A number of claims have been made about our reporting, in an apparent effort to quash any serious outside inquiry or reporting on numerous teacher complaints alleging a toxic work environment in Clinton public schools.
That these claims have been manufactured primarily by the Connecticut Education Association, a self-described “driving force in lobbying legislators for the resources public schools need and campaigning for high standards for teachers and students,” is ironic and disappointing.
Hardnosed advocacy and sharp elbows are something we expect from organized labor in support of its members. And we understand and respect that role.
But here we are faced with something very different. Has CEA expressed even an iota of concern for the nine teachers, previously and presently employed by Clinton public schools, who have voiced grievances in this case?
Compare the CEA response to recent news in Middletown, where USPEU Local 6457, AFSCME Local 466, the Middletown Federation of Teachers, AFT Local 1381, and the Middletown Federation of Paraeducators, Local 3161 instead issued a joint statement regarding alleged “harassment, intimidation and retaliation by members of Central Office senior management.”
No wonder a Freedom of Information request filed with the Clinton public schools turned up just one case in the last five years when the union did step in regarding a complaint. Even in the happiest of unionized workplaces a number that low is odd.
Regarding claims that our reporters harassed Gloria Dimon, an attorney for CEA – perhaps the single most powerful advocacy organization in the state – we are happy to let you decide. Our contact with Dimon amounted to a voicemail message offering her the chance to respond to allegations made by several Clinton teachers.
We encourage Dimon and CEA to release that voicemail, and let the public decide.
As for repeated claims by the members of the Clinton PTA, the administration, and CEA that their hands have been tied out of concerns for decency and respect for privacy laws, let us be equally clear.
The death of Jack Reynolds spurred a number of people to reach out to CT Examiner for help – not just past and present teachers, but also present town officials. As far as we could tell this outreach was largely individual, organic, and unrelated to partisan concerns. At least one person expressed outrage that the Clinton Board of Education would meet as usual during calling hours for Reynolds.
It is fair to say that our news coverage and the death of Reynolds, a beloved teacher in the town, were not unrelated, but contrary to claims, his death has not been a significant or primary focus of our interviews, questions or document requests. At no time did our reporters request more than the very basic documents regarding Reynolds.
Nor were our questions to Superintendent Maryann O’Donnell more than general in nature. An effective response, if there is one, was more than possible for O’Donnell, even with an abundance of caution related to privacy concerns.
The reality is that when faced with damning claims by a remarkable number of teachers in Clinton public schools, unexpectedly, neither Dimon nor O’Donnell could offer any rebuttal.
It’s that failure to respond – and this subsequent public campaign of intimidation based on outright falsehoods – which convinces us that there is something deeply wrong in Clinton.
We stand by our reporting.