A Piece Full World

My Story and Others' Stories of Abuse

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"...frightening is the possibility that "cool" but vicious psychopaths will become twisted role models...where little value is placed on honesty, fair play, and concern for the welfare of others..."

"Without Conscience - The Disturbing World of the Psychopaths Among Us."

--Robert D. Hare, PhD.

Click here for a typical story of a bullied teacher.

I’ve been advised by a friend I deeply respect to let go of the past and move into the future. I think he is perplexed as to my returning often in my writing to my experience of workplace bullying. I want him to know I am stuck--though not on the past--but on his recommendation.  For you see I do not see myself as stuck in recollections of that place of abuse. 
 I want my dear friend to understand how writing about that surreal environment; talking about it; just processing every nuance of it, is healing for me; that I find relief in words on paper. 
  
Mine is, I think, a unique experience of a tiresome issue-bullying.  Even as I became an unwitting adult victim of bullying, I was working hard at keeping children safe from the same.   
I want my friend also to know that I hold no bitterness—quite the opposite; I have relief, joy and exuberance now that I am gone from there.  I feel sorrow for those who remain. 
Still though, he may be right.  Maybe for once and for all I need to get this out, on paper and be done with it.     
So, I have decided to tell my story to you.  I will tell it as I experienced it.  I will tell you now that what I write may seem trivial.  It may seem that I was just way too sensitive.  I was not.  Even when my husband would ask’ “How was your day?” and I could respond, “Good.  He left me alone,” I felt dread about the next day and the one after that.   I will give to you also the words of my bully and his followers.  I will give them to you from their own testimonies during an investigation of my former principal’s ethics violations.  The violations were deemed unfounded and all have remained in their positions.  I am no longer working there.    
There was, from the time I entered that school building for the first time, an under current of suspicion and mistrust.  I balanced there, not knowing exactly why I felt uncertain.  I just knew that I needed extra vigilance to remain steady.  Over time it proved impossible.  Workplace bullying leaves scars. Staying in places of workplace violence and bullying leaves gaping wounds.
The dynamics of bullying, whether for children or for adults, are much the same.  Even though I was an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer, I did not yet understand how the different roles of the Bullying Circle applied to my being a target.  I knew I was targeted by my school principal.  He routinely (and it appeared to me with some gusto) would pass me and say things like this:  “We must talk.  There have been complaints; I may have to write you up; that’s miscommunication number two.” 
He and his followers had lied on official documents about me--twice.  He knew I had not supported the testimony.  He knew I had told the truth. I did not yet however fully understand that my bully had his followers. 
I remember one meeting with an assistant principal. We were to “get things out on the table”—a department meeting; four of us led by our female assistant principal.  I do not want to put too many details of that meeting here on paper.  It was an excruciating, yet informative meeting for me.  
At that meeting my work was derided.  At that meeting I was told my three co-workers had learned to “cling together.”   At that meeting they spoke of being family.  At that meeting I asked how the family had formed.  I was told it had formed by “going through fire.”  They told me it was our boss’s “fire” that had brought them together. I informed them—my bully’s followers—that our boss’s flames had licked my heels as well.  
I did not yet know this either—that ugly layers above my principal’s leadership—his bosses—years of blind eye turning to reports of his abuse—had allowed his tyranny and his arrogance to grow. 
My school was a sad and common example of the dark climate of subterfuge and deception bullying leadership creates.  No wonder adults hid behind the wall of lies. That’s the only place they had to hide. They would stay there and lob gobs of untruths at me as I approached their thick wall to see what it was made of.  
It’s also no wonder children did not feel safe there. Their protectors, the adult leaders of the school, were lost to them. In fact, I was horrified more that once at my school leader’s screams-loud, crude screams—at the children at our school.  “SHUT UP! THIS IS MY SCHOOL!”, I once heard and saw him scream inches from the faces of two girls who had raised their voices in his presence.  
I indeed suffered—chunks, raw pieces of pain.  Being a victim of abuse by a school leader-- and having others join in-- is just plain horrible.  Like bullied children; excluded children; talked about and laughed about children; I felt trepidation each day as I entered the doors of my former school.  Like children entering classrooms and seeing tormentors’ book bags, I would see my school leader’s car and my heart would sink; my stomach would twist.  A pall would descend as I looked at others working there and wondered if they too experienced this dread.  They did.  They were. 
Once, in a particularly awful moment, an employee, Jorge, came to me.  It was obvious he’d thought about what to do for a long time before deciding that I was the one with whom he needed to speak.  For you see, he had a story to tell.  It was an awful story.  He did not feel safe.  He wanted to call the police. He’d reached the point of desperation.  I allowed him to make that call from my office. 
Two days later Jorge asked that I assure a note he’d written to our school leader was correctly written in English.  I read it.  I read it again.  I looked at Jorge.  “This is an apology to the principal”, I stated.  “Yes,” he replied. “It’s the only way I can keep my job.”
Jorge’s acquiescence to the brute force of our school leader frightened me.   
I now feel forgiving. Yes, many there did lie.  Many participated in the ugliness surrounding me there.  Most continue to deny the bullying happened. They state it was my fault. I have read their reports. I know they are not true.
According to the reports, I am “confrontational and uncooperative.” Standing up and telling the truth is tough. It took every single ounce of energy and courage I could muster to say, “No.  I will not do it,” and so perhaps I was uncooperative.  Perhaps I was confrontational. Perhaps I was so frustratingly honest and enthusiastic about my work that my bully simply could not abide me.  
And still, I understand.   Much like children in this and other schools whose cultures are ones of suspicion and insecurity, adults know there is no good thing for them in telling the truth.  In fact, had they supported me, their lives under that leader would have been unbearable.   

  
Here’s what happened in 2008.  Soon after I started at that school, I came upon two teachers arguing in the hall.  I asked if I could help.  The dispute was about how to allow students to leave classrooms and others students to enter to most effectively clear hallways.  Both teachers had good ideas.  Both discussed the issue.  One became exasperated and walked away.  She then returned and apologized. I was impressed with her return to say she was sorry.  I thought the issue was resolved.  I was very, very wrong.   
What I did not know at that time was that my principal had his sights set on her; that he truly would do anything to exact revenge on those who he felt had been disrespectful or disloyal to him. He felt she had been so.  I know now that she, like me—though not yet-- too had stood up to him and requested to be treated respectfully by him.  I have seen her reports.  I have read of her desperation.  I did not know yet of how his perception of being a team player—and not being a team player—depended upon doing things he demanded, saying things he required and in all instances asking no questions. 
  
Thinking that inconsequential interaction over and done, I was surprised a year later to receive a call from my school district’s Office of Civil Rights.  My principal had named me as a witness in his actions against this teacher.  His goal was to remove her from the school; the district and pretty much assure she never worked as a teacher again.  
Shocked to hear he’d written in official documents that he had “debriefed” (my word) me on the issue and that what he’d stated I’d seen and done was untrue, I told the interviewer the truth.  I told her that he’d not spoken to me about it and if he had, I would have told him that the targeted teacher’s behavior was entirely appropriate. I hung up the phone that summer of 2009.  I looked at my husband.  I said, “It’s going to be a difficult year.” 
Sure enough, at the payroll sign in sheet the first day of the 2009-2010 school, my principal stood.  “You didn’t support me,” he said. My heart pounded.  I asked that he look me in the eye.  I said “Please look at me.  I told the truth.”  He responded, “That’s a problem.” 
It was a problem. 
 Before I begin to tell you of my surreal year of hell, I step back.  For you see, 2009-2010 was my second year “under his command.”  2009-2010 was my work life’s defining year.  And I did, in the end, okay. In the end, I escaped.  I escaped with my honor.....and my job.  Please do not think I use words too heavy for this situation. I do not.  This then is a part of holding onto my honor and integrity..  This memoir is a piece of my healing.  
It feels good to write the truth.   As I read my bully’s testimony from the investigation I am again brought to a place of indignation.  He wrote—and my district accepted—that I “....only wanted to do bullying prevention....”  Ha! 
  
