CLINTON —Members of the Education Association of Clinton packed a Board of Education meeting on Monday in response to allegations from former and current teachers in Clinton about a hostile work environment in the district and criticism directed at the district’s union representative.
On Sunday evening, Michael Meizies, president of the Education Association of Clinton, sent an email to members in the district, asking that they attend the Board of Education meeting on Monday.
“In light of recent developments regarding the loss of a longtime Joel School faculty member, and that loss being referenced by a recent newspaper article, the EAC is asking that ALL members attend tomorrow’s night (sic) Board of Education meeting at the Joel School (the meeting is NOT virtual),” Meizies wrote in the email. “We are also asking that you wear a red shirt in show of solidarity for our association. CEA will provide stickers as well; it is asked that you wait in the parking lot, so all our members can enter the room in unison.”
Between 50 and 60 members of the association attended the meeting, many wearing red t-shirts with a picture of Connecticut and the logo “#Red forED,” blue masks bearing the words “I Love Teaching” and round blue stickers with the letters CEA.
At the meeting, Meizies read a statement decrying recent reporting by the Connecticut Examiner, which he said “has thrown salt on our open wounds” in the aftermath of the death of Jack Reynolds, a long-time teacher with the Clinton Public School District who died in late September.
Meizies claimed that the paper had “harassed” the union and sought “comments and confidential information” about teachers, including Reynolds.
“We honor and respect the privacy of our members as a key tenet of our association,” said Meizies.
Meizies said the paper had “attacked one of our union representatives who has spent countless hours working with the Education Association of Clinton advocating for safety and resources for our students, for better working conditions for our educators, and representing teachers when personnel or administrative issues arise.”
In an editorial on Tuesday, CT Examiner responded to those claims.
Abby Roccapriore, vice president of the PTA, also read a statement criticizing CT Examiner’s coverage.
“As the PTA, we can share that to date no Clinton teacher has ever come to us to bring to our attention anything that was discussed in the article. The article is one sided, especially since administration is legally not allowed to comment on individual cases due to privacy. While we don’t always agree, we have a very collaborative relationship with Maryann O’Donnell and Marco Famiglietti. We highly respect them and the way they have led Clinton Public Schools,” said Roccapriore.
Steven Redes, who taught in the district for 34 years, also spoke at the meeting.
Redes said that when he started teaching at the Morgan school, he was teaching controversial topics — sex, drugs and AIDS — and that students would bring home to their parents that were only partially correct. Parents would call the principal, and the principal would have him call the parents.
“And the parent and I would talk, and we’d end up laughing,” he said.
In later administrations prior to that of Maryann O’Donnell, he said, a call from a parent would lead to him being called into meetings with the superintendent and the principal. He said that while a union representative would have always been available to him, he never felt he needed one. Eventually, he said, the district decided to make his full-time position part-time, at which point, he said, decided to retire.
“I was afraid to speak out when I was asked to,” he said. “I had seen some of my colleagues in a very recent time period make mistakes and be very heavily watched.”
Redes encouraged the administration and the teachers to come together and have a discussion.
“I think kids, teachers are scared and if you can just open that gate and talk, you’ll have a great system again,” he said. “Are your concerns really about your kids? Or is it the Emperor’s New Clothes?”