Monday, June 11, 2018

Chamblee Charter High School Teachers Regarding Recent Developments

This is just insane what is going on with CCHS...Below is a letter that will be distributed today....Come on DCSD do right by these these staff members, teachers and students!!!

It was announced at the BOE Community Input session that another Chamblee Assistant Principal had turned in her resignation - Ms. Steadman.  Ms. Steadman has been named as Spalding High School Assistant Principal for Instruction:


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Dear Parents,


A gracious thank you to all the parents who attended the CCHS Governing Board “listening session” last week. Many of us felt heartened by the passion of the parents, our general agreement that the current administration is highly detrimental to the work environment of the teachers and the educational environment of our kids, and that the board appeared to be with us on these issues.

While we hope that the CCHS Governing Board recommends that DCSS remove Principal Braaten, there is no indication that Braaten is going anywhere. Her actions since the teacher and parent survey results were made public only indicate that she is not inclined to even acknowledge a problem: she has neither reached out to teachers (that we know of) nor made tangible action to rectify our disagreements.

We urge all Chamblee stakeholders to attend the DeKalb Board of Education meeting Monday, June 11, at 6:30 pm, in the J. David Williamson Board Room in the Robert R. Freeman Administrative Complex, 1701 Mountain Industrial Blvd., Stone Mountain, Georgia. Those who have already signed up to speak will be able to do so, but we also need large numbers to show up and support our school. We hope those numbers will illustrate to the Board the gravity of the situation. Wear blue!

While we don’t speak for every CCHS teacher, we are part of a group of more than thirty teachers who signed a letter at the end of the school year seeking Principal Braaten’s removal. That letter is included below for those who may not have seen it.  The teachers who signed the enclosed letter represent one-third of the teachers at Chamblee, though other teachers did not sign out of fear of retribution.

Here are the issues as we see them:

1.       Mismanagement: Principal Braaten has failed to properly execute her duties as leader of the school.
·         We understand that there is no master schedule for the upcoming school year. This is typically completed in the spring, and it tells teachers which classes they will teach (so they can prepare over summer), and students which classes they will take. The master schedule is the responsibility of the Assistant Principal for Instruction, Candace Steadman, but Principal Braaten has apparently decided she will create the master schedule - and she has so far failed to do so.   As a result, even at this late date teachers do NOT know what classes Ms Braaten expects them to be teaching next year, and therefore teachers are prevented from preparing to teach your children. The necessary preparation cannot be done properly in only a week or two in July and August on the eve of a new school year - especially if teachers will be expected to teach subjects they have not taught in the last year or two. This is a massive failure of leadership, an example of Ms. Braaten’s refusal to cooperatively work with the teachers and her own administrative staff, and a direct impediment to your child’s success next school year.
·         The school’s budget was not delivered to the CCHS Governing Board in a timely manner, nor was proper input sought from department chairs or stakeholders.
·         We further understand that the principal is going to implement a “freshman academy” in only two months. We have not been consulted about this academy, we have not been informed how such an academy will be integrated into the school, and have not been informed regarding how such an academy will impact (or possibly even preclude) advanced freshman from taking advanced classes. For example, will an advanced math student still be allowed to take higher level math with upperclass students?  We as your students’ teachers literally do not know because we have not been told, much less included in any planning to try to make such an academy successful. As educators we are astounded that such a massive undertaking is being implemented with literally no consultation with, much less input from, the teachers who will be tasked with making this work.
·         Rather than dealing with personnel issues herself, Principal Braaten has repeatedly escalated issues beyond the schoolhouse and called in DCSS administrators to handle issues, and, in one case, the police. Here we are noting the removal of Herr Neuhaus from his classroom, as well as the incident in which Mr. Berryman was falsely accused of being intoxicated at work. Additionally, police were called to interrogate Dr. Milne regarding his concerns over Braaten’s furtive methods for determining Teacher of the Year. Some of these incidents took place in full of view of students.
·         Faculty meetings are an important venue for communication, discussion and collaboration. They give faculty a chance to ask questions and to contribute to solutions. But Principal Braaten held only two full faculty meetings all year, both in the fall. Neither was collaborative.
·         Required evaluations of Assistant Principals were not completed as outlined by the Georgia Department of Education. Ms. Braaten did not follow GADOE’s timeline for entering evaluation information for her administrative staff.
·         Assistant Principals have reported that they were given no explicit directives, but rather heard through gossip or second-hand what Ms. Braaten wanted them to do. Although a small number of meetings were held with APs and Ms. Braaten, these meetings were not collaborative.
·         Organizers of school events (athletics, field trips, student government, etc.) have complained that they have repeatedly asked for information, resources, and answers to crucial organizational questions and so on, and have failed to receive timely answers, solutions to problems, or even (in many cases) responses at all.

