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Saturday, September 27, 2014

I know I state the obvious when I write that people die.  Young ones die. Old ones die.  Middle aged ones too.  People die from car crashes and terrorist and heart attacks.  They die of strokes and cancers too. They never know when.  Get up in the morning.  Go to work.  Narrowly avoid that teenager zipping through traffic with that "it-is-all-about-me-and-definitely-not-about-any-of you" attitude, only to sit at your desk with relief...and be confronted by a mad man wielding a knife.

Maybe you've stopped for gas; topping it off for the week and your mad man is a police officer with a gun. "Get your license!", he screams.  You comply. He, though, shoots.  Pow!  Pow!  Pow!  You, thankfully don't yet die.  You will one day, but not today.  You simply lie on the ground crying out in shock: "But what did I do?  Why did you shoot me?"

Maybe you're a union steward at a public school.  Maybe the years of stress of working for a mad man--your principal--and all of its health consequences finally takes its toll.  You enter his office.  You confront once again his menace for he is again "taking action" against a teacher.  Your last act, before the pain that will kill you rises, is to look him squarely in the eye and say,"No more."  

Children die too. They circle up for stories in kindergarten classes as their mad men enter their schools.  Armed with assault weapons, their mad men storm through rural schools' hallways to "teach the rest of us a lesson."  That story--was it "Brown Bear, Brown Bear"?; Where the Wild Ones Are?" Good Night Moon?"--will be the last for many.

For me the contemplation of my own death is good for me.  Maybe it's my "way-beyond-middle-age" crisis, I do not know.  I just evaluate my life in regards to family, friends, and work.  I am willing to take hard looks at who I am in the world.  I am more likely to recognize important moments.  Oh that!  They are all important, for strung together they make up life.  

How about the moment the judge in Kazakhstan signed papers making me and my husband the parents of two?  How about the smile I shared with one of those two yesterday when I picked him up at school? It was his fourteenth birthday and he had nine "birthday rocks" painted by his friends with faces and messages. He'd asked for rocks instead of balloons. 

How about exasperation at another wet towel on a bathroom floor...and choosing to just pick it up for goodness sakes!  How about shaking my head and laughing at my exasperation, for the wet towel culprit is fifteen and a teenaged girl and wasn't I much the same at that age many moments ago?  

How about a move to Miami as a young woman? How about choosing to spend the next 35 years of strung together moments in that city?  How about all of that? 

How about facing a violent man--my boss--and saying "No, I will not." on March 16, 2010?  That is a time capsule string of slow motion moments for me.  His face reddening--a moment. Him rising as he screamed, another. His spittle--had his desk not separated us, most assuredly it would have struck my face, another and another. How about using those moments--mine, oh, mine; given to me on a stinky silver platter by a school district--to let others who have experienced similar moments in their schools know they are not alone? How about learning how dangerous it is for so many educators to work in public schools?  How about continuing on and on and on to write about it all in an effort to simply help?  Oh how about that?

Why not? 

Because I am going to die. 

Because people die.
9:25 am edt          Comments

Sunday, September 21, 2014

Workplace bullying or workplace violence?

 "We reserve the term workplace bullying for repeated, harmful, abusive mistreatment — a form of workplace violence."  The Workplace Bullying Institute.

Other bullied educators from my former school and I have experienced surreal, "unbelievable-until-you-have-been-there" abuse. I keep calling it all bullying, but it's not.  According to OSHA, it's workplace violence and, unlike workplace bullying, it's against the law.  

Here's a link to OSHA's training on workplace violence: 


I heard my former principal ( and these are just a few examples of his violent behavior):

2. Use of verbal harassment:  "I may have to write you up"; "That's not the way we do things around here, honey"; "That's strike two;" "We have to talk.  There have been complaints."

1. Use of abusive and offensive language:  To me: "JESUS CHRIST! Why the F@#$% can't you stay out of things!?" and to an AP: "GET THE F@#$% OVER HERE!" To children: "SHUT UP!"

