains to the administrators that we are simply here to help the teacher understand her rights and to appropriately understand admin’s wishes and directives so nothing is misconstrued. We explain how easy it is for information to get lost in translation. Our Rep also offers to step out of the room, if the teacher wishes but the administrator (CFO) completely ignores this and continues to say she will not continue this meeting.
She says, “I am the employer and I do not have an arrangement with you. If you have one with the teacher that is fine, that’s your business but I do not have an arrangement with you”.
The teacher clearly states she is not feeling comfortable to meet without representation, at this point.
The Admin says, “Oh, ok”.
Our TPAU Rep further explains that as a public charter school accepting public funds, they must avail themselves to charter system as described in ARS Title 15 and the teacher is entitled to representation regarding anything about her employment as a teacher. The administrator says, “I feel like you feel like your role right now is to educate us on how to run our school and it’s not going to be.”
Our Rep says, “It might be but we are not intending to educate you but to help the teacher understand…”
Admin (CFO) interrupts “…can you understand I have an employment agreement with the teacher…”
TPAU Rep: “…It is irrelevant. This is a publicly funded school…”
Admin (CFO): “…I understand all of that. I don’t need to be educated on that so…”
TPAU Rep: “…I’m sorry you feel attacked, I’m just here for the teacher…”
Admin (CFO): “…well how do you expect me to feel when you just come in here unannounced? I don’t know your credentials, I don’t know you from Adam and you just come into a meeting you were not invited to…”
TPAU Rep: “…I am entitled to…”
Admin (CFO): “…How would you feel if this were to happen to you? Ambushed!”
TPAU Rep: “I would actually feel blessed because there would be another person in the room to help my employee understand…”
Admin (CFO): “We have lots of people in the room that are her advocates and we advocate for our employees…”
TPAU Rep: “…maybe if you had expressed that to the teacher so she can understand she doesn’t have to feel trapped in a corner…”
Admin (CFO): “…I am one of them and actually (addresses the teacher) that’s why I am here today, to talk to you about just you, and that’s exactly the words I used. I am the CFO, I have an HR role and I am an administrator and I am an advocate for all the employees but this is making it sound like someone is telling me we don’t have advocates for our employees and we are doing inappropriate things, and I don’t appreciate that!”
**Again, Principal sits quietly in the room, saying nothing or even moving.
Teacher: “I don’t think that was in intention. I have taught in many schools and I have always been allowed representation…”
Admin (CFO): “…but we don’t have a union here…”
Teacher: “Right but I am saying this is not meant to be adversarial it’s just that sometimes you need someone there to interpret like when you go to a doctor and you bring more than one set of ears..”
Admin (CFO) interrupts: “…that’s what I am here for; for me to be the 3rd party, to be your advocate, to be your voice, that’s my responsibility for all 100 of you.”
Teacher: “…and I understand but I think it has gotten muddy…”
Admin (CFO) interrupts: “…absolutely and that’s what I wanted to talk about and I don’t need an advocate here to talk about that.”
Teacher: “…but I do…”
Admin (CFO) then shuts down the meeting, asking the TPAU Rep for a card, which was given immediately. Admin asks if TPAU does this for any schools and our Rep says, “We do this for any parents, teachers, administrators who are having difficulty understanding the school system…”
The Admin reiterates that this is an employer/employee relationship and that advocating for a parent is much different than advocating for a teacher. The Administrator (CFO) proceeds to walk us to the door and ask, “Can I ask you to clarify then, that you are not capable or willing to meet with us, your employer, without this person being in the room?”
Teacher: “Right now, yes.
Admin (CFO): “Ok, then that really limits us with what we can do to understand our relationship because (looking at the TPAU Rp) you are not here all of the time like we are. We in good faith want to repair this relationship but can’t if you are always relying on a 3rd party to repair the relationship.”
Teacher: “I am not relying, I just would like another set of ears…”
Admin (CFO): “…that’s us…that’s us…that’s why we are here…”
Administrator (CFO) continues to lecture about their successes and she walks us out of the Principal’s office. Finally she states, “I’m not denying anything. I am cancelling the meeting.”
The teacher and TPAU Rep then leave the office area, as was requested by the Administrator (CFO). The principal of this Charter school campus, never said a word.
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The CFO of this local charter school is known to roam the halls, pulling select teachers away from their classrooms full of students, to “talk”. Doesn’t this Charter School Board Member and CFO know that legally, if a Certified Educator/teacher leaves a room full of their students unattended, they could be fired or sued for abandonment? Apparently a “talk” was so important that this administrator felt it necessary to have the teachers commit such a violation. In a regular workplace this might not seem odd but in a school situation with a classroom full of children, this seems very unusual. It might interest the general public to know that this happens more often than we’d like to think; leaving children unattended. This very act violates the Peace and Tranquility of the Education System, allowing openings for bullying, destruction, cheating, and possible bodily harm.
As this Charter School Board Member/CFO randomly pulls teachers from their rooms and engages in a divide and conquer maneuver, the principal of the school is emailing meeting notices to said teachers for a “meeting”, with no clear stated purpose. Is this an attempt to quiet talking co-workers individually prior to a meeting to gain an advantage or to simply bully one into submission? We shall see.
We hear on the news all of the time, “We are having a Teacher Shortage!” or “Teachers are Leaving the profession all of the time because of Low Pay!” or “Working Conditions are so poor, we cannot effectively offer Quality Education!” or “Fully Fund the Schools!”. Those who believe this are either listening to the media, are not a teacher/work in the education system, or do not have children in school. I’m sorry people but this applies to public, charter, or private Educators across every grade level and subject. Entitlement in an administration or school board will cause a disconnect and teachers to feel disenfranchised.
*For more information about the definition of teachers (Certified Educators) and their rights, please head to out Menu, “Community” Section, and click “Teachers/Administration”.