The teacher said that her yearly evaluations had always been good until the end of the 2005-2006 school year. But on May 4, McGee experienced an evaluation with Assistant Principal Manuel Gonzales that she called a “two-hour scathing.””He was actually my evaluator, and she [Lawson] sat in on my evaluation, which I thought was odd,” said McGee, who had never had two people sit in on an evaluation.
The principal and assistant principal reportedly marked down McGee’s evaluation for legal issues.
“It was the first time in my career I had gotten a mark on one criterion below expectation,” said the teacher. “She told me that she was putting me on a growth plan because of my poor teaching. And she told me that she was taking away my arts ambassadorship.”
McGee, who felt like her job was “in harm’s way,” promptly contacted Texas State Teacher’s Association and hired an attorney. The attorney filed a grievance to get the mark down on McGee’s evaluation changed to “proficient.”
According to McGee, Lawson removed her low evaluation rating, but she refused to remove her growth plan. McGee believed that a growth plan led to getting fired in most cases, based on what she had seen happen to other teachers.
Therefore, the teacher asked her attorney in Austin to have the growth plan removed, but in return, Lawson reportedly gave the teacher an eight-page directive document that explained how she was supposed to act and what she was to do through May 2007.
“I asked her if she gave that document to everybody, since I wasn’t in a growth plan,” McGee said. “She said she didn’t have to answer that question.”
Lawson could not be reached for comment, but FISD Director of Communications Shana McKay-Wortham released the following statement regarding the McGee-Lawson incident:”The employee’s principal denied that the teacher’s troubles started with a field trip as claimed. The principal stated that she had observed a need for performance improvement in a number of areas which she had verbally brought to the attention of the teacher as early as a meeting in May 2005. It was noted in the public meeting that after the teacher later complained that she had not been given written notice of such concerns, the principal responded by issuing a written memo detailing such matters.
“The planning and execution of the field trip was a small part of the concerns addressed, but was not the catalyst for the memo or the focus. The timing of the written memo was triggered by the teacher’s request for expectations to be in writing and clearly communicated, not by the occurrence of the field trip.”
The district’s statement refuted McGee’s allegations and media reports.
“Additionally, the field trip was not mandated as has been represented by the teacher. In the previous school year a field trip had been suggested as one way to strengthen and enrich the program. In fact, before the trip took place, the principal was concerned about a lack of preparation and had suggested to the teacher that the trip be postponed until the following school year to provide time for better planning and organization. In the public hearing the principal did state that the teacher had been told she would not be taking a field trip to the museum the next year but it was not because of the content of the exhibits, it was due to the lack of planning and preparation and the execution of the field trip. The teacher was not told there ‘wouldn’t be a next year’ and she was not told that she was not ‘Frisco material’ as has been reported.”
District officials stated that Lawson’s efforts to nurture McGee form the core of their principal-teacher relationship.
“What has gotten lost here is the bottom line – this is not about a field trip, censorship, or a parent complaint. It is not about age, tenure, or salary level as has also been suggested in the media. This is about a school administrator working to help an employee improve her job performance and to improve the educational experience of students. Even if you have been working as a teacher for many years, there is opportunity for development. The teacher is working – she has not been suspended or on probation as has been reported in the media. The teacher asked for a transfer to another campus which was denied not because of any parent complaint about a field trip, but because allowing a teacher to transfer after receiving directives related to areas for improvement would weaken a supervisor’s ability to address performance issues by essentially giving the teacher an ‘escape hatch’ to avoid meeting the expectations of the supervisor.”
I say that none of this would have made it to the papers if the administration had been following good personnel procedures by documenting problems and expectations before putting her on a growth plan or giving her a below expecatation rating.