2. Exhibit of disorderly conduct: "THIS IS MY SCHOOL!" as he threw out a parent and called 911.

I felt so unsafe--knew in my most inner being that I was not safe-- that I asked the police to accompany me into the school to retrieve my office supplies...

Here's a link to my district's workplace violence policy:


Here is the policy in its entirety. If you've been following my story--and my story includes so many other targeted educators--then judge for yourself if we're talking "mere" workplace bullying or illegal and life threatening workplace violence.

For me there is no question.


  Why does Miami-Dade County Public Schools (M-DCPS) have a workplace violence policy?
Nothing is more important to M-DCPS than protecting the safety and security of its students and employees and promoting a violence-free work environment.  Pursuant to that goal, the School Board has approved a policy that prohibits threats, threatening behavior, or acts of violence against students, employees, visitors, guests, or other individuals by anyone on M-DCPS property.  The School Board Rule which states this policy is 6Gx13-4-1.08.
 What happens if someone violates this policy?
Any person who makes substantial threats, exhibits threatening behavior, or engages in violent acts on M-DCPS property shall be removed from the premises as quickly as safety permits, and shall remain off M-DCPS premises pending the outcome of an investigation and administrative follow-up.
What kind of actions might be taken with a threatening individual?
M-DCPS will initiate an appropriate response.  This response may include, but it is not limited to, suspension and/or termination of employment, reassignment of job duties, and/or criminal prosecution of the person or persons involved.
What type of behavior is considered as threatening?
Threatening conduct takes many forms in the workplace, varies in terms of boldness, and can be either verbal or non-verbal in expression.  In order to be “ears and eyes” for one another, we need to pay attention to any behavior that creates fear in others,
scares, intimidates or coerces others, and behavior that may cause emotional or physical injury to others (whether intended or not).
Aren’t we over-reacting?  Sometimes people make threats and don’t really mean them.
It is understood that most often the person making threats is in need of help.  It is far better for that person to get help NOW before a homicide, suicide,  jail sentence occurs, and/or disciplinary action is taken.
M-DCPS will consider all threats as serious.  Whether intended to be carried out or not, a threat creates psychological distress, is distracting, and disrupts productivity.  Our employees have a right to work in a safe environment.  Violence or the threat of violence by or against students and employees will not be tolerated.
Who should I contact if I observe or become aware of a threatening situation?
Contact the supervisor of your work location if you hear, observe, or know of a situation that is potentially threatening.  The supervisor MUST report to the appropriate law enforcement agencies and to the district office of M-DCPS Police any criminal act occurring on School Board property or at any school system-related function.  Such acts include, but are not limited to:  homicide and murder; sexual battery; sex offenses; arson; kidnapping; possession and/or concealment of weapons; assault and battery; robbery; theft; bomb threat; trespassing on school property; possession, sale, or distribution of mood modifiers; possession, use, or sale of firearms or destructive devices; breaking and entering; sabotaging equipment, vandalism and/or destruction of property.  There are other behaviors or situations that your supervisor may handle routinely, resolve

