Sunday, January 3, 2010

The toughest week: part 2

Mitchell, our nice, smart, talented vice principal who I really liked, resigned the week before Christmas vacation. :(

A few of the other teachers had suspected something was up. On Tuesday, one woman whispered to me ominously, "Mitchell's desk looked awfully clean this morning." Then there was a leadership meeting with all the administrators on Thursday morning that went on forever. And on Friday, he was absent. "There's an important board meeting this morning," one of the other teachers told me. "Why would he call in sick today of all days?"

At 3:00 that afternoon, we got our answer. Mitchell sent an e-mail to the whole staff (except for Joyce, the principal) with the subject line CONFIDENTIAL. He wrote:

"Good afternoon.
I wanted to do this in person today, but sadly, Joyce asked me not to come in. I am writing to let you know that I have presented my letter of resignation effective 3 pm today. There are a whole host of reasons why this decision is best for me at this time. However, there is one that is most important as it relates to each of you. My role as Vice Principal should have been one of instructional leader, decision-maker, mediator, advisor, supporter, advocate, supervisor... None of these functions were able to be performed to the best of my ability and for the best interest of the students because of the approach of those to whom I answered.

Needless to say, this is not a choice I anticipated having to make at this point in the school year, nor do I expect it to be an easy transition for you. I am sure some of you will even be angry at me and frustrated by my decision. I understand this and you should know that the middle school team is the only reason I struggled with this decision for this long. I am confident that you will move forward best serving our students and families no matter who is in leadership.

Thank you for your unending support and your dedication to our important work. Know that I care deeply for you, even after such a short time together. Be assured that I am here for you and welcome you to be in touch if you ever need anything. My e-mail is _____ and cell number is _____.

I am sorry that this has had to happen via e-mail. I will miss you and wish you and your families a very well deserved holiday break."

We were all in shock, reading it. Mitchell was so dedicated, and so supportive and motivating when the math teacher and then the English teacher quit -- and now HE was resigning. I wonder if Joyce threatened to fire him and he said, "You can't fire me -- I quit!" There was definitely no love lost between the two of them. (During one of our professional development sessions, he gleefully high-fived people as soon as Joyce left the room.)

There was also a -- well, "scandal" is too strong a word, but an "issue," shall we say, with the report card grades. When report cards were due in early December, the administration suddenly realized we hardly had any math or English grades for the kids -- the subs certainly don't get paid to grade papers, so they hadn't. Mitchell and a few of the specialists scrambled to figure out what assignments had been given and what grades the kids deserved. In English, a lot of the kids hadn't taken the sub's assignments seriously, so they'd barely done any work; therefore, they got really low grades on their report cards. But their parents hit the roof, so Mitchell ended up writing a letter to all the parents saying he understood their concerns, and that each student would instead be given the grade they'd received in English during the last quarter of the previous schoolyear, since those grades were higher. ??? That didn't make much sense to me. But one of the specialists who'd helped figure out the grades told me she asked Mitchell point blank, "Could I lose my job over this?"

He assured her, "No, you're safe. If anyone's going to be out over this, it'll be me."

So, I feel like we don't know the whole story, and we probably never will. But I'll miss Mitchell a lot. It'll be sad to go back to school from Christmas break tomorrow, knowing he won't be there. :(

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