Read on dear readers.  Read on.   
A letter of recommendation from my principal about me follows.  This is a letter he signed and I wrote. I wrote it in the spring of 2010.  He and I shared a desperate dawning of recognition that my remaining there was dangerous for both of us. 
His dawning: that I was a threat to his kingdom. Mine: that his kingdom stank. 
I have left out schools’ specific names.  
My bully wanted me gone.  I wanted to be gone.  On that, at the very least, we finally agreed.   
Here is the letter:   
  
Dear Fellow Principal,
It is with mixed emotion that I write this letter of recommendation.  Ms. Kim Werner, my counselor, has requested a transfer back to Region 6 or to Region 7-both of which would allow Ms. Werner to be close to home and family.  I certainly understand Ms. Werner’s desire to be closer to her home, juggling family and work obligations is tough for any involved parent.  
Ms. Werner is a proactive, visionary employee.  She is the only certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer in our district.  The Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA) chose Ms. Werner as one of only 10 FASA sponsored trainers statewide. Through our district, Ms. Werner is introducing the Olweus program to two schools.  
Ms. Werner also presents seminars not only to the students and their parents at our school, but to students and parents district wide.  Most recently she facilitated the “Success Academy” at one of our district’s elementary schools.  She has also presented to parents of many local high schools.  In addition to the “Success Academy”, Ms. Werner’s former school led the district in numbers of participants in the Alternative to Suspension Program.  Ms. Werner was recently asked to train all district facilitators of the program. 
Ms. Werner’s vision is for all of our district’s children to be not only physically safe, but emotionally safe as well.  This is Ms. Werner’s true strength. She is genuine and courageous in being with the children and staff at my school.  People know and respect her.  She is present and available to parents, students and fellow teachers.  I know I can take to her any task and she will go beyond my expectation.  Yet I do not need to direct her.  She is a self motivated employee--motivated by what she knows to be right.
In addition to her excellent work ethic, I must write that Ms. Werner’s family was recently voted “Family of the Year” by her children’s school.  She is as involved here at our school as she is the lives of her own two children. I am proud of her. It has been my pleasure to have Ms. Werner be a part of my staff.  She will be an asset to any school. 
Please call me with any questions.
Oh yes.  It feels good.     

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The 2008-2009 school year was my year of understanding that my sunny worldview may not be always true.


I’ve come to know myself as a positive, "half glass full kind" of person. I’d even once shared with my bullying boss—before the relentless onslaught of abuse had slammed me-- that I just expected good and that in general, I got it.

But 2008-2009 was the beginning of my awareness that maybe there is evil in the world. Then I didn’t have words to put to my apprehension. I just knew that I felt like an unwanted outcast by him and his cronies.

There were innuendos. There were obtuse statements. One in particular I recall from one of my fellow counselors. “Just do what he says and you will be ok.”

Little things. Well, seemingly little things. I’ve learned you can’t let them go. The little things become big and out of control things in no time. Like this little thing; my account here of being called honey by my principal.

Tip of the iceberg. First screeching rip on the Titanic’s side.

I am not aboard the Titanic.


Before I became a school counselor, I was a flight attendant. I retired from a major carrier after 26 years. I was language qualified in French, Portuguese and Spanish. I have been around--the world and the block-- no spring chicken here!

I remember once on an airplane, a self absorbed and arrogant man boarded as our door was closing. The overhead bins were packed. He brushed by me, shoving his large parcel at me and said, “Here honey, take care of this.” I recall, even then—what age was I? 25? 26?—feeling the swell of outrage.

Here’s what I did that day. Here’s what I said and here’s what happened. I held his parcel and I said crisply, “You don’t get to call me honey.” I continued more warmly, “You do get to call me Kim. Let’s look together for a place for this.”

The other eleven passengers in first class clapped. Wonderful. That felt good.

I’m sitting taller right now just writing about that day.


My former principal called me honey three times. What age was I? 53. Almost 30 years after my passengers' spontaneous airplane applause and I disliked it just as much. Almost 30 years later and the same outrage filled me.

The first time my principal called me honey I said nothing. I was shocked as he tossed papers to his desk and stated, “You forgot to sign this honey.” I sucked in my breath and backed out of his office. I mumbled “Oh I’m so sorry......”

I’m sitting smaller now just writing about that day.

The second time my brutish, egotistical boss called me honey, I retorted with what I thought was wit. I also thought he’d get the message that I did not like his disrespectful treatment. I said, “You’re not going to call me honey now are you sweetie?”

My wit did not work. He seemed to like it. He probably thought I was flirting with him.


The third time he called me honey was a phone call from him to me. I remember his words: “That’s not the way we do things around here honey.” He hung up the phone. Click.

As I held the phone’s receiver-- the deadened line-- to my ear; as my jaw dropped in the same outrage I’d felt years before on an airplane to who knows where; as I sat with a student who was assisting me with filing papers, my legs propelled me up and out of my seat and office, down the stairs and the hallway and straight into the main office. I saw him in the corridor.

“Don’t call me honey” I said. “I don’t like it. I feel disrespected when you do so.”

I was on a role. My energy, instead of dissipating with those words, grew. “You are on thin ice. You are a man. I am a woman and I work for you. Don’t call me honey.”

I was done. He grunted. “Sorry.”

I’m sitting tall again.

Starting at the end...and Wheezer and Jean are there.

I have pictured in my mind a luscious novel that skips all over time and place......

And so, I've decided to just go with my energy with today's post. I start with the end--gratefulness. I'll go back and finish up my story later. But first, let's start today with the last of it.


I feel the energy going flat. I want to be done with this now.

I’ll end with this; a thank you to one of my region’s biggest bosses: a "way-above-me" boss.
I think he knew I told the truth. I think he—in the bureaucratic mess of our massive school district—did the best he could.

I find myself here now wanting to be kind to this man. Isn’t that silly? Isn’t it absurd to want to protect my “way-above-me” boss? Just who do I think I am?

My “way-above-me” boss, I suppose, rescued me. But where are the other rescuers in my school district? Where are those who will save the abused women—and men for that matter--at my former school? Or any other school of abuse? Where are they?

They need to charge in, swoop up the damsels and herald a new day for that witch's castle.

Ding dong. The witch is not DEAD!

Am I then, the damsel rescuer? Am I meant to throw the bucket of water?

Here’s the thing about my “way-above-me” boss; I like him. I think he is a good man.

He, at least, filled the water bucket for me. Went looking for the hose. Turned on the spigot.


He may have stood back though, so as not to get wet.


So it really doesn’t matter that moving the bullied victim—me—was not the right thing to do.

It doesn’t matter that although I, the target, was to be the least affected, I experienced the greatest impact. Wham. No salary for four months. Moved from my school—yes, my school too.

Matters not.


