Tuesday, October 17, 2006

Our Letter

NOTE: The authors’ names are withheld due to fear of reprisals.

October 13, 2006


Teachers and Staff at the Laurent Clerc National Deaf Education Center Call for the Resignation of Dr. Jane K. Fernandes from Gallaudet University.

Washington, DC – October 13, 2006 – Following a meeting yesterday morning, a group of teachers and staff currently working at the colloquially-known Clerc Center resolved on a number of matters; the most pertinent is our call for Dr. Jane K. Fernandes to respectfully resign her post as president-select of Gallaudet University. We present as justification the following rationale and, finally, propose a series of mandates as steps toward healing the still-lingering damage from Dr. Fernandes’ tenure as Vice President of Pre-College National Mission Programs. As a result, we are opposed to allowing Dr. Fernandes the chance to impose similar damage on Gallaudet University as a whole.

We are representative of a larger Clerc Center community. We did not approve of Gallaudet University’s decision to close Clerc Center on October 11 and 12. The protesters were prepared to allow MSSD and Kendall staff on-campus so that education for pre-collegiate students could continue uninterrupted. University administrators shoulder the burden of responsibility for the two days of lost teaching time for those students.

While we do not condone negative tactics by either protesters or administration officials, we look forward to a peaceful resolution.

During her tenure as the vice president of Pre-College National Mission Programs (PCNMP) from 1995 to 2000, Dr. Jane K. Fernandes ignored, alienated, and disrespected teachers and staff. During a period of restructuring in 1996, the teachers and staff at PCNMP sought to offer additional advice and direction, only to be shunned and mocked. To continue our employment, we had to endure an atmosphere of distrust and fear. This statement of our oppression is long overdue.

As proof of Dr. Fernandes being an ineffectual leader and damaging the infrastructure of Clerc Center, we offer the following:

* A poll was conducted during the May protests. Fifty-eight percent of the teachers at the Clerc Center participated in this poll, where 82% stated they did not support the process that selected Dr. Fernandes as the 9th president.
* In addition to the first poll question, the second poll question asked teachers if they were ready to move on and accept Dr. Fernandes as the 9th president, 79% voted NO.
* Class sizes were drastically expanded with many levels of instructional needs in one class.
* Due to Dr. Fernandes’ changes in the educational programs at PCNMP, enrollment plummeted, only to increase dramatically after her departure from the Clerc Center.
* Many support staff members gave up their primary roles to intervene with a significant increase in student violence inside the school due to forced removal of the disciplinary system without implementation of alternative options.
* Dr. Fernandes saw no value in the faculty governance system and the grievance process, which were both eliminated during her tenure.
* Many jobs, departments, and programs were closed (i.e., Performing Arts Program, Special Opportunities Program, Woodshop, Driver’s Education, Communication Department, Career Development Program, International Student Exchange Program).
* The dissolution of Student Development program had a huge negative impact on the quality of student leadership (i.e. Peer Mediation, Judicial Board, Student Body Government, student-run enrichment days).
* After restructuring, department budgets were combined and teams had less control over their respective budgets. As a result, available monies for departments were reduced. This led to outdated materials and equipment available to teachers and staff.
* The dissolution of academic departments left teachers/staff no choice but to work/teach outside their content areas. Some competent and skilled people quit as a result of being asked to do things for which they weren’t qualified.
* The issue of accountability was not clearly defined. Under Dr. Fernandes, people didn’t know who to contact regarding policy and procedures.

As proof of Dr. Fernandes alienating and ignoring teachers and staff, we offer the following:

* The removal of tenure in a non-democratic way, without teacher input and involvement.
* Faculty status of teachers was stripped.
* Opportunities to apply for sabbatical leave were also denied. In the past, use of sabbatical leave made implementation of several successful programs possible (i.e., Structure of ASL and Deaf Studies courses, Minority/Multicultural Programs, Family Math program).
* In 1996, Lead Teachers asked for one full school year to plan, to set up and to implement a new system. They requested this time to find resources and to set aside time for training. Dr. Fernandes ignored the majority opinion, listening instead to selected advisors.
* Teachers’ requests to order certain books were ignored. Older resources were thrown out and new materials ordered without teacher input which caused problems for teachers using thematic instruction.
* When the Curriculum Enhancement program was implemented in place of the Elective Department, Dr. Fernandes allowed 40 plus students in many individual CE classes that lasted 90 minutes to allow grade team teachers and staff to meet and plan. CE Teachers at Kendall were helpless and unable to manage their classes and to discipline unruly students.
* When restructuring caused students and parents frustration, confusion, and sometimes, anger, teachers and staff members were left alone to bear the consequences of decisions they had no part in making.
* The Special Opportunity Program was disbanded without transition. The needs of deaf students with additional or unique needs were not being met. They often sat in “mainstream” classes and contributed little or nothing, which caused educational and emotional distractions for other students.

As proof of Dr. Fernandes creating an atmosphere of distrust and fear, we offer the following:

* Teachers and staff who have deaf children were threatened, personally and professionally, for not enrolling their children at Kendall or MSSD.
* Dr. Fernandes prevented teachers from meeting during work hours by encouraging the disbandment of the faculty organization.
* Termination of the Sunshine Fund that teachers and staff created for sending cards and/or gifts when appropriate for certain occasions (i.e., anniversaries, births, deaths, hospitalizations, weddings);
* Dr. Fernandes also allowed no support for personal milestones, losses and celebrations of any kind. She stated that “We are not here to have fun and play. We are here to work.”
* When people asked Dr. Fernandes for her input, she responded by telling us to make decisions ourselves, only to criticize us for our incompetence. We were constantly criticized for every little step we made and afraid to take risks.
* Forcing us to undergo radical change without any direction and often under harsh criticism resulted in such severe grieving that outside counselors and consultants were brought in to heal wounds. Dr. Fernandes was nowhere to be found.
* Dr. Fernandes put a stop to the Teacher Evaluation System that was used for many years. When problems escalated, she had the revised TES implemented. Dr. Fernandes did not bother with follow-up review to make sure the process was just and fair.
* The removal of the sabbatical leave during Dr. Fernandes’ administration occurred when she successfully manipulated a few personnel into supporting her decision and informed a certain member of the Gallaudet University Board of Trustees that the majority of faculty and staff agreed.

Mandates Proposed by Laurent Clerc Center Teachers/Staff:

* We deserve the opportunity to set up an organization where our voice will be heard.
* We desire shared governance.
* We support the FSSA’s demands.