Teachers Frustrated Over Cancelled Vote

Rebecca Rakowitz, Features Editor

Stamford High School teachers met after school on Monday, December 1 and Tuesday, December 2 with representatives from the teacher’s union, the Stamford Education Association (SEA), with the intent of organizing a vote of confidence/no confidence in regards to the return (or non-return) of administrators Donna Valentine and Roth Nordin. However, by Thursday morning the vote had been postponed by the SEA for reasons that were unclear to many.

“It’s like we live in an Orwellian novel.”

Union officials had explained the process of the vote to teachers, the importance of doing it correctly, and the importance of having a lot of support for the vote if they wish to proceed. The executive board of the SEA reportedly decided on Tuesday to support the Stamford High faculty in a vote. The vote was planned to take place Thursday, December 4 in room 101 before and after school hours. Teachers would submit a secret ballot that had their initials on it and vote whether they would have “confidence” or “no confidence” in the administrators as leaders if they were to return. Separate votes were to be taken for Valentine and for Nordin.  SEA president (and former SHS teacher) Michael Arcano said that Wednesday night the “SEA received an e-mail from Attorney Mark Sherman regarding the vote, confidence or no, initially scheduled [Thursday].  To ensure the protection of its members, SEA postponed the vote so it can confer with legal counsel concerning several questions the Association has as a result of the e-mail.”

Many teachers were unwilling to comment for fear of retaliation, while others offered general responses. Head librarian Jean Isler said there is a lot of “frustration” from teachers over “not having a formal voice.” History teacher Marianne Gutierrez implied that a teacher vote should be allowed, saying, “the people who are most affected by the decision should have a voice.” Guidance counselor Robert Augustyn agreed that a vote would be in the “best interest of our community.”

Room 101 where the vote was supposed to take place
Photo by Rebecca Rakowitz
Room 101, where the vote was supposed to take place

English teacher Fred Kelley spoke of his grandmother who “put six boys in uniform in World War II to fight against fascist regimes.” He says that “what they fought for is freedom, and freedom is the ability to speak one’s mind and criticize. I thought we lived in a democracy – not in a totalitarian state…once we give up our freedom of speech and right to vote [we give up what is essential to democracy].” Ever an English teacher, he lamented that this is like “[living] in an Orwellian novel.”

Science teacher Tara Karlson felt differently. She admits that she is not fully clear about the situation, and she feels shaky on the legality of the situation, but she wonders if, as a teacher, she “has the right to fire or hire someone.” If the vote had an impact on Hamilton’s decision, Karlson, as a teacher, feels that she could, in effect, be firing someone. History teacher and Athletic Director James Moriarty said “I think we should vote, but maybe we should wait until we have the facts.”

Many teachers simply want to move past this and serve the students. History teacher Michael Brown said, “it is a sad situation that we hope is resolved quickly to the benefit of students and faculty.” Music teacher George Beratis encouraged students and parents to “go to Board of Education meetings and express their opinions, regardless of which side they are on.”

Editor’s Note: This story was updated to include comments by SEA President Michael Arcano.