In sum, Principal Braaten has shown she wishes to be a micro-manager of school matters, yet has failed to efficiently and successfully execute these functions, failed or refused to even discuss some of these matters with the impacted teachers and/or administrators, and by her inattention to matters she refuses to allow others to handle has caused disruption and in some cases a failure of planned activities or functions involving Chamblee students.

2. Unprofessionalism: Principal Braaten has repeatedly acted unprofessionally toward faculty and administration.
·         She repeatedly threatened teachers’ jobs - from our first time meeting her August. In that meeting she peremptorily told us that “you’ll find out real quick that I don’t play and I will light you up.” She also threatened teachers on numerous occasions that “your contract is with the county, not the school,” indicating that teachers were expendable, interchangeable, and easily replaceable. If teachers questioned or expressed concern regarding particular initiatives, they were told they were free to find employment elsewhere. One parent witnessed her say that “it’s time to clean house” regarding teachers who were “hiding behind the charter.”
·         She repeatedly discussed (disparagingly) staff or individuals in front of other groups of staff, or in front of parents or students.  No manager should ever do this, especially one who has been on the job for mere months.
·         One witness observed Ms Braaten, passing a noisy classroom, say that “if they don’t quiet down, I’m gonna lynch someone.”   While this is but one example, it is exemplary of a pattern of violent, threatening language Principal Braaten routinely employs in the school environment.
·         She is currently subject to at least one formal grievance from staff concerning unprofessional conduct.

3.       Charter: Principal Braaten has failed to uphold the spirit and the letter of the Charter.
·         The charter is built upon the premise that teachers and parents should have the primary role in making policy decisions such as implementing a 9th grade academy. Teachers have not been consulted on any initiatives put forth by Principal Braaten.
·         The charter initiatives such as STEAM, Mastery Learning System, or Participatory Governance have either been completely ignored by Principal Braaten this year, or attempts have been made to co-opt them and remove them from teacher control.
·         CCHS has been working on STEAM since 2014, but Braaten arrived and instead proposed a new charter school - a “school-within-a-school initiative that would only be for select students drawn from across the county. According to this plan, our current charter would be modified to reflect only a STEAM program. She claimed she had the right and power to modify current charter without stakeholder input. When the DCSD charter director came to discuss this initiative at Chamblee, she asked why we would attempt to so drastically change the charter, which would require stakeholder, DCSD board, and Georgia Department of Education approval. Braaten dropped her initiative then, but we lost a year chasing down her “school within a school” idea. Keep in mind that implementing a STEAM program in a timely manner is one of the major requirements of our charter. Her efforts seemed intended to dismantle the charter.
·         Her attitude toward the Charter Governance Board could be characterized dismissive at best. Rather than work with the governance board on critical issues, including the budget, she acts unilaterally and without input. She even refused to respond to multiple emails from the head of the budget committee who reached out to discuss the budget. She did not even respond to his emails.  None of them. How can that possibly be tolerated at any job in any work place in any area of the country?

4. Climate of Fear: Principal Braaten has created a climate of fear among much of the faculty.
·         Teachers fear speaking out against Braaten's initiatives because she indicates that longtime, respected teachers are not necessary for her vision of the school by repeatedly threatening their jobs if they speak out, removing them from the classroom on pretexts, or even calling the police.
·         Assistant Principal (also CCHS parent and former teacher) Cindy Mosley was recently moved against her wishes to another school even though she reportedly received an excellent evaluation from Braaten.  This was believed to be as retribution for Ms. Mosley speaking out about certain changes being made or contemplated.
·         Principal Braaten’s autocratic management style leaves us confused: we don’t understand her vision for the school, so we are unable to get on board. She hasn’t offered to partner with us to engender a positive working environment, but instead implements curriculum, personnel, instructional, and structural changes without even consulting us.

We urge parents to get involved. If you support a strong Chamblee where the administration works in concert with the teachers, as we have had in the past and which has resulted in Chamblee being one of the highest-ranked schools in the state, then please make your voices known

2 comments:

  1. “You’ll find out real quick that I don’t play and I will light you up.” - Ms Braaten, Principal of Chamblee Charter High School to her teaching staff. Nice.

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  2. That comment set the the tone for the disastrous school year for all at Chamblee. There are 12 staff openings listed for Chamblee in PATS - with 6 of them (teaching positions) posted just this week.

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