through regular disciplinary measures, and/or refer to the Employee Assistance Program, Office of Professional Standards, the  appropriate  police  agency, or the M-DCPS Police.  These behaviors include, but are not limited to:  consistent arguing with co-workers, adamant refusal to cooperate with others, belligerence toward co-workers or towards students, fascination with or alluding to violent incidents, stating that he/she has been victimized by others,  indirect threats towards others, body language that is intimidating or threatening, recurring physical fights, suicidal threats, and posting or sending violent notes, newspaper articles, or sensational literature to co-workers or management.
·        Why should I report threatening situations?  I don’t want to “snitch” on somebody!
Creating a safer workplace is a shared responsibility and will not work if you do not get involved and make a personal commitment to the policy.  It is imperative to encourage early reporting of a threat of violence, because the further along the situation, the more difficult it will be to defuse.
·        What about confidentiality?
Your information will be treated as confidentially as possible.  Discussions will be with people who have a genuine “need-to-know.”  This includes warning potential victims, who may be unaware of the threatening situation.
·        Are there some things I should do (or not do) if I’m confronted by an imminently hostile person?
Avoid heroics and avoid provoking an agitated individual further.  Known “triggers” of anger include encroaching on personal space, behaving in a condescending manner with the person, an arrogant voice tone, lack of eye contact, not listening, and obvious (or perceived) disinterest in what someone is saying.
If possible, talk to him/her in a calm tone of voice.  Ask the employee what he/she wants or needs to have in order to get an issue resolved.  Hear and understand the employee.  Try and build the person’s self esteem.  If you can’t solve the problem, refer the individual to someone who can.  These techniques may help you defuse the immediate situation.
In any threatening event, it is important that you document exactly what occurred, what was said, and when it happened.  Your information will help others who may get involved in resolving these issues.
·         Other than the supervisor of the work location or the M-DCPS Police, who else might intervene with a threatening individual?
Depending on the situation, there are a number of other appropriate resources that might get involved with a threatening or troubling individual. The Employee Assistance Program has provided and continues to provide support for individuals who need help in conflict resolution.
·         What is the role of the Office of Professional Standards (OPS) in dealing with threatening or intimidating employees?
OPS will get involved when an investigation of a threatening situation has been substantiated and possible disciplinary action may be forthcoming for an employee.  If emergency assistance is needed, the actions of OPS will be consistent with policy, guidelines, and practice in accordance with due process.
·         Need more information?
If your questions have not been answered, please feel free to call the offices listed below.
Office of Personnel Support Programs
(305) 995-7414
Employee Assistance Program
(305) 995-7111
Miami-Dade County Public Schools Police
(305) 757-0514
Office of Professional Standards
(305) 995-7120
* * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * * *

9:09 am edt          Comments

Saturday, September 13, 2014

This was meant to be a letter to my superintendent. It went other places...
This started as a letter to my superintendent. Turned into something else. Wow. When will I be done with numbers three, four, and five? Read on, dear readers, and you will understand...

I am a middle school counselor, an Olweus and workplace bullying prevention trainer, an Anti-Defamation League "World of Difference" trainer, a retired flight attendant who was language qualified in French, Portuguese, and Spanish, an Onboard Leader, a former Master Facilitator of Delta Air Lines leadership seminars and a flight attendant recruiter. I've taught Spanish and English as an Adult Education teacher. I've worked as a therapist in a psychiatric hospital.

I've held leadership positions, trained leaders for Delta Air Lines and researched just what genuine leadership truly is.

I've done a lot of different things.

In the schools at which I've worked in Miami-Dade County--there have been four of those--I have experienced fine leadership and I have experienced bullying, violent, abusive, and downright dangerous leadership. I've worked for six principals in my ten years in this second career as a school counselor--five men and one woman. On a "One to Ten Effective Leadership scale"--one being awful and ten being great--I'd give the first two male principals--an eight and a nine. The third guy was a histrionic nut, so he gets a one. The fourth was a violent psychopath so he gets some "way-below-zero-because-zero-is-just-awful-and-he-was-beyond-awful-he-was/is-frighteningly-dangerous." The woman was an ineffective hider who paid no attention to what was happening outside of her office and so the school and its reputation plummeted. Zoom! Crash! Burn! I'll give her a two. My expectations of working for a true leader were battered at the very least after having worked for my "way-below-zero" principal so she gets the two because at least she didn't scream and curse at me or at children.

But the sixth--oh, the sixth! The sixth! The sixth! Can you hear the music in my writing? Can you see the skip in my step between my typed words? He's a Dr. Seuss "On-Beyond-Ten" kind of principal! He's a "way-above-ten" because he's smart and nice and caring and trusting. He's a "way-above-ten" because I like him. He's a "way-way-way-above-ten" because he creates team spirit. He leads with his own hardworking example. He's approachable. He's funny. 

