CCSD can be a hostile environment for teachers

CCSD can be a hostile environment for teachers
September 03 15:14 2018 Print This Article

My wife Robin and I are frequently contacted by teachers to discuss problems they are encountering in the Charleston County School District (CCSD). We are always sympathetic to their concerns, but they typically will not want their names revealed or even allow the name of their schools to be mentioned. It usually leaves us without enough material to adequately report on the situations they reveal. Many teachers have told us that they face a hostile work environment and that they fear reprisals from their principals or the CCSD administrative staff.

Elizabeth Reilly, who taught at Angel Oak Elementary on Johns Island for 20 years, resigned from CCSD this past summer and wanted her story to be told. Reilly loved Angel Oak and was promoted to Lead Teacher there. Lead Teacher is an administrative position dedicated to training and mentoring teachers. Angel Oak serves a racially diverse student population of about 400, 83% of whom live in poverty. The school has a lot of faculty turnover, with only 29% of the teachers having more than 10 years of experience.

The problems for Reilly started four years ago, when she made the decision to return to the classroom as a 4th grade teacher. On the first day of school, first-year principal Michael Griggs re-assigned her to a 1st grade classroom. Teaching requires a lot of planning and preparation, and Reilly had to begin the school year without plans for 1st grade. She had never taught in the early grades before. She soon developed a conflict with Griggs, and other teachers told her that Griggs would tell them, “Don’t be like Reilly.”

Griggs moved Reilly to 5th grade the next year and eventually placed her on formal evaluation status, which meant that school district administrators would do 13 formal evaluations of her lessons and that she would have to fill out additional paperwork and reports. In the midst of a district-wide principal shuffle at the end of the 2016-2017 school year, Griggs was transferred to Hunley Park Elementary in North Charleston, and Judith Condon was brought in to replace him. Condon had previously taught middle school and high school music in the Atlanta area.

Reilly describes the formal evaluation process as hostile. She said one evaluator came in when there was a school-wide assembly taking place and got mad at her for not being able to observe the lesson. Another evaluator chastised Reilly for teaching a lesson about Christopher Columbus on Columbus Day. At the end of the evaluation process, Condon handed Reilly a form stating that she did not meet expectations. She was not awarded a contract to return to Angel Oak for the current school year.

Her intention was to appeal her termination to CCSD, but the district’s contract attorney had to postpone several hearings. Eventually, the hearing was held, and Reilly had three former colleagues speak on her behalf. On July 9, Reilly was given the offer to resign and have her evaluation marked as “incomplete.” Reilly is currently teaching 5th grade math at Goose Creek Elementary in the Berkeley County School District. She said, “Berkeley County administrators and principals are so welcoming. They make me feel wanted. Teaching is my passion, and I am so happy to be back in the classroom!”