Thursday, October 01, 2015

Kim Frencken: Once trust is destroyed, it takes more than a survey to restore it

(In this post, Kim Frencken, who taught 20 years in the Joplin R-8 School District, follows up on her last column.)

I’ve had several thoughts since my last blog was posted here.  Some not so nice.

Here’s what I have to say:  I loyally served the district for 20 years, learned from some outstanding educators, and loved the privilege of teaching many Joplin students. I was not perfect. Never professed to be.  Don’t pretend to be. 
Never considered myself a McArthur, just thought that, as a human being I deserved to be treated as one. I don’t believe that someone’s title entitles them to special privileges.  I don’t respect people because of their position. I respect them for the person that they are.

Apparently, some missed the point of the blog.  I’m proud, by the way, of my former students who got it and recognize the problems.  I’ll try to be less vague so there is no misunderstanding.

1. I did follow the direction of my superiors until I could no longer stomach the poor direction that education in Joplin was taking.

2. I do believe in standing up for what is right. 

3. What you personally think of me doesn’t matter. It won’t fix what is broken. Joplin is broken.  The only ones that are truly privy to this knowledge are those that work there, and they aren’t talking. Some students have put two and two together and know what goes on behind closed doors. Some parents have seen the not-so-pretty side of things.  But if you have only associated socially with administrators from Joplin, you have no idea what goes on in the life of a Joplin teacher.  One rule I TRY to follow: don’t criticize someone until you’ve walked a mile in their moccasins.

The bold print from the first response sums up nicely what continues to go on behind closed doors.This made me want to cry. I'm happy that Ms. Frencken was at the retirement stage so that she could escape the bullying that is so evident in R8 and at East. I wish I could join her in retirement. I love students and I love the theory of education, but the current environment is just not bearable. I keep hearing everyone say it's going to be an exciting year. When? So far it's the worst I've endured here, as there is more to do than anyone can get done, the pressure is on for improvement with nothing given to us to work with, and I'm more broke than ever. Happy retirement, Ms. Frencken, and I salute you for standing up for what is right. Perhaps if more people had, we would not have gotten into this miserable state of being.

This response made me want to cry.  So, did some of the personal messages that I have received.  

-          I want to speak up more, but I am scared.
-          I feel like I have to say yes to everything because when I have the courage to say no, I am told that they need me to do this and end up doing it any way.
-          We can’t trust any of these people any more.

One comment I have heard repeatedly is that “they just need to clean house”. I couldn’t agree more.  Once trust has been destroyed or even damaged, it takes more than a survey or a conversation to rebuild it.  The administrators that sold out under the Huff Administration lost the respect and trust of the staff. To think that they will automatically have that trust again because of the new leadership is naïve.

During a recent meeting with Dr. Ridder, I was pleased with his determination to restore respect and professionalism to teachers. I especially liked his comments about listening to teachers, giving them a voice.  Dr. Ridder has been doing his research.  However, another administrator that I visited with seems to still be “drinking the kool-aid.  His comment, concerning the administration of EMS, was a perfect example of the naïve mentality of some administrators.  He seems to still be under the assumption that there are no problems at East because he has not personally witnessed them.  This couldn’t be farther from the truth.  Problems at East continue despite pleas from teachers for help, reports from parents, and statements from students.  Still nothing is done.  More smoke and mirrors to cover up the problems.  These are just two of many personal comments I have been receiving concerning the continuing problems at East.

-          Students do not show the principals of East respect because they do not make any attempt to understand the students or make connections or even try to figure out what is going on. They just walk through the halls and stare, but never address out-of-hand discipline.
-          How is a man like that able to stay in his position?

Joplin has lost over 300 teachers in three years, not to mention numerous staff members that are searching for greener pastures where bullying is not tolerated. Teachers are still in a wait and hope mode.  Waiting to see what will happen. Hoping for more changes in administration.  If Joplin administrators think that the problems of the past will magically disappear just because this is a new school year, they should remember the lessons of the past. Lessons like the one that the teachers at McKinley learned a couple of years ago. These teachers learned a lesson about retaliation and the rest of us received an unspoken warning. Yes, administrators , you need to remember. We still do.
Kim Frencken's book, Five Spooky Tales of Suspense is available from at the link below.


Anonymous said...

I tried to stand up to the bullying and was terminated. So I know how they feel ,when they say they can't speed up. When I started at R-8 it was great place to work. That is no longer the case. What a shame. Brian Long

Anonymous said...