It really doesn’t matter either that the bully was the least affected; that he appears to be the least affected.....over and over again: report after report. Actually, it doesn't seem he was affected at all.

It also doesn’t matter that my school district, probably like yours, has a policy that states that bullied individuals are to suffer the least. It neither matters that the policy states that bullying by anyone is not tolerated nor that there are mandated consequences for bullies. It simply does not matter.

I am so very sad to tell you that my experience is that the policy, when it comes to bullying school leaders, doesn’t matter at all.

It does matter, however that I like my “way-above-me” boss.

It does matter that I feel respected by him.

It does matter that I feel he did his best, really. He placed me at a different school.

Everything professionally about me may look the same. I have seven years’ seniority. I am a counselor in a middle school. I have the same salary and the same work hours.
Even though everything may look the same, it could not be more different.

Had I stayed, I would have been just another damsel in distress.
"Yes sir! Right away sir!", I probably would have tittered and scampered off to do his dirty work....

I most certainly would not have carried the water bucket......heavy and cumbersome though it is.

I return to the question of “Just who do I think I am?” Perhaps a better question is: “Who do I know myself to be?”

I remember my dad, in the passenger seat of our 1973 Gremlin as he taught me to drive. I was merging into freeway traffic.

“Proceed with confidence”, he said then to me, his nervous 16 year old daughter. He would repeat those words often to me as a young adult as I began to face adult challenges.

And so. I am Wheezer and Jean Werner’s daughter. Writing this memoir feels like merging into freeway traffic 39 years ago in a 1973 Gremlin; my dad beside me in the passenger seat.

It’s 2011 and my dad’s still in the passenger seat.

And I proceed with confidence.


Still.....
I wouldn’t mind some help with this water bucket.Laughing

I was scheduled to be released from my school and my principal's tyranny in April of 2009. I’d gone to him much earlier—soon after I started there-- and stated I did not want to stay. I told him that I was not a boat rocker and that I simply did not fit at that school.

Although I did not have a new assignment--in fact I turned down a counselor position with a principal I liked very much--I just knew that with this man and with his other counselors and assistant principal, I was the square peg and they and he the round hole.


It just wasn’t working.


Here’s the irony: my bully boss allowed the opportunity to get rid of me go. In fact, and I believe this to be a symptom of his inflated and fragile ego, with my words, “I do not want to stay here,” he wanted me to stay even more.

I received a phone call from him soon after that. He proudly said, “I secured you.”


Let’s stop here for a moment. I want you to recall that I am a school counselor. I want you to contemplate what you think school counselors do. You may think we facilitate student groups and presentations. With the attention surrounding bullying and the recognition of the horrific impact on children, you might think counselors are encouraged to and supported in bullying prevention efforts.

At my former school, you would be wrong.


Here’s one of the activities I presented to children. I introduced them to the Olweus Bullying Circle. Following that presentation they, their teachers and I took part in a fun activity to identify roles they believed were played in bullying situations by the majority of children at the school.

It was eye opening kind of stuff. “Oh wow,” I heard from teachers. “Wow, the administrators need to see this,” they would exclaim.



The students left those presentations empowered and excited. It did not last. For to last all staff must be committed to it. To last, a school leader needs to communicate his enthusiastic and knowledgeable support. That did not happen. Instead of supporting me, I was labeled “confrontational and uncooperative”.

The Singing Caged Bird (a reference to Ms. Angelou).....


I fast forward to the spring of 2010. Ironically my being a bullied target meant that I was excluded from a major bullying case at my former school. I was not invited in.

That’s the way bullying works. That’s the way it worked for me. That’s the way it works for our children.


Intimidation.

Exclusion.


Abuse.


I continued with my work unaware that this case was going to erupt and I would be called in to cover for my bully and his sycophants and their handling of the case, with the work I’d done.


Please know he and his followers not only did not support my bullying prevention presentations to children, they treated my work as unimportant and frivolous. They made fun of my efforts.


The real truth is my former school’s principal and his followers did not even care to find out what I was doing. The truth is, that for many, it angered and annoyed them that I forged this path in spite of them.

My bully once held up his thumb and index finger with a miniscule space between them and glowered at me, “Bullying prevention is this much of what I expect of you.” He smirked. He knew he had the power. It felt like he was stalking his prey.


I left his office that day sick inside. I knew I was vulnerable. I felt like an insect into which my boss’ boot heel would, if I didn’t dart away and hide, soon grind.


Although in official reports he stated he’d “never been alone with me” (why was that important?), we most certainly were alone that day. Know this: there were no witnesses to that incident. Still. It happened.


I understand though why Maya Angelou’s caged bird kept singing. I was a caged singer too.

Mine was, I believe, an imperfect yet brave solo at my former school. It might have brought tears to your eyes; tears for my valiant and moving effort....or tears at your own frustration and inability to snuff out the irksome noise.

I continued my bullying prevention work at that school in spite of not only my principal’s lack of support but his arrogant ignorance of its importance.
He never made clear what exactly his expectations were.



I hope my recounting of my experience is helping. I think it just might be....

The Story Continues.....

I return to my story, dear “Way-Above-Me-Boss", and to your request that I meet with my abusive school leader.

“I’m sorry for the misunderstanding”, he might have said at that meeting.
You would have been there, “Bigger-Than- Both- Of- Us- Boss.” We would probably all have been dressed up: suits and ties for you and for him; an "I hardly ever wear dresses" dress for me.

We would probably have been seated at the conference table.
You would have asked me, “Ms. Werner, do you accept his apology?”

I might then have looked him in the eye. I would have seen there his hatred of me; his eagerness for you to leave.......for me to be “his” again.

I might then have looked you in the eye. I might have seen there sympathy for my plight; understanding and.....helplessness.

“Ms. Werner,” your eyes might have spoken, for I believe you to be a good man in spite of our district's muck.... “This is just the way things are. Protocol you know....”

On the inside I might have screamed “NOOOOO!!!!!” On the outside I might have widened my eyes and looked at you: one more silent plea.....and very slowly nodded my head.

Would you have sighed as you rose to leave? Shaken my hand—squeezed it tightly-- as you left me there—the lion’s prey? The lion is always hungry, “Way-Above-Me-Boss.”

When will you and your “Bigger-Than-You-Boss" do right, true and courageous things?


Because knowing of and allowing his violence—yes violence, I have read our workplace violence policy—and abuse is surely not the right thing.


Truth is surging right now.  I love knowing that I do not care that his bullying is officially unfounded. I know what happened.    

I also know I crave neither heads or nor hides. 
 

Do as you wish, school district leaders.  Accept his statements—again.  Accept witnesses’ refuting of my testimony. You know that it was you who brought charges against him. 

I do not know your motives or your objectives.  Perhaps you knew what the outcome of the investigation would be before it began; perhaps not.
 

Here’s what I suspect:  You did know.  
 

I also think you yourselves are sick of reports against this man.  I think you are fed up with parents’ tears and outrage; employees’ fears and depressions.  I think too that you are stuck in the muck of protocol.  
 

Just what is the protocol surrounding this abusive man and others like him?   What are the steps to address another report against them?  Perhaps they are these: unwritten but understood by all because they are so often used.... 
 

