The Marlborough Educators Association sent superintendent of schools Dr. Anthony Pope a letter last week expressing discontent with the current state of relations between the administration's top office and the rank and file of the district.
"We are writing to you to express the discontent of our members regarding the climate, lack of direction and communication which currently exists in the Marlborough Public Schools," said the letter.
After reportedly polling their membership the union said that Pope's response was "chilling," with teachers expressing feelings of distrust and intimidation and "absolutely fearful of retaliation" for expressing dissenting opinions.
Marlborough Patch asked Pope for comment on Thursday, and while he did not specifically address the concerns pointed out in the letter, he said that the district was making great strides towards improving student achievement and were committed toward moving forward.
"I’m particularly encouraged that so many dedicated classroom teachers have stepped forward to play leadership roles in our transformation work, including more than 100 educators raising standards by developing rigorous new curricula." said Pope. "We are incredibly fortunate to have so many talented teachers working here in Marlborough, and I am confident that together, we will continue to make great strides in improving teaching and learning."
Despite Pope's statement, teachers characterized recent interaction with the school chief as being "abrupt," "rude" and "unreceptive."
"Members reported in large number that angry, curt, and demeaning remarks have come to be the norm when in your presence," said the letter. "Intimidation is a word used frequently when describing interactions with you."
The union also complained about a lack of follow-through in teacher development programs.
"In Believe 2016 (the superintendent's five year plan) professional development is bulleted under nearly every goal, yet professional development is being denied to many teachers across the district."
Other criticisms have also recently arisen due to Pope's handling of the suspension of Marlborough High School assistant principal Adam Bakr, who was reportedly fired Thursday, April 12, 2012, after a lengthy suspension for an unnamed offense.
In the aftermath of a recent student sit-in protesting the suspension, Pope was accused of shoving a teacher after mistaking her for a student.
The teacher subsequently filed charges against Pope, according to witnesses and court records, and a court date has been set for May. Pope was not arrested.
As of this post, Pope had not responded to a request for comment on Bakr's firing, siting the situation as a private, human resources issue.
This situation has reportedly contributed to the teacher union's perception of Pope as an unapproachable leader.
"Your actions have caused a chilling school climate that has been exacerbated by your tone and decision not to communicate with the rank and file, and your directives that you are not to be contacted directly by teachers," said the letter. "Frankly, given the climate, we doubt that any teacher would have any desire to contact you for fear of retribution."
Finally, union leadership made themselves able to meet with Pope during the first half of April. Failure to come to the table was threatened with a "more public action" from the union.
As of this post, Marlborough Patch was not made aware of any concessions or reconciliation between the superintendent and the teachers union.
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