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BOE upholds Thompson’s transfer

Wartski waits for decision

By Rose Laudicina
Staff Writer

The Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools Board of Education on Tuesday decided to uphold the involuntary transfer of Chapel Hill High School honors English teacher Anne Thompson, but they are still deliberating the transfer of Chapel Hill High A.P. biology teacher Bert Wartski.

Numerous supporters of the two Chapel Hill High School (CHHS) teachers attended the board’s meeting last Thursday to share stories about the positive impacts the teachers have had and to criticize the district’s reasons for the transfers.

While district administrators say otherwise, many school community members believe the transfers are being enacted as punishment for speaking out in opposition to the administration and certain policies.

Wartski and Thompson supporters told the board that the CHHS teachers are “must-haves” who have helped shape career paths.

Adrienne Duffield, a resident anesthesiologist at UNC Hospitals, said that besides her parents, Wartski is the single most influential person in helping her get to where she is today in her career.

“I implore the board, please, if the goal is not to create a negative environment for teachers, then please do not transfer these teachers,” Duffield said.

Wartski and Thompson were notified in early June by Superintendent Tom Forcella that they would be transferred from CHHS to East Chapel Hill High School.

Soon after becoming aware of the transfers, the CHHS community responded in overwhelming opposition, writing letters and attending the school board meeting to show their support for keeping the teachers at CHHS.

“Forty-five is the number of combined years these two teachers have invested in Chapel Hill High specifically,” said Lynn Wartski, who is married to Bert Wartski. “They are being described as must-haves.”

Dianne Jackson, president of the Chapel Hill-Carrboro Federation of Teachers, said that while she hoped the district would encourage teachers to speak out, as they have “their hands on the pulse of the school,” she gave examples of multiple teachers at different district schools being accused of insubordination for speaking out and doing what they thought was right.

“We hope we don’t start down a slippery slope where employees are silenced,” Jackson said.

Although the board is unable to comment, Forcella sent a letter to the CHHS faculty and staff discussing his reasoning for implementing the transfers.

In the letter Forcella wrote, “The decisions to transfer some individuals were based on my opinion after a year of observing, listening, and talking with staff members from CHHS, district staff, former staff members, parents, and SIT members.”

Forcella said the transfers were not about punishing teachers for speaking out or to intimidate others from doing so.

Both teachers appealed the transfers in closed session at last Thursday’s meeting. The school board had not made a decision about Wartski by the time The Citizen went to press Wednesday. If his appeal to the school board is denied, Wartski said he would appeal to the Orange County Superior Court.

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  1. Janet Walters

    Can someone clarify for me the rationale for the transfers? I have yet to read why the teachers are being transfered, or at least why Dr. Forcella and the BOE think it best to transfer the teachers. Is there a greater need for the teachers at the two other high schools? What is the undesireable culture at CHHS, to which Dr. Forcella alludes?

  2. Mike Kelley

    Press Release
    July 25, 2012

    The recent transfer of teachers from one school to another school within the Chapel Hill-Carrboro City Schools has been a source of concern for a number of individuals including former students, parents, and staff members. The transfers imposed at Chapel Hill High School are two of thirteen involuntary transfers that have occurred throughout the district for the coming school year. Because of the public debate about these two transfers, I feel it is important clarify my decision to the extent I am able to do so without violating personnel confidentiality law.

    Since my arrival as superintendent, I have spent much time in all of the schools in the district. I have seen outstanding teaching as well as students and parents who value education. That being said, public education is in a time of change. With the advent of the Common Core and NC Essential Standards, teachers will be required to deliver instruction in a new and exciting way. Our classroom and school environments will need to become places where the conversations among teachers and administrators are about instructional improvement. An atmosphere of trust and mutual respect is critical to our success.

    In listening to teachers, parents, school administrators, and others over the past year, I found that many stakeholders at Chapel Hill High School were frustrated with the culture of the school. I heard concerns about how the school administration worked with teachers and concerns about how teachers worked together. It was clear to me from the depth of these concerns that in order for Chapel Hill High School to realize achievement growth for all students a culture change was necessary.

    Chapel Hill High School is blessed with hard working and talented teachers. Many are receptive to the changes that are evolving in public education and desire to learn and grow as professionals. Others are seen as resistant to change. As the Superintendent who is charged with leading this shift in how schools approach teaching and learning, I felt I needed to implement staff changes that would provide the best chance for success as Chapel Hill High School moves forward under a new principal.

    It is important to note that the decision to transfer some individuals was based on a year of observing, listening, and talking with students, district staff, former staff members, parents, and School Improvement Team members. The decision was not about punishing individuals who “speak their minds about school or district policies.” In all cases the individuals to be transferred were notified in a face to face meeting.

    It is a goal of the district to create collaborative cultures in our schools where everyone feels safe to voice their opinions without fear of reprisal from administration or from their peers. The staff changes will provide opportunities for those transferred and for those who were not transferred to contribute in a positive way in their current or new environment to assist the school’s desire to move to even higher levels of achievement for all.

    Obviously, I am not at liberty to disclose specifics with regard to each individual transfer situation. Personnel issues are confidential but in every case School Board policy has been followed.

    Finally, it is my firm belief that with new leadership at the school and with all staff pulling together with a shared vision, what is a very good school can become one of the rare truly great learning organizations. I am confident that the positive programs and initiatives that staff members currently lead will expand and grow as we move forward.

    Sincerely,

    Thomas A. Forcella
    Superintendent of Schools