1. Inform them there is another report.
 

2. Give them time to advise their circle of followers what they are to say.
 

3. Accept (again) without question all refuting testimonies.

4. Document everything.
 

5.  Talk with the target.
 

6. Tell her she may not discuss other reports even though the reports mirror exactly her experience of workplace abuse.

7.  Direct her to the Civil Rights Department to make a report.
 

8. Document.
 

9.  Find the report to be unfounded (again).
 

10. Document.
 

11. Check that documentation is documented correctly.     
 

I think perhaps you were surprised that I said “no” to you; that I said, for example, “No. This is bullying and workplace violence.  It is not a civil rights violation.”
 

I think it also surprised you—shook you up just a little—when I said, “No, I will not meet with him.”


Even though I believe you are tired of wasting your time, our district’s money and its resources on yet another investigation of my bully's abuse, you asked me to meet with him.  You said your intervention; your “mediation” of our disagreement would make it all better.  You said that I would then be safe.   

You must not have known then that bullying does not work that way.  You must not have known that asking me to meet with this abusive man—to have him apologize to me—would victimize me even more.  
 

You need to be educated on what bullying is and what it is not.  Then you would know that bringing the all powerful bully and the all powerless target together is absolutely wrong. 
 

Oh my dear “way-above-me-boss”, I must share this with you!  
  I once, ironically, facilitated leadership seminars across the nation for a major airline.  Here’s one tiny piece of the seminar.  The piece is about power: positional vs. personal power.  My bully had and still has positional power. He is, after all, the principal. But he has no personal power.  To meet his needs, he must violently coerce and intimidate people.
 

Working at his (my) school, I had no positional power, but I had and still have personal power.  It’s called integrity.  I did not allow his lack of personal power—or rather his violent abuse of positional power--to intimidate nor coerce me.  That, as you know, was not easy.  


Some people have both personal and positional power.  I like those people a lot.  I love working for and with them.

March 16. 2010.  The zenith.  Him.  Screaming.  “JUST DO IT!”  Raising up from his desk. 

Menacing.  Seething. 
 Did I imagine the hatred in his eyes?  Do I now?  I have lived this moment many times since then.  

Me.  Ashen faced I am certain.  

 

Me. Passing his—our—boss, the "next layer of bosses", visiting from our region, in the corridor outside of his office.  I passed the boss entering.  I passed the boss leaving.

 Him. Not knowing our—his-- boss was there.   

Me.  My words.  “I will not.” 
  

Him.  His words.  “JUST GET ME THE DATES!!”
  

The “next-layer-of-bosses” boss hearing; probably shaken to have chosen that moment to visit us.  

He heard.  He saw me.  

 Me.  Jaw clenched.  Face pale.   

I looked at the “next-layer” boss. Our eyes met twice. I said nothing either time.  Not entering.  Not leaving either.
 

This same boss later advised I call the police to accompany me into the school to clear my office.   

 Me.... me.   I brought dates to my bully.  Real dates for real things I had done.  Two dates. Not ten dates. I made certain my assistant principal to whom I handed the form knew I’d made a copy.  

 I returned to my office.  I cried.  I felt desolate and alone. I did not then know how courageous I had been in that moment.   I did not know that even more would later be required. 

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------- 

May, 2010.  A parent.  A man.  Limited English.   

This same man.  Assertive.  Deliberate. 
  

Children going to their classrooms. 
 

This man’s words to my principal.  “This is not just your school.  This is my school.  This is my son’s school too.”   

Him.  Him.  Calling 911. 

Him.  Hell bent on getting this assertive man out. 
  

Me....me.  In disbelief. 
 

 I recently read about how in moments of horror, we sometimes freeze.  I froze that day.  I simply could not get my mind around my school leader throwing out one of our students’ parents. 

I simply could not comprehend children, small children with book bags on their backs—some with damp hair—some clutching parents’ hands-- witnessing that.
 I simply could not believe that following my witnessing that egregious act, I was to “go about my business” of counseling children.

It was as if he rubbed his hands together in acknowledgement of a “job well done.”  
 

My god.  My god.

  How easy to pretend.  Years of pretending had wrapped themselves around this man. 

In that moment I felt raw fear. 

 

Fall, 2010.  

Getting out. Reporting the abuse. Seeking help.  
 

Subpoenaed for the court case.  Suffering. 

Suffering still.
  Seeking records. Seeing records.

Seeing in disbelief the March 16th form—the form about which I was brutalized-- filled out the very next day. March 17th.   
 Neat and tidy lie after lie.  My name, prominent on the March 17th form.  My name.  Over and over as evidence.   My name and my work used as evidence for things that DID NOT HAPPEN.  

Me. Sick at heart.
 

ME. Outrage growing.  

me. In disbelief that my district’s investigation held neither him nor his followers accountable for submitting in writing on official documents that we/I had presented to students, parents, and faculty on Sundays.  Sundays!
 
  “Of course that’s a lie!” I said to myself.  “Of course he will have to explain that!”   He did.  My school district, one of the largest in the nation, allowed this man and his team to say--and these are my words-- “Oops! We didn’t really mean Sundays!  We meant--oh what the hell-- Wednesdays!” 

Stunning.  Awful. A first slap in the face for me; a “sit straight up” moment of clarity.

 
Ah.  So this is how it is.  So this is what I am up against.

Ah. Pull out the sling shot.  Goliath is coming. 
 

This then is me fitting the rock into the sling; pulling it back; letting the rock fly. This is me keeping things straight.  This is my best shot.  This is the sling shot of truth.   

Here is the shot.  It was a lie.  Almost everything on the March 17th form was a lie.  I, in detail, gave hard evidence.  Work claimed to have been done on Sundays—work that in truth was not done at all on any day—was just a piece of the solid evidence of the audacious “I-can-do-anything-I-want-and-get-away-with-it’ attitude and common practice of my former school.   

Here is more truth.  There has been so much protection wrapped around this man that many at many levels are culpable.   

Oh! I am laughing now!  As I read the “next layer boss’” testimony; as my eyes take in his written words....as I see him in my mind’s eye, standing right outside my abuser’s office, alone. He watched me enter.  He heard the screams.  How pathetic he writes that he visited my former school five times in two months and cannot remember me entering that day: cannot remember my brute’s words.   

Cannot remember me being there.  Period.   
 

Throw me to the lion, “next layer boss.”  Join the cheering blood thirsty others.  Oh, but you dear “next layer boss” and your presence that day, are seared on my brain like a cattle brand. 

I thought you and I had a rapport!  I thought, with your surprising question to me months before, “Ms. Werner, are you happy here?” that there was a chance of honor.  I thought with my answer, “No, I am not,” then that inner voices might speak to you now.
 

“It’s happening again,” the voice of the kindergarten teacher of 2008 might admonish.   

“Do something!  Help her!” the voice of another former victim and cancer survivor might demand.  

 “YOU COWARDLY PIG!” might boom the voice of the targeted former detention supervisor.  
 
I thought your own voice might cut through.  I thought your own voice might have you say simply, “Enough.” 

You, at least, admit my brute’s voice was raised.  Thank you for that. 
Your words, however, are cowardly.  “I do not know with whom he was speaking or the content of the conversation,” you write.   

 Dear “next-layer-boss, oh dear “next-layer- boss", you know it was me.  Of that I am certain.

 

A dear friend tells me I have a "leading." Apparently this outrage I feel at the injustice of abusive principals is a gift from God; a mission of sorts.

I just think it's a pain in the behind. I just want to ignore it. I just want to put my head back in the sand.

"Hey, it's not my problem," I want to cry out. "I'm good now. Pretty damn happy in my new school. Take care of your own damn selves.."