I have to be careful here though; have to evaluate what I write; have to ask myself if all of that is really true about him. My expectations of my school district's principals were so low before I met him. Before my current school, I'd worked almost two years in a war zone of a school. I'd watched as that hell hole was celebrated by school board members and community leaders as a shining example of just what we're all looking for in public education. Meanwhile the carcasses of honest teachers' careers were buried in the well tended gardens of that school. Those gardens were tended by the "yes-sir-anything-you-say-sir" teachers who acquiesced to the principal's violent leadership. Those gardens still flourish for there are more and more careers fertilizing them.

My career does not fertilize those gardens. It almost did. It was almost pulverized into a fertilizing powder, almost sprinkled by the other counselor and the assistant principal there into the soil of that school's gardens. "This 'Action Against Another Teacher' plant is not flowering," they might have said as they strutted out to the garden with the remains of my career in a bucket. "Let's see if this will help."

A phone call. This one received at the awful place run by number four; the psychopath of a principal. Received from number three, the histrionic nut. I'd worked for him for about six weeks before I was surplussed. I was excited to hear from him. I was working on behalf of the schools in my community--trying to get funding for the Olweus program-- and he was the principal of that community's high school. I thought he was calling to say "thank you." 

Oh you snide jerk! Put me on speaker phone and blast me with your words with others present! You creep! How did you get to run the high school in my community? Do you know how despised you were there? Thank God you are now gone. My children deserve so much better than your fear mongering. How dare you call me and threaten me! 

"You're not the only one who knows the mayor and the police chief," you sarcastically reminded me. Me a mom. Me a community member. Me. 

Me hanging up the phone. Shaken. Me now having to face number four. The worst yet. Oh yeah, perspective. You were just a shameless suck up. Throwing fits. Strutting your stuff through my community's high school's hallways. Your perplexing two faced leadership may have destroyed that school--taken years to get back to a place of excellence--had you not left when you did.

I've seen the results of long term ineffective leadership on a school. Number five--my woman. Coming up.

And then number six! Skippedy-do-da! Number six! Yippee! Number six!

11:25 am edt          Comments

Sunday, September 7, 2014

A NYC educator's courage...

Check out this NYC educator's courage... http://protectportelos.org/about/

Cut from comment by David Pakter, M.A., M.F.A.:

"Only those American Educators who have been forced to work under and be exposed to, and be “supervised” and indeed “controlled”, by such failed human beings as you were forced to work under, can really understand what it is like to have one’s entire career put at the mercy of truly deviant, sadistic, clinically pathological specimens of humanity who have such power over the lives of the everyday American classroom Teacher.

These so-called “Supervisors”, from the earliest moments in their pitiful careers, become the official lackeys, the hatchet people, the official enforcers, the “Gestapo” like Storm Troopers, of Educational systems, throughout America...

They understand from early on that their prime function is to enforce the often malevolent decisions and often illegal and vicious whims of their own “superiors” in the endless top down controlled “Hierarchy” that comprises vast multi-billion dollar Educational systems in the United States.

There is virtually no act, however immoral or illegal, these “Supervisor” functionaries will not sink to and resort to, when so ordered, or even when not necessarily officially ordered, to destroy a Teacher who has the temerity to become a Whistle-blower and expose criminal behavior that is injurious to the welfare of his or her students in America’s public schools...

An innocent man was put through psychological and yes- physical Hell, as the human body absolutely, eventually suffers what the mind suffers.

He was removed from his position without true “due process” or real “legal justification” , made to suffer untold, countless humiliations, for over two years, including having to spend the night and sleep on the crowded floor of a NYC Jail cell and then the “Coups de Grace” is that Mr. Portelos is ordered to pay a “Fine” of $ 15,000. for the “crime” of doing the Right Thing the Legally Mandated and required action, of reporting corruption he had personally witnessed and the theft of Tax Payer dollars..."
8:49 am edt          Comments

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Click here for my district's bullying and harassment policy. You will see I have made comments....