Mobbing is a term used when a group of workers engages in this hostile behavior, collectively making life difficult for someone on the job. And it was in full force.
The school board was rubber-stamping every action taken by the administration.
On March 13th Victor Baird sent an e-mail to the staff announcing that he hadn’t been able to get funding for all the teachers who had volunteered to attend the We Teach All conference. He was planning to send only four teachers. While I had resigned as English Department Head because of the abusive-bullying and harassment, I was still one of only two full-time language teachers. It appeared that Baird was not going to allow me to attend the conference. It was clearly a slap in the face. This was clearly retaliation a common practice done by abusers and bullies.
Needless to say, I wasn’t surprised that I hadn’t been chosen, but that didn’t mean I wasn’t disappointed. Baird’s hatred for me was obvious. That same day I received a nice letter from Sarah Patterson, County Superintendent of schools (fictitious name), complimenting me on my work with the County Spelling Bee. In the midst of all the subversion and accusations it came as a breath of fresh air to know that at least one person appreciated my efforts.
Four days later, I sent an e-mail to: Victor Baird, Harold Ferret, Clark Messenger, and Bertha Bartlett (fictitious names), officially informing them of a series of problems I discovered on return to work.
Grades had been deleted from my grade book.
In spite of the fact that they were not the grades I had given and recorded, my name was still being placed on the reports sent to parents. I was upset that my name was being used in what was a clear misrepresentation of the facts.
Student work was taken out of my room and lost or destroyed.
Lesson plans I left for the substitute and for Mr. Baird seemed to be destroyed or misplaced. In any case, they weren’t followed. My students were told by Mr. Baird that he and Mrs. Fox would be doing my lesson plans. This upset my students because they had to repeat work they had already completed in September and October.
I heard nothing in return so I sent a second e-mail the next day. I asked what I was supposed to do about the students’ third-quarter grades. Since Victor Baird had changed my original grades I felt that his name, not mine, should be on the reports to the parents. That didn’t seem unreasonable since these were not the grades I had recorded. Finally, I let it be known that I was going to have difficulty with the upcoming conferences because of administrative interference. As in my e-mail from the previous day I ended by asking for a prompt response.
Later that day, I received a message from Harold Ferret:
“Mrs. Adams, I have received this message, as well as the 2nd message you sent today. I have been out-of-town at the legislature and this is the first opportunity I have had to respond to your messages. The items you outline in this e-mail are items that you need to address with the building principal. We have a process for resolving concerns and you need to follow that process at the building level. Please schedule a meeting with Mr. Baird to make him aware of your concerns, and work with him to resolve these concerns. Thanks.”
I quickly responded that I had made Victor Baird clearly aware of the issues yet he hadn’t provided any guidance. In fact, he refused to talk about it; however, I concluded by telling Ferret that, as requested, I’d keep trying.
I immediately sent Baird another e-mail (also copied to Ferret, Messenger, and Bartlett) reminding him of my two previous e-mails and again outlining my concerns. I reemphasized my difficulty with not having my lesson plans ,the removal of my personal files and student files, missing Big Books from my classroom, and the destruction of student work. I also requested that Baird put his name on the report cards in place of mine, since he had been the one to tamper with my grade book. I also told him again that the e-mail I used to communicate with parents wasn’t working, and pointed out that I had tried to talk to him twice since my return. I reminded him that Marla Baker had been present both times when he had refused to discuss these matters.
I was stunned and even more convinced that no one seemed to care about either the students or their teachers. When I arrived home that night there was a phone message from Shane Covert (fictitious name). He asked me to return his call. When I did, I asked if Mark could listen to our conversation. Shane agreed, and then told me he felt bad about the things that had transpired while I was absent and that he’d only been following directions from the administration.
The next day, Wilbur Svenson interrupted my seventh period class to tell me that Harold Ferret was waiting for me in the hallway.
“Tell Dr. Ferret that I’ll talk to him in thirty minutes, when my class is over.” I had inkling that it was about the e-mail I’d sent to OPI, and it wouldn’t have surprised me if Ferret was angry about it. Wilbur Svenson stepped out of the room. A moment later Harold Ferret stepped in, ordering me out into the hallway. Ferret forced me up against a wall his face just inches away from mine.
“Now I see the behavior problem Baird was talking about! Come on we’re going to meet with Victor Baird right now.”
I replied as calmly as I could, “I have the right to have my attorney present if you want to talk to me.” That seemed to anger Ferret even more, but all I could do was to stand against the wall until he stepped aside and dismissed me. I felt low, demeaned, and powerless. After what seemed like an eternity Ferret backed off growling, “I’m ordering you to go to that meeting.”
“I need to contact my attorney first.”
“I’ve already been in contact with your attorney.” He said.
“I need to contact my attorney!”
“You will go to that meeting.” He said.
“Victor Baird agreed in front of Marla Baker, a union witness, that all communication would be through e-mail.”
Ferret paused, “If you’re not down there by 3:30 you’ll be considered insubordinate and escorted out of the building.”
He was giving me only a half hour to notify my attorney. When I told him it couldn’t be done, Ferret got even angrier. I walked back into my classroom to call Jerry Halperin and could see Svenson and Ferret pacing the hallway as I dialed the phone. His secretary told me, “I’m sorry, he’s in court in Fort Benton, but I’ll try to get a hold of him.”
I was shaking as I hung up the phone. I stood, walked into the hallway, and begged Svenson and Ferret to reschedule the meeting. They wouldn’t hear of it. However, there was no way I was going into a room with four administrators (including Bertha Bartlett) without legal representation. I turned around, gathered my things, and walked out of the building before Ferret could have me escorted out.
That was the last day I worked—and in a final bit of irony I found a letter from Harold Ferret’s office, waiting for me when I got home, congratulating me on ten years of service to Havre Public Schools.
…to be continued