Can't do it though. More and even uglier abuse is at work at my former school. It's happening right now. It's systematic. It's focused. It's brutal. It's meant to obliterate the target. Boom.

And it's ignored by my district's leadership. Actually, it's not ignored. In fact, all reporters have been transferred, been fired or gone crazy. You pick.

Think about this. Think about the use of professional resources at that school. Are school support personnel serving children? Are they engaging children in groups and classroom presentations? No.

Here's what one person is doing: she spends her day creating evidence against yet another target. The principal sends her out and sets her loose.This time it's a teacher. There've been a lot of teachers. Last time it was me. I was one of the counselors.

I know this person. I know of her alignment with the principal. She loves the power that alignment brings to her. "When are we going to have that talk with Kim?" she once asked in a sticky sweet voice.

He'd just cursed at me. "Jesus Christ! Why the f%*k can't you stay out of things?!" he'd screamed in front of his leadership team-two assistant principals, a counselor and a reading coach.

The person must have been gleeful inside. "Got her now....." she must have thought. Chose that moment to ask the "When are we going to talk with Kim?" question.

There's a movie about a girl who wishes for the perfect family. Her mom's too busy. Her dad's too tired. In her dreams she enters the perfect house and there stands the perfect mother. "Darling!" Perfect Mom cries. "Would you like chocolate cake? I just baked it." She smiles.

Look closely though. Those seemingly perfect teeth are decaying. That perfect mother is really a spider. Menace lurks in that perfect house. It is an evil place.

I worked with a spider woman. The spider woman and I worked for a snake principal. The spider and the snake are good friends. Their school appears to be a perfect place.

The spider looks perfect also. Well dressed. Busy, busy, busy. She's busy creating documentation. Some of it is to earn unearned awards. To earn these prestigious awards, one must assure the things the documents say are being done, are being done.

At my former school many documented things were not done at all. They were just documented.

For example, when I first began my tenure there, I was told to help with documentation for a coveted prize the school wins each year. The criteria is rigorous. It's tough to earn this award.

I agreed to help. I agreed to do things that would meet the rigorous requirements. I offered to facilitate a weekly family group as an alternative to students' outdoor suspension. That group would have met more than one of the criteria.

The spider looked at me. She was amazed. "We're not going to actually do all these things, we're just "documenting "them.

Wink.

I did not participate.

Some of the documentation is to rid the perfect place of people who the principal has decided do not fit his notions of perfection. The district has mechanisms in place to "assist" teachers who may need "modeling " classroom management and the like. Voila! The principal has his evil tools at hand. He has lots of practice using these tools.

The spider woman assists in this process. She "models"and reports back to the snake principal and together they document, document, document. Sometimes they just threaten to document. Sssssssometimes that's enough. Weave a thicker web.

" Oh no," cry other flies. These flies watch.

Some watch in horror as their spider woman wraps the latest victim fly in her spider silk of lies. Tight, Tight. Tasty morsel.

Some watch in delight. Stupid fly! She deserved it! She should have known better than to tangle with the snake and the spider. She should have stayed away from the light of truth and honor. She should have sold out like the rest of us.

She made us look bad.....she made us contemplate--just for a second--our own vulnerability to the spider's web. Stupid, stupid fly ! WE HATE HER!

Some flies just want to be left alone. They're tired.

No one fly says or does anything. It's not safe. The morsel will be devoured and the snake will send the spider out for more morsels.

The spider woman and the snake principal together are paid a lot of money so those better be perfect documents! They better look good! It doesn't matter that they're fabrications; that they're lies; that they are meant to destroy yet another career and life. They look good!

They'll look real official and formal sitting atop a mucky-muck's desk. The mucky will then "take action"; not, sadly against the known lying and cheating snake/spider team, but against the valiant individual who said simply "no."

"No. I will not participate."

"No. I will not lie."

"No. I will not go. This is my school too."

"No."

God bless you courageous woman taking a stand. I stand with you.

According to my friend, I've got a Quaker leading.

This is a continuation of my story of having been a target of workplace bullying.  Notice the holding of me accountable.  The ganging up.  The pleasure the bully supporter took at "the dinner table:" the principal's conference table.  I was to have been the meal.   

I once asked why I was not invited to a breakfast honoring counselors.  I’d always, at the two other schools at which I’d worked, been asked if I wanted to go; that at the least.  At this school, I was not included.
 

The other two counselors made plans to go.
   I found out.  I was baffled.  My “how come I wasn’t included” question led to the previously written about “get things out on the table” meeting.   

That meeting led the very next day to a meeting with the principal, the assistant principal and the two other counselors.   It was evident that much discussion about me had taken place.  Tsk, tsk;  I had been a bad girl.  I'd asked a question.
 

He, the principal, sat at the head of the table.  They-the bully supporter and the bystanders-- sat on the other side.  I sat alone. Just like bullied children.  I sat alooooone...... 

My “inflexibility” was addressed at the meeting; my issue with not being invited. My not being a team player.  Again.  It appeared we were to get the same things out—this time on a different table, the principal’s conference table.
 

Oh heart, pounding heart!  I love you!  You do not lead me to fear.  You, pounding heart, take me to a place of steely resolve.

"You will NOT treat me this way!" you scream when I am being ganged up on; picked on; held accountable for their ugly and awful acts. 

Thank  you, dear heart.  At least I have you.  They have each other and their cold and dead hearts.

 I took control of that meeting.  I’d already suffered enough at the hands of his “team.”  I stated that issue was “over and done” for me.  I asked each of the women facing me individually, articulately and directly, if it was done for them as well.  I also stated that if that meeting was to be rehashed that I would have union representation present.  I told him I would talk about our future efforts—only.  Bullying works that way.  My bullies—two really—the principal and his counselor friend—were ready to attack.  The other two--the bystanders--were paralyzed with fear.

God save them.Another piece of An Abuse Full World. More story.

My former principal demanded the three counselors be in the cafeteria during lunch.  I was already doing that.  I knew my presence—any vigilant adult’s loving presence—made a big difference in keeping kids safe.
 
 
Observe in your minds’ eyes, my cherished readers, schools’ cafeterias and see the children there.  See children jostling for a place in line.  See others using their size to intimidate.  See them pushing: shoving.   
 

Hear girls’ squeals.  See them hugging one another.
 

See boys on the verge of tackling each other. 
 

See children seemingly disappear......to the end of the line; to a seat at the end of a cafeteria table.
 

Understand the real possibility of kids being hurt—physically or emotionally bruised.   

Know that your presence—your simple presence—changes all that. 


Clear your throat.  Get their attention.  Slowly shake your head. Maybe wag your finger.  Smile.
  Hear: “Sorry Ms. Werner.!”  Hear also their giggles and laughter.  They are, after all, children. 

Walk around. Greet children.  Just let them see you.   That’s all it takes.  
 

My principal once came into the cafeteria he visited so rarely.  He saw me there.  He saw me doing exactly what he had demanded I and the other two counselors do.  Because he was my boss, I was happy to be encountered meeting his expectations.
 

As he approached me, I smiled.  Made eye contact.  I expected him to greet me. Thank me.
  

He neither thanked me nor greeted me.  Instead he stated he expected me to be doing more.  He walked away. 
 

The other counselors never joined me in the cafeteria.  Not once. 

