May 26, 2019

Survey shows Van Buren teachers dissatisfied

VAN BUREN — Lack of student discipline, unfair treatment of students, and poor communication between teachers and administrators are problems that need to be addressed at the Van Buren District Secondary School, according to a survey of teachers.

Student attendance policies, not listening to opinions of teachers, and the political leanings of the school board were also high on the list of complaints by teachers who answered the survey.

The survey, initiated by the school board last month, is the second survey of secondary teachers at Van Buren in five years. The district has 32 teachers at the middle and secondary school level. Seventeen returned the survey, which was filled out anonymously.

“School directors received the survey last night and took it with them,” Superintendent Clayton Belanger said Thursday morning. “They will be discussing the results at their next meeting.”

Belanger was not impressed with the survey and its results.

“Those who answered the survey are the ones that have an ax to grind,” Belanger said. “The answers are the same — that problems are due to discipline and the principal.

“It’s always the same, no matter who the principal is,” Belanger said.

“Unless discipline is taken seriously enough, then a trickle-down effect occurs which leaves some teachers without a safety net,” one teacher wrote in the survey.

SAD 24 lost four teachers this year, one to retirement. Two others, according to Belanger, accepted teaching jobs at Madawaska, where salaries are higher, and another left for a position downstate.

He said the turnover was real high at the end of the 1998 school year, when SAD 24 lost much of its middle school staff.

“Directors — and I am speculating — asked for the survey because they are worried about the number of teachers leaving,” Belanger said. “There is a shortage of teachers in Maine, and teachers are on the move.”

The survey listed 11 statements that teachers were asked to rate from strongly agreement to strongly disagreement. Six open questions sought personal answers.

The most glaring dissatisfaction was with communication between teachers and administrators. Fifteen of 16 teachers answering the question disagreed that there is effective communication between themselves and high school Principal Rod Wright.

Thirteen teachers also felt the administration does not listen to their opinions.

Fourteen teachers felt Belanger is more interested in what is happening at Gateway Elementary School. He was principal there, before becoming superintendent, five years ago. A recent administrative shuffle returned the elementary principalship to Belanger, while he remains as superintendent.

Not many are impressed with the school board itself. Twelve of the 17 teachers believe the school board is more interested in politics than in the education of the students.

Asked if discipline was fine, with everyone being treated fairly, 12 of 15 teachers disagreed or strongly disagreed. Some blamed Wright, and others blamed the superintendent and school board for not taking the issue seriously enough.

On the other hand, six teachers said teachers treated students fairly. Eight disagreed with teacher fairness.

Eleven teachers said teachers and administrators don’t work together effectively, and five said they do. The split was fairly even on the question of a well-aligned curriculum.

A question on the effectiveness of a student attendance policy drew a 10-4 negative response. Those questioning the effectiveness claimed Wright played favorites, especially on detentions.

Some teachers claimed athletes were allowed to participate in a soccer game instead of serving their detentions.

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