CREST HILL – Richland School District 88a teachers have issued a vote of no confidence in the superintendent and principal citing workplace harassment and a failure to improve student achievement.
The teachers union presented the vote of no confidence in Superintendent Michael Early, which was supported by 39 out of 44 teachers, at a school board meeting Wednesday. Also, 33 out of 44 teachers voted having no confidence in Principal Kelly Whyte.
Union Vice President Steve Camp said only tenured teachers voted because the union wanted to prevent retaliation to nontenured staff.
“For several years, the staff has been bullied and administrative decisions have gone against the kids,” said Camp, also a sixth grade teacher at Richland Middle School.
However, the board issued a statement in support of Early and Whyte at the meeting.
“This board has full confidence in Dr. Michael Early and Kelly Whyte,” board President Julie Starasinich said. “This board also has confidence in our teachers. The board recognizes it has a climate issue and is fully committed to working collaboratively to resolve this and any other issues for the benefit of this district and its students.”
Some members of the board told the union they were unaware of the work climate issues, Camp said.
Teachers claim Early has engaged in multiple acts of bullying and intimidation of staff members, Camp said.
One of those claims materialized in a lawsuit from 2012 in which a teacher claims another teacher called her “fat” and “pregnant.” The suit claimed that administrators didn’t do enough to remedy the situation.
Teachers say Whyte made many administrative decisions that hindered staff’s ability to teach and improve student success, including changing schedules multiple times and shifting classroom hours to study hall time.
Camp said teachers have repeatedly expressed concern about a “hostile” work environment to the board over several years, including a 2012 survey that includes at least 40 teachers’ complaints about the work environment.
Starasinich, speaking for both the school board and the administration, acknowledged that the board has met with the union about work climate issues. But she dismissed the union’s claims Wednesday as “generic” and “not based in fact.”
“We’ve spent considerable time addressing the climate,” Starasinich said. “Climate is an issue in many districts, not just our own.”
Starasinich also said that no one has formally filed any complaint about Early or grievance with her as board president as outlined in the school board manual.
“There is a procedure they have to follow,” Starasinich said. “If they don’t follow that procedure, we can’t act because it opens up the board and district to slander.”