8:01 pm edt          Comments

 



After I took a medical leave. I had a month. My family doctor diagnosed me with "anxiety" due to stressors in the workplace. He and I didn't really know much about workplace bullying then, we just knew I was a crying and anxious mess. During that month, during the beginning of even the possibility of recuperation, I was subpoenaed for a lawsuit a parent had against a teacher at my former school. The accusation was that the teacher had bullied the child and had incited students to do the same. This is the case that the other counselor and the administration had handled. I was excluded.

I think I was subpoenaed by the plaintiff and her family as an "expert witness" in that I was an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer on leave for having been bullied at that school. I imagine, had I been called to the witness stand, that my role would have been to testify about the toxic work environment in which all of the alleged bullying against the student had happened. I imagine I would have been questioned about my own efforts in preventing bullying for children at that school.

I would have told the truth. I would have said that, although I was not directly involved with that particular case, that the leadership of the school's principal had created an environment of fear and divisiveness among his staff. I may have been asked about my own experience.

Please remember that at that time I was supposed to be "recuperating."

Please remember that I had just, just, just left the battlefield of my former school when the subpoena arrived on my front porch.

Please imagine the stark terror I felt upon contemplating--just two weeks following my departure from that place of abuse-- testifying against him.

Please feel the surge of fear as I stood on my front porch with my house keys in one hand and the subpoena in the other.

Please understand that I knew my truth would stand alone. I knew my school district would have my testimony stand like a target on the blank wall--I would not have chosen the blindfold--in front of the attorney's firing squad. My district leadership was not on "my side."

That fear--the pounding blood, the sleeplessness and all the ill effects that go with them--was with me entering the courthouse. Local newscasters were everywhere. Had I been put on the stand, it would probably have been a good story.

"News Flash! School Bullying Prevention Trainer Bullied Out of a Job!"

Certainly my testimony would have bolstered the plaintiff's case.

I sat with the plaintiff and her family in the waiting room. Just that simple and true act was, I suppose, a statement: a declaration of "war" to my former principal.

His "side" was full. I imagine most everyone on "that side"was too scared to sit with the plaintiff--or even to talk with her or with her family. Looking back, I cannot blame them, for on "that side" sat the school district's attorney and many other high level administrators. The attorney was physically present. The high level administrators were there in spirit. I knew. I felt their presence. It was not a good feeling.

I imagine some of my colleagues sitting on "that side" saw me and wished they could join me. I imagine others were outraged and indignant to see me there because inside they knew--ah, yes, they knew--that they were supporting a lying and cheating individual and his abusive leadership. They knew I was not supporting it. Many hated me for it. I do not blame them. They, like me, were--and are, for he is still the principal--really, really scared. Rightfully so.

That was the last time I saw him. He, too, had been subpoenaed. As he entered the courthouse waiting area, his eyes met mine. He saw me with the plaintiff's family. His eyes spoke of his raw desire to destroy me.

The judge, in the end, decided not to put me on the stand.

Two weeks into my month of "recuperation" , and with only two weeks left before I was to return to work--and now with full knowledge of being perceived as "his enemy"--do not, school district, try and convince me otherwise, particularly now that I know of all of his other abuses of other employees who you sent back or fired or transferred--I wasn't "recuperating"much.

Following the trial, I decided to continue to live truthfully. I knew I could not return to my school in two weeks. I knew mine was an army of one--me--and his was an army of hundreds. There was no way, particularly following the trial, that I would be safe at that school. So I pulled out my cannon. I turned my bullying principal in formally for bullying and harassment.

I also visited my "field hospital" and got some real help from a therapist who understood the lasting effects of abuse. My therapist understood that I was a "just fine" person who had experienced abuse and diagnosed me properly with "Acute Specific Stress Disorder." She also helped me in giving me six months off or until the "issue of workplace bullying was resolved."


More story coming up...at your request. I've come to understand the effects of abuse never end. It's what we do with it all that counts.

I am amused, now, at how scared we, school employees, are of "mucky-mucks." We--schools' employees--think our muckies know what they are doing and that what they do is effective for children. We are mostly wrong. What most of our muckies do is effective for each other.

My formally reported case of abuse by a known and well-documented-prior-to-my-case principal was a big, fat, and hot potato tossed from one mucky to the next. Muckies calling me. A Dr. Mucky called me. A district mucky didn't call me. I had to call her. She was in charge of our bullying and harassment policy so it made sense to contact her. She's recently been fired from her position, though, because her employees reported her for bullying. That's a story for a later time.

A district supervisor mucky--he was mucky in covert icky and dirty ways too--called me. He was the mucky who outright lied and said in formal documents he did not know I was the one at whom my principal was screaming when he (the mucky) was right outside the door and had witnessed me entering my principal's office. He was the one who said my principal's "voice was raised" but he didn't know "with whom he was conversing"... Ha!

A superintendent mucky met with me. He's not the muckiest of the mucky. Still. On the mucky totem pole, my case ended up pretty high. As high as it could go in my region. Climbing that high--although totem pole climbing is not a particular strength of mine--was effortless for me. I had a lot of help. The hard evidence and documentation of lies and altered documents pushed me right on up to near the top of my district's mucky-mucky totem pole.

Once I got there I spent some time with a nice man, my region's superintendent (there are only three of those now--so, as I said, pretty darn high on the mucky totem pole) who I know now was not really interested in helping me be safe....he was really interested in knowing what I'd documented and what I knew. Wanted to meet alone with me. I think he may have been a little scared. I think he may have been scared because, this time, documentation and evidence had pushed someone all the way to him. He, instead of me, appeared to be the deer in the headlights.

He got over the being scared quickly though. Behind the mucky scenes, he had a lot of help.

I didn't. I just had papers and emails and documentation of abuse by a man who has had a lot of practice at abuse.

I think my superintendent missed a grand opportunity to do something great for his region and for his employees. He had an opportunity to rid a school of an abusive principal and by doing that make a statement. The statement to his teachers would have been this:

"I support our children. I support you. I will not allow abusive leadership to interfere with your classrooms.

For those of you who have been targeted for abuse, please accept my apology for not keeping you safe. I will not allow abusive leadership to ruin your careers and your health. I know all about these leaders. I know of all of your reports.

For those of you who have become your abusive leaders' followers, know this: I understand. I apologize for not keeping you safe either. I apologize for putting your integrity at risk. Know that I understand that you aligned yourselves with bullying principals because you knew that was the only way not to be targeted.

For all the rest of you who are watching and waiting to see what I do, I apologize to you too. And know this: I will remove them from your schools. I will keep you safe.

I got your backs."


That message would have reverberated throughout my district. That message would have been a salve to the battered and wounded educators in schools, not only in our district, but throughout the state and perhaps the nation. That's how powerful that honest and simple acknowledgement would have been.

My regional superintendent, sadly, did not have my back. And by not having my back, he showed other employees that he did not have their backs either. He only had the abusive, almost psychopathic principal's back.

I was really hopeful that he would have our backs. Even through the hell of the emotional abuse I experienced, I knew/know myself to be "half-glass full" living. I thought then to myself, "Wow! Look at this! I am meeting with my REGIONAL SUPERINTENDENT! He seems nice. He seems to want to help keep me safe at my school. I am going to tell him everything."

I trusted my regional superintendent. I trusted that he would do the right thing. I even asked him, in some innocence, at one of our meetings--in so many words--if he had my back.

