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Teacher humiliation for fun and profit

[Originally posted at Eclectablog.]

Mosaica Education, Inc., a self-described "for-profit education management organization", runs eight different for-profit schools in Michigan:

  • Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac
  • Bay County Public School Academy
  • Bingham Arts Academy
  • Edgewood Elementary School
  • Martin Luther King Jr. Elementary School
  • Mosaica Online Academy of Michigan
  • Muskegon Heights High School
  • Muskegon Heights Middle School

In fact, the entire Muskegon Heights school system, under the control of an Emergency Manager, is run by Mosaica. They are in the news lately because they've had to secure loans from the state because they are unable to make payroll.

The Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac - a K-10 Mosaica-run charter with roughly 600 students - has an annual fundraiser to bring in revenue to the school. This year, the fundraiser is on May 2nd and is part of what they are calling "Teacher Appreciation Week". It's an Orwellian title given their plans. Here's an email sent to students and parents by the administrators of the Pontiac school on April 2nd:

Faculty Fun Day

WHEN:  Friday, May 2, 2014
WHAT:  Would you like the chance to see how fun your child’s teacher can be?
WHY:  Fundraiser for Teacher Appreciation Week
WHERE:  [name redacted]'s class - Room XXX
COST:  Any monetary amount

The Faculty at ATAP would like to invite our students and parents to help us kick off our Teacher Appreciation Week by donating money to have our teachers do some fun and wild activities.  If you would like to see any faculty member do one of the following activities, you may bring in any amount of money and put it in the box of your choice in [name redacted]'s room by Wednesday, April 30.  Check out our list of fun things and we can’t wait to have fun.  By the way… NO STAFF MEMBER IS EXEMPT…this includes administration!!

MANDIVA – Our 3 favorite male faculty members in heels for an hour
SAVE MY JOB – 3 faculty members will stand in the parking lot during dismissal and hold a sign.
CREAM FACIAL – Students will throw pie in 3 faculty members’ faces during an assembly.
KINDERGARTEN EXTREME MAKEOVER – A kindergarten student will do the hair and makeup of 3 faculty members.
TEACHER SWAP – Teachers will swap roles with office, custodial, and lunch staff for an hour.  We will also send a high school teacher to elementary and vice versa.
LOOK WHAT THE STORK BROUGHT IN!! – 3 faculty members in bonnets, bibs, and pacifiers (just like a baby)

Male teachers cross-dressing. Teachers picketing to "save their jobs". Teachers dressed in bonnets, bibs, and pacifiers like babies. All activities designed to demean and denigrate the school's teachers.

Note that this is compulsory -- "NO STAFF MEMBER IS EXEMPT". To emphasize that point, Chief Administrative Officer/Principal Septembra Williams on April 3rd, the day before the notice went out to students and parents:

Good Afternoon Faculty,

Wellllllllllllllllllllllllll, it's that time again.  I am so excited about this year's Teacher Appreciation Week. It is something that I HEAVILY endorse and expect 100% participation. The committee has planned some WONDERFUL things this year. Please read the attached flyer and it will be going out to parents/students tomorrow. With that being said, we are conducting some fundraisers to ensure that faculty will be treated well.  This means that whatever the students pay for you to do, you MUST do it. I have also volunteered for some items so you know that I am serious about the implementation of this.

Get ready to HAVE FUN!

If you have any questions, please contact me directly :-)

While the idea of raising funds for the school is not novel, the manner in which it's being done at this school IS novel and is clearly intended to humiliate teachers in the eyes of their students. It's unfathomable to me how Principal Williams can dare to describe this fundraiser as "to ensuring that faculty will be treated well".

I spoke to one teacher at the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac and it's quite clear that this is not going over well at all with the teachers there. This teacher spoke to me about the difficulties of establishing respect from the students and authority in their classrooms and how damaging this idea is to that effort:

As professional educators we accept that teaching within the urban core will have no shortage of challenges. Disrespect – which ultimately is combated by instilling a value for education and people – is the biggest challenge we face. The humiliation of teachers undermines the steps that we (teachers) have taken in working with our students. Will the students view the CREAM FACIAL as a fun? As humbling an authority figure? As revenge? How about a male teacher it heels? Does wearing women’s clothing enhance his stature within the student body? What about treating teachers as infants? Humiliation and ridicule bring teachers down a peg. This betrays the very reason the staff members are there: to raise students up.

To me our caring, professional staff is here to help students and to do everything they can to improve their situation. We plan, transmit information, create active lifelong learners, critical thinkers, problem solvers, model self-control, kindness, respect, tolerance, compassion... and all because we are here to SERVE. By our very nature, we are selfless, self-sacrificing, and servants to our students; the citizens of our community. This is humiliation and it is not isolated to “Teacher Appreciation Week”. It’s not in the best interests of the students, nor the professionals who support the school. It is embarrassing and shameful. How long until these humiliating acts are recorded and posted on YouTube, thereby damaging the teachers and their family’s reputation?  What will my children think when they see pictures and video of these activities?

This teacher described a culture of fear and intimidation that exists at the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac. Teachers there know that they must appease Principal Williams or lose their jobs. Without a union to protect them, they are at the mercy of school administrators and have been told they will be sent home if they don't participate in the Humiliation Day activities. They’ve gone so far as to throw a school-wide birthday party for Principal Williams with the planning committee members earning extra “brownie points” for their effort. This was during the school day so it was basically done to inflate the ego of an adult administrator at the expense of the students' education.

Michigan has nearly a quarter of the charter schools in the United States and roughly 80% of our charter schools are run by for-profit businesses like Mosaica. Most of these for-profit charters are taught by teachers who don't enjoy the protection of a collective bargaining agreement so they are put into the position of having to participate in things like the Arts and Technology Academy of Pontiac's "Teacher Humiliation Day". It's a repulsive demand that harms the teachers' ability to establish their authority and have the respect that they deserve from their students, staff, and administrators. It undermines everything teachers are trying to do in this regard.

And they are doing it with OUR tax dollars. For a profit.

If you'd like to share your thoughts on this odious Humiliation Day activity, you can email Principal Septembra Williams at swilliams@mosaicaeducation.com.

Eclectablogger Emma White makes a very good point:

UPDATE: one4revolution reports this in a comment at Eclectablog:

In the interest of fairness, I must report that Principal Williams called me back personally to address our concerns about this activity. First, she stated this event was planned by staff. Yes, she approved it, but she did not create or organize it. Second, as soon as she received information that people were upset, she called a meeting and changed some of the activities.

I do not agree with for profit charter schools, but I have to say Ms. Willams treated me with utmost respect.

This is good. In my opinion it should never have gotten that far and Principal Williams should have vetoed some of this stuff from the beginning. Making it compulsory is on her, too. But at least she appears to have done the right thing and that's a Good Thing.

It repulses me that teachers would do this to themselves. This is exactly the type of thing that happens when school administrators create a culture of fear among their teachers. Some of them end up doing what they think will appease their principal rather than what is right, even at the expense of their own dignity and at the expense of their authority in the classroom.

Originally posted to Eclectablog - eclectic blogging for a better tomorrow on Mon Apr 14, 2014 at 09:09 AM PDT.

Also republished by Motor City Kossacks, Your Government at Work, State & Local ACTION Group, Michigan, My Michigan, and Teachers Lounge.

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