Rockland area teachers, administrators voice concern over low morale

Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent Lew Collins, left, and Board Chairwoman Esther &quotTess" Kilgour listen to debate on the proposed merger of the district's two middle schools in this April 2013 file photo. According to a survey conducted by the teachers association last week, an overwhelming percentage of RSU 13 teachers say they cannot voice concerns to the district’s central office administration without fear of reprisal.
Stephen Betts | BDN
Regional School Unit 13 Superintendent Lew Collins, left, and Board Chairwoman Esther "Tess" Kilgour listen to debate on the proposed merger of the district's two middle schools in this April 2013 file photo. According to a survey conducted by the teachers association last week, an overwhelming percentage of RSU 13 teachers say they cannot voice concerns to the district’s central office administration without fear of reprisal. Buy Photo
By Stephen Betts, BDN Staff
Posted Oct. 17, 2013, at 2:28 p.m.

ROCKLAND, Maine — An overwhelming percentage of Regional School Unit 13 teachers say that they cannot voice concerns to the district’s central office administration without fear of reprisal, according to a survey conducted last week by the teachers association.

Middle level school administrators also have stated their concerns about low staff morale in an Oct. 7 letter sent to the superintendent and school board officers.

Sources say that a Thursday evening meeting of the board is being held to address the survey results and the administrators’ letter. Board Chairwoman Esther “Tess” Kilgour said Thursday she could not comment on the nature of the meeting except that it was personnel related and would be held in a closed session.

Teacher Association President Charles Gallagher said Thursday that the survey was put together and distributed by an association member and conducted on surveymonkey.com. He said he has received the results of the survey but has not had time to digest the information.

Gallagher said he has met with the superintendent and wants to hold more meetings to address the concerns.

About 135 teachers participated in the survey, a copy of which was obtained by the Bangor Daily News. Ninety-seven teachers responding said they were happy with their job, and 113 said they felt they were treated professionally by the administrators in their building.

But the results were extremely negative when questions focused on the superintendent.

The poll found that 118 teachers did not have confidence in the superintendent’s ability to move RSU 13 forward. Results also showed 112 teachers said they did not believe they could voice their concerns to the central office administration without fear of reprisal or intimidation.

Superintendent Lew Collins was not available for comment Thursday.

Kilgour said that the board would look into the concerns voiced but wasn’t specific about when. However, she questioned the timing of the survey and the letter.

“I do not think it is a coincidence that we are in the midst of negotiations with the support staff, teachers and — in January — the administrators,” Kilgour said.

The Oct. 7 letter from 10 administrators, points out that the administrators have been approached by a number of school board members asking for feedback on the superintendent’s performance and ability to lead the district.

“Our concerns are primarily focused on the areas of communication, shared leadership and decision making, differentiation between schools, communities and building leaders, school board micro-management, a lack of cohesion in the administrative team, transparency and accountability (the budget process being a prime example), staff morale and support — maintaining a positive school district culture and climate, and good-faith interpretations of existing negotiated agreements,” the letter states.

The administrators asked for a meeting with the board to go over the concerns.

In this past year’s budget deliberations, the voters approved money to replace some teaching positions, but the superintendent opted against filling them, saying the added money should be used to help absorb part of the expected budget increase next year. That move was met with criticism by some citizens, including many from St. George.

The district is also in the midst of studying whether to close and consolidate schools in the district. RSU 13 covers Rockland, Thomaston, St. George, Owls Head, South Thomaston and Cushing.

http://bangordailynews.com/2013/10/17/news/midcoast/rockland-area-teachers-administrators-voice-concern-over-low-morale/ printed on August 23, 2014