He didn't. Instead I believe my region's superintendent folded to powers above him. Powers that masquerade as friendships. Powers that protect abuse. Powers that probably are abusive themselves. Powers that allow abusive principals to reign terror in schools because really, really high mucky mucks are "beholden."

I think my regional superintendent, like me, was bullied. He has bosses too. And I believe it is one of those bosses who has warned him to keep his hands off of that pile of hot potatoes--the many reports of bullying and abuse by this man-- that he inherited. I think there is someone above him unwilling to admit a mistake; unwilling to say something like: "Ok abusive principal who I have known since you were a baby, you had your chance. You blew it. I will have to tell your mother on you."

I think, instead, that district leader said to my regional superintendent, " DO NOT TAKE ACTION AGAINST MY DARLING....EVER. For if you do, you will be sorry."

I suppose, then, it was a courageous thing for my regional superintendent to sit alone with me. Was he or I to be the lamb to slaughter? Who was to be "sacrificed" this time to keep the abuser safe?

I imagine that after he'd met with me, he discussed my case at length with district attorneys and district mucky mucks.

"What can we do to keep this quiet?" they must have pondered--all of them; all the $200,000 plus muckies doing what they do best--protecting each other. "What can we do to protect the boss' darling? What must we do to "shut her (me) up, like all the others?"

I don't think my former principal is my regional superintendent's darling. I think he is a district darling. I don't know why. I am honestly thinking there is some kind of "we grew up together" thing going on here; or a "your-mother-and-I-were-cheerleaders-in-high-school-together-and-I-told-her-I-would-take-care-of-you-no matter- what" kind of thing going on.

Frankly, it is most perplexing, with all the reports and the documents and the lies--and the good and fine people more and more willing to tell the truth--that my district continues to protect my former abusive leader and others like him. So being cheerleaders together in high school, or football players for that matter, is pretty much the only thing that makes any sense.

That protection makes me think my district's leaders, because of all the reports and all the good and fine people more and more willing to tell the truth, are simply allowing him to stay put because if they don't he will "TELL ON THEM" too.

Ah. It is ugly. It is awful. It is the way things are.

For now.
 
 
 
  
My last day there is jumbled in my mind.  A male parent was unhappy with my work.  He'd emailed the principal.  He copied me. That was a Friday evening as I recall. It was a mistake to pull up my school email at home.  The parent demanded a meeting first thing Monday morning.  

 Few details really, dear readers.  Few details.  A blur.  A blur of hope and enthusiasm trampled at that school.  A blur of effort and of, well, love. Yes.  Love. That's my problem.  I care too much.  

 But I am not now so naive as to think that administrators have my or children's backs.  They will sling people--big and small: young and old--under trains, planes and automobiles to save their professional necks.  And their scrawny necks are vulnerable.  If they weren't hidden under thick scarves of lies, those administrative necks would fit well into nooses of truth.  

 Instead, my district's administrators and their minions force beefy and honest necks into nooses of lies.  Mine is a beefy neck. Even those of us with beefy necks worry and fret before our demises. 

 I did not sleep the entire weekend.  On Sunday I received an email from my principal.  It forwarded the parent's email and said only this: "Be ready."  

 Monday morning, I mounted the horse for the last ride into battle.  That is how it felt.  I did not turn back.  I went. It was one of the bravest things I have ever done, entering, sleepless and alone, that school.  Entering not even yet with my sling shot.  Facing the cannons with which my school district had armed my brute.  He was--oh I am so sad to say--the enemy.

 The only thing that carried me into that hellish place one last time was my voice in my head; my voice tearing at the emotional ropes with which he and his followers had attempted to bind my truth.  "You did nothing wrong, Kim. You did nothing wrong. You need help."  That help was not to come from anyone at that school.  That help would not come either from anyone in my school district.  That help came from me looking outside the system for support.  

 I made a doctor's appointment.

 I knew I was now vulnerable: not to the unhappy parent but to my psychopathic principal. He now had firm ammunition to use against me. He had the email.  He could go to work.

 More on the last day next week.
 
 
 
 
It came to me this morning that I do this for my father too.  
 
 
 

I was on my way to his office. It was time.  Dead man walking. 

 "Do you know what's going on here?"  I asked an assistant principal as I passed her office. She was the assistant principal who had not completely folded to the sick leadership of that school; the one who had come to me once far away from the other offices-made a special trip to see me in my office way at the end of the third floor-and said, "There are forces at work here, Kim.  They are hard to understand."  

 Still, though, in our district's investigation following my report--two ethics charges were brought against him--even she couldn't remember anything. Couldn't  remember the "SHUT UP! THIS IS MY SCHOOL!!!" screaming.  Couldn't recall the profanity either. 

 She probably felt bad about "not remembering." Probably wasn't safe for her to remember.

 Our "in-my-office-far-far-away" conversation followed his cavalier and arbitrary halt of my bullying prevention efforts ("I don't have a bullying problem here," he once told me). It followed my astonishment.  It followed weeks of organization on my part.  After accepting the $8,000 materials and training Olweus grant--he "pulled the plug."   Poof.  It was gone. 

 He'd use Olweus though, later, as evidence of bullying prevention in the law suit.  That's the lawsuit that required a "Bullying and Harassment" checklist.  That's the checklist of ten items I refused to fill out fraudulently.  That's the checklist that the next day, without my knowledge, was fill out by his counselor friend.  That's the check list that used my name and my work as evidence for most of the requirements. That's the check list of required bullying prevention activities that did not happen.  

 That's the check list my district used to betray me.

 "Bullying prevention is this much of what I expect of you." He, who stated he'd "never been alone with me," was alone with me then as he grinned menacingly at me with his thumb and forefinger less than an inch apart.

 I simply cannot put to words, even now more than two years later, the screaming fear that filled me as I walked towards his office my last day there. Is this how a rabbit in the field feels upon glancing up and seeing the hawk's talons extended?  A woman right before the fist again punches her belly?

 I suffered over his decision to halt our Olweus program. Oh!  How amused I am.  I suffered over THAT?!  More and more and more suffering was yet to come. 

 "Yes.  I do know.  May the blood of Jesus cover you."  This with her hands raised to the heavens.  Eyes closed.

 I entered his office.  

 I was not comforted with her prayer.  I was freaked out and crazy. I've since learned of the detrimental physical effects of ongoing stress, such as the stress of being bullied by my principal and his sycophants. There are studies that talk of chromosome caps called telomeres.  Stress frays them.  My telomeres--I assure you--were frayed. 

 So I entered his conference room with my frayed telomeres, sleepless eyes, pale skin and clenched jaw, all covered in Jesus' blood.  Having frayed telomeres was not a good thing.  Being covered in the blood was. Though raised in a Christian home, I'd never really felt God's protective power.  I didn't in that moment either.  It's been since then, in the healing of the last two and one half years that I have begun to understand its peace, its truth, and its strength.

 No one is promised rose gardens and that school, tended by that gardening principal,  most certainly was not a rose garden. 

 I remember saying once spontaneously to the other assistant principal-the one who had absolutely and completely folded, "I am not scared."  That was early on.

 She used to say, " I love my boss." She most often said it when his counselor friend was nearby.  That way she, the AP, could most assure he would hear of her affection. 

 "I am not scared."  I still don't know why I said that.  God, even without my consciousness of it, was already seeing me through. 

 That assistant principal suffered a lot.  She often told me she believed she was put there to "save" him.  There wasn't much saving going on though.  He used her to sign off on many of his false documents.  He used her to witness his abuse.  Her name is on many papers.  Many of those papers destroyed people's careers and their lives.  