I know of the discord that engulfed East Middle School at the hands of the administration, and particularly by Bud Sexson. My grandson attended all 3 of his middle school years at the East warehouse. The halls at East were so tiny, and for the first year, all the students were released at bell time together, leaving the small, vulnerable 6th graders to be pushed around by the 7th and 8th grade bullies. It happened over and over again. My grandson came home numerous times with stories of bullying, and he said no one would do anything about it. When any of the bullies were sent to the office, they would be back in class within minutes, and would grin at the younger ones, as if to say, I got away with it, and will do it again, and you know what? They did, repeatedly. What an environment for a little 6th grader to have to learn in! It got to the point that my grandson hated going to school, and my heart broke for him. Was he perfect? No, but his attitude about school tanked the 3 years he was there. He began having a few attitude problems at home with his parents. But who could really blame him? When your world for 8 hours a day is hell, it tends to make you look at the world in a negative way. On our long rides from the East warehouse back home in the afternoons, he would let me into his EMS world. He would tell me about different teachers, and how they had changed. He said that Miss Frencken had become grouchy and snapped at the kids, him included. Who could blame her?? She had to work in a toxic environment, and, with the trickle down theory, that negative enviroment HAD to rub off onto her, and then onto the kids she taught. I know she didn't decide to become grouchy one day, but after years of the teaching hell that she worked in, she couldn't help but let it get to her. Teachers are human, and like she said, she never professed to be perfect. Kim couldn't really teach the way her heart knew she should. Her hands were tied by bureaucratic crap from administrators. She was doing the best she could, under the circumstances. I retired from Joplin schools in the summer of 2013, and have never looked back. What a weight was lifted off of my shoulders! I loved being a teacher, but sticking around was becoming toxic to my health, and I knew it was time to go. So glad Kim made the same decision. Sad to say, Joplin has lost MANY good teachers because they can no longer stomach the toxic environment that has grown like a cancer in this district. I realize it's going to take Mr. Ridder a while to get things back on track. We didn't get in this mess over night, and it won't be repaired that quickly. But, please, for the sake of the kids and teachers in the trenches, please, let it be soon!!!

Obey the Rules or Get Out said...


Obey the school board policies or get out. Or like Turner, gets detected and kicked out.

There isn't any job in the world where the employees get to do whatever they please unless their employer lets them.

You can whine about reality all you want, but if you are a government worker then you need to obey the rules set by those who are accountable to the voters and parents.

Kimberly Frencken said...

Obey the Rules... I believe that you are misinterpreting what we are saying and have been saying. Teachers do follow the rules. By our very nature we are rule followers. Teachers, myself included, do follow the BOE policy. However, it is a moving target in that in the past it has been constantly changed, even without our knowledge. Teachers do not do whatever they please. A teacher's strongest desire is to be of service to the students and their families. Teachers have more guidelines to follow beside the BOE policy. We also have state mandates and guidelines and legal guidelines to follow. More than most other professions. In fact, you don't need to tell a teacher that they need to follow the rules, teachers know that better than anyone. I am not whining and neither is any teacher that complains about the problems in Joplin R-8. We are probably more realistic than those, like you, that try to silence us with your inaccurate statements. We are human that are tired of seeing children hurt under the false pretense of "doing it for the kids". I do realize that you are exercising your freedom of speech, just as I have done and will continue to do. I just wish that you would more accurately address the issue and not stay 'hung up" on telling teachers to be rule followers. That is a moot point.

Anonymous said...

Sounds like it's time for Mr. Ridder to start cleaning house

Anonymous said...

How can a teacher be expected to follow rules if the Administrators don't make the students follow rules. In my last year at East there were rules written down and posted that were not followed and if you told a student to follow that rule you were "controlling" that student. I was actually told by Bud Sexson that when I was telling students not to do something that was written in the rules that he would not have his students "controlled" that way. Exact words! So trying to enforce and teach students rules to live by is controlling them, not teaching them. I just can't believe he still has a job in Joplin. I hope Ridder is reading all these blogs.

But Kim is right, the teachers follow the rules but some are changed without notice and obviously Bud and Jason have their own set of rules in heads. The only rule for students at East is do what you want. You don't need to be calling anyone a whiner. If you don't like what people say don't read it. Alana Maddock

Some follow the rules better than others said...

It is me again.

To answer your comment: You made it to retirement, unlike Turner, who got caught and terminated.

That said, teachers do not get to set policy. They are hired to carry out policy set by elected school board members.

Insofar as the notion that students need to follow rules as defined by you teachers. I think that the current system of public education needs to be abolished. No more than three years of education all aligned to teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic. Any more than that is the responsibility of the parents.

No one is begging any of you to teach. You don't like the way things are, then quit and go somewhere else and do something else. Neither of you are owed a job.

Whining about me calling you whiners a bunch of whiners doesn't cut it either. Stop whining!!!

Anonymous said...

I'm guessing 10:53 had those 3 years of education and quit. Maybe that is why he seems so angry.

Anonymous said...

@10:53 I'm begining to think you might just possibly be out of touch with the job market in America.
3 years of basic literacy in reading writing and math?And how would parents pay for the rest that is their responsibility? Abolishing the taxes that we collectively pay to fund public schools would not be enough for a family to hire a quality educator in such diverse fields as secondary education covers currently. You would abandon one of the primary responsibilities of a society to their children. We should leave them better able to succeed in life.