Crowell Elementary School Teachers delivered a clear message Tuesday night: They want Principal Linda Alaniz removed from her post as head of the school.
Current and former Crowell teachers voiced concerns of alleged mistreatment by Alaniz during the Turlock Unified School District Board of Trustees meeting Tuesday night.
Dozens of teachers and supporters staged a silent protest prior to the board meeting, lining up on opposite sides of the entryway and quietly staring. The teachers held Character Counts posters as trustees passed between the rows.
The Turlock Teachers Association received seven grievances from teachers who are upset that Alaniz is reassigning at least 12 teachers to new grade levels next school year. Nearly all of the teachers have no experience at their new grade levels.
But the reassignment is just the straw that broke the camel’s back for the teachers, many of whom said they were embarrassed to wear their Crowell t-shirts in public due to incidents at the school this year.
Earlier in the school year, Alaniz came under intense public pressure following an incident where a first grade student stabbed another student with a pencil. Dozens of parents made public complaints about ongoing bullying problems at the school, and a lack of response by Alaniz.
Shortly after the stabbing incident, Alaniz was again in the news. She attempted to discipline a classified employee following a remark made on social media about a student. The remark did not offend the student’s mother or anyone other than Alaniz, apparently.
Those public problems don’t begin to address the private problems teachers face, they said.
One teacher with 15 years of experience, Sally Dickinson, says she has elected to leave TUSD because of working conditions under Alaniz.
“I have worked since I was 14 years old and I understand what it means to have a boss, given directions as an employee and how to work as a team member,” she said. “I have tendered my resignation because in all my years of working, never have I been treated so poorly as an employee, much less a human being. Crowell has become a toxic learning environment I can no longer stand, and I can no longer wait for something to be done about it.”
Turlock Teacher’s Association President Julie Shipman says Alaniz has created a hostile work environment through intimidation, bullying tactics, vendettas, favoritism, dishonesty, and throwing teachers under the bus. The relationship has led teachers to proclaim they “work in hell and the devil is their boss.”
“They go into these jobs to help children, and yet the culture at Crowell is awful,” said Shipman. “Teachers walk around like beaten spouses. If they just keep their head down and keep quiet then everything is fine. They are afraid to speak up.”
Teachers who have filed grievances include Patti Langpaap (32 years teaching, 5th to 6th), Jill Norman (11 years, 4th to 3rd grade), Cindy Schnetzer (30 years, K to 2nd), Donna Feldman (17 years, 1st to 3rd grade), Rhonda Blount (10 years), Lisa Rowe (17 years), and Greta Pearson (16 years, 2nd to 4th grade). Langpaap was the only teacher who would be moved to a grade she had previously taught, 6th grade.
The teachers collectively expressed that Alaniz’s decision to move them will hurt student learning and is not in the best interest of the students, especially given the in-progress implementation of Common Core. All said they want to remain at their current grade level in order to be the most effective teachers.
“It’s insane and there is no logical reason for it,” said Shipman. “All year these teachers have been preparing for the Common Core Implementation. Almost every one of the 12 teachers, which represents one-third of the teachers at Crowell, have zero experience teaching at their newly assigned grade level. How is taking experienced teachers and placing them in a new grade level where they have no experience in the best interest of the students? Don’t kids have a right to knowledgeable teachers?”
A former Crowell teacher and a National Board Certified Teacher, Kathleen Kennedy, who holds a Master’s Degree in Curriculum Development, also addressed the trustees. She said that, on one occasion, when she asked for several unruly students to be removed from her classroom, Alaniz screamed at her in front of some of her students and told her that the student’s parents hated her.
Kennedy says she retired two years ago after 23 years of teaching because of Alaniz.
And another former Crowell teacher and current owner of PCR Baseball, Lance Boullion, says he also left teaching after dealing with Alaniz. He explained that he left over two years ago because he was moved from his designated grade level.
“When I saw some of the these teachers I used to work with, I asked them how were things at Crowell,” he said. “And all of them looked around before they said anything. That is fear. In history, fear and intimidation only last so long until a revolt happens, and that is what is happening here tonight. How many good teachers are worth one principal?”
The Board of Trustees did not offer any comment following the teachers’ public thrashing of Alaniz’s leadership.