 During the worst of my hell there, I once dreamed of a dog; a mutt.  It was a fleeting dream, yet it was clear.  The dog's fur  in the dream was matted.  The dog was starving.  It snarled and yapped.  It represented, I think, all the suffering, innerly yapping educators at that school.  Some simply could not abide me outwardly saying, "This is not fair.  Let's do something about it." They snarled at me.  Tried to bite me. 

 I understand. 

 More and more and more.  Last day and beyond. 
 
 



I think about the 2009-2010 school year a lot. Repeat. Repeat. Rewind. Rewind. I think about his face. His eyes squinted, for instance, leering.

Once, at the end of 2008-2009 school year, I followed him in my car to our eighth grade prom. He, I, and others were to chaperone the event. I didn't know where the hotel was, so I followed him. He was the first to arrive. I was, of course--because I was following him--the second to arrive. Both he and I valet parked our cars. In the foyer of the hotel, champagne was served; not for our students' prom, but for the hotel's guests. He offered me a glass. I refused. He looked out over the ocean...and then at me. He said, pursing his lips: "This is where I got my first kiss."

There were no witnesses. But it happened. 

Days later at his Monday morning leadership meeting--I arrived late--our assistant principal flounced by me and blurted out," I should have slept with him five years ago." 

There were two witnesses. The assistant principal will most assuredly say it did not happen. The other witness won't either. They're both scared.

I offer this story to you without artifice. I offer it in the hopes of being cleansed of the dirt still adhering to me. It's there. My thoughts. Him. 

More. More and more. I must get this out. I must "put this behind me." It has, after all, been almost three years.

It is so hard for me to put into words this welling of emotion. I am not up to it. I am not capable of poetically portraying this pain.

I am outraged. I am disgusted. I am different. I am the same.

I think I am most disgusted with myself and my own naivety. I trotted through most of my life--until the day, at age 52, when I paused, breathed deeply, planted a smile on my nervousness, opened my new school's doors and entered....in blissful ignorance of evil. 

The custodian--I swear this is true--said to me when he met me: "Hay una batalla espiritual aqui. Estas aqui para ganarla."

I just wanted to go to work.

His face.

His words.

His actions.

When I first, first, first started there and he heard me speak Spanish he said to his assistant principal, "We can use that." That statement was not just about my ease in speaking Spanish, it was about ME. I was the "that." I knew it then. I knew he saw me as a "something." 

His words. My brute made me write a referral about a girl for whom I'd searched. She'd skipped class. She was so vulnerable. She was so sad. She trusted me. I found her. I took her into the main office so that she and I could talk privately. He saw me with her. IN HER PRESENCE--he did not acknowledge her--he said to me "Write her up." I said, "I don't want to." He said: "YOU WILL BECAUSE I TOLD YOU TO." 

He needed documents to get her out. I wrote the referral. I did not put his words down. I put my own in hopes it would make a difference. It didn't. He just needed the referral.

I am sorry girl who trusted me. Girl who I betrayed.

His face. Spittle. Screaming. Children with their heads bowed. "SHUT UP!!!" 

It's ironic that he accuses his targets of the same.

"I hope they beat her ass." This when I went to him about a distraught student. She'd defaced a bathroom stall. I'd called her parents.

There were two witnesses. Me and a teacher friend of his. She later would be accused of bullying a student so she probably would deny it too. That's the case for which I was called to testify on behalf of the plaintiff.

Ah. This is fine leadership according to my district. This is the best we have.

"Do you have any witnesses?" I was anxiously asked by my region's administrator when I spoke with him the first days following my medical leave. I was alone. I was scared. I didn't have yet knowledge of the depths of the hell this man had wrought in other lives. 

I didn't know to whom to turn. I'd met this regional administrator. I thought he was nice enough. That administrator, though, is my former principal's friend. Didn't know that then. He evaluated--and highly--my brute year after year after year....in spite of cries for help from those of us working for him. Found that out later with public records requests.

"Yes. You are one of them. You heard him. You heard him screaming at me to fraudulently fill out documents. That's illegal right?"

"JESUS CHRIST! WHY CAN'T YOU STAY OUT OF THINGS?!" This at a leadership meeting. Some of those other "witnesses" were there. Two assistant principals, a reading coach, and the other counselor. His good friend. That's the time she then said, "When are we going to have that talk with Kim?"

"I'll decide when..." That was his response. 

All either chose not to respond or denied it happened. So having witnesses means--at that school anyway--not having any.

I was imprisioned unjustly at that school. Imprisoned by my district. They have known of his abuses for many years. 

We hear of sexual abuse in prisons. Men raping men in places of "rehabilitation". I was emotionally raped. It's hard for me to put those words down. Hard....excruciatingly hard. "The truth will set you free." I want to be free. 

I am not alone in that. There is much pain and little recovery for so many. 

Not one of the witnesses remembered the "JESUS CHRIST!" moment. That moment, however, is a slow motion moment for me. Him at the conference table surrounded by "his ladies:" all professional and well educated women. All, but one, were scared out of their minds at the unleashed potential for arbitrary destruction he'd been given by our district. 

Me entering with great fear and foreboding. Me stating that if he continued to speak to me that way I would have the union witness it.

Me not yet having a clue yet as to the shattered lives of others. That would come later with public records requests.

I revisited my drawer full of documents. I hadn't done that in a while. Whispered pleas, I swear, escape. Shouted accusations too. HOW DARE YOU?! I NEEDED HELP IN 2008! AND NO ONE HELPED ME! I WILL NOT HELP YOU NOW!

My response. I am so sorry. So sorry. Sorry this happened to you. Sorry it happened to ML, KW and to me. You and KW got the worst of it. Health and jobs lost. I am so sorry. 

More. More. More. To come.

My former principal is actively pursuing a school superintendency. He'll probably get that job somewhere. He will probably receive high recommendations from region and district leaders--his bosses--here in my county.

I will forward to the district that hires him all of the public records that I have: mine and of others-- of this man's abuse. I have many. I was given--without charge--all the documents associated with my name. My district now, though, charges me upwards of $2,500.00 to produce requested documents, so it's not as easy for me to read of his abuse. I called their bluff and asked that I have a pay roll deduction. They refused and told me I had to produce a cashier's check for the entire amount before those records would be released. I decided just knowing how much those records would cost was enough for me.

I'd asked for all employee requests of transfer from that school. There must be many. $2,500.00 is a lot of money.

The very real potential of him becoming a superintendent and because his is abusive, coercive and bullying leadership...has me thinking that many superintendents are bullying, abusive and coercive individuals. "It all starts at the top." Just look at Atlanta Public Schools. Look at the Kemp Mill ES case and its protection of that man from the very top. Look at 696 comments and counting from abused educators to the NEA's article, "Bullying of Teachers Pervasive in Many Schools" article (
http://neatoday.org/2012/05/16/bullying-of-teachers-pervasive-in-many-schools/) and school districts' and school boards' blind eye turning.

Look at my former boss and his legacy of abuse. Another target with another not-to-be-believed story has contacted me.


Bullying, coercive, abusive men and women--superintendents, regional leadership, directors and principals--are the real reason schools fail. I know it in my gut. Good people are forced out. Fine and fun people are targeted with "documentation" and "discipline." And what are we left with? Suck-up sycophants who lