HTEA RESPONSE TO LETTER SENT TO PARENT COMMUNITY
At the December 16, 2020 meeting of the Holmdel Township Board of Education, Holmdel Township Education Association President, Denise King, spoke on behalf of her membership about the lack of communication from the district leadership regarding the district’s pandemic safety decisions, curriculum changes, and day to day management of the district schools.
School staff has overwhelmingly questioned interim Superintendent Dr. Lee Seitz’s ability to inspire confidence from his staff and to engage and involve stakeholders in district decision-making. Over 75% of HTEA members formally cast votes of no confidence in Dr. Seitz’s leadership. President Denise King, after conveying staff concerns to the Board of Education, was personally attacked as board members strongly expressed their displeasure and anger, while the concerns of the district staff were wholeheartedly dismissed.
The Holmdel Board of Education has demonstrated the same lack of leadership as Dr. Seitz and should be ashamed of themselves given the demeanor of their responses in the public forum. Mrs. King calmly listed all the reasons why the staff is lacking confidence in the superintendent and the ire from board members was palpable. HTEA members — the district’s teachers and support staff — have been putting themselves at risk since September to meet the needs of their students. They have raised legitimate concerns about their personal safety and that of their students as positive COVID cases hit an all- time high in Monmouth County. Their request to close school buildings through January is not only reasonable, but is being exercised by countless responsible New Jersey school districts. Dismissing the concerns of staff about their ability to best teach their students and keep them safe is not only insulting but reckless.
The Board also sent out a letter to district parents on December 19 regarding the vote of no confidence in an attempt to convince the community that the sole reason for the vote was based on the superintendent and Board’s decision to not only keep schools open but extend the school day at the elementary levels. What their letter failed to reflect to the public were the numerous other reasons for the vote of no confidence noted by Mrs. King in her remarks to the Board.
The letter did not mention:
- last-minute changes to the AP Class testing requirement without input from AP teachers.
- last-minute changes to the school profile used for colleges without input from staff.
- Abolished the position of Guidance Director during a pandemic mid year while a district goal is SEL.
- Abandoned the CDC recommended 6 ft distancing between students.
- Added new quarterly assessments in the high school with no evidence that the data is reliable since they are administered virtually.
- There was no input from staff on the educational value of these tests and the feasibility of these assessments in the middle of the pandemic.
- Forced the implementation of a new software program with little opportunity for quality professional development or a reasonable time frame to learn the program without any discussion with staff about a workable timeline for implementing.
- Opened Schools this week in the height of a pandemic when staff expressed their concerns regarding proximity of desks, lunch without masks increasing risk to COVID 19 exposure.
- In order to open the full schedule earlier than January ignored newly negotiated and long term contract language which would enable teachers to plan more for in person and remote learning.
- During this pandemic no clear timeline for full time opening was provided to all staff prior to it being introduced to parents & community stakeholders.
Reopening schools and extending the day is only one part of the picture, yet the craftily-worded letter only focused on what might get the attention of the public rather than the core issues and lack of leadership affecting district staff, which Mrs. King clearly noted in her remarks.
Further, at the end of the letter, the Board states, “We do believe the ultimate success of our schools lies in all of us complying with health guidelines to blunt the spread of the disease, although the union argues that community members are not doing enough.” Once again, they are wrongly accusing the union and its members of blaming the community and trying to incite public sentiment against teachers and staff as the cause of the problem. The letter highlights all the money spent on safety and health equipment but what it fails to mention is that those working in these buildings still do not feel completely safe despite these measures. The same could be said of parents in the district, many of whom have chosen to have their students work remotely even though the Board insists that everyone should feel 100% comfortable about safety and well-being. The reality is that most schools have approximately 53% or less in school daily.
Unfortunately, the Board has the means to reach out to parents and the community via district-wide emails, so often the information being disseminated only reflects their opinion and perspective. When the teachers and staff need to reach out to the community they need to do so through their union, and this furthers the board’s deceptive stance that the union drives the choices of the membership rather than the individuals who make up the union. The opening of their letter to parents includes the bogus claim that the union launched a “spam assault” on the board and community and flooded email accounts with their complaints. The truth is that district staff used an automated system to individually show the board and the community that each individual member who had concerns was reaching out to them, since the board seemed to think the comments and opinions expressed were solely those of Mrs. King. The vitriolic and overactive choice of words utilized in the letter further emphasize the board’s attempt to sway public sentiment to their advantage.
Everyone involved wants to do what is best for the students and it should be done safely and wisely. There are concerns with the decisions being made regarding the pandemic, in addition to many other issues stemming from the lack of communication, transparency, and leadership coming from the superintendent and the Board. What the HTEA and its members want is for their concerns to be heard, respected, and acted upon, but their voices are being silenced by a Board and superintendent who do not seem to think their opinions matter, and that is what the public truly needs to know.
Is Thankful For Our Front Line Workers!
Holmdel Township Education Association (HTEA) shows appreciation for Bayshore Medical Center Front-Line Workers
Thanks To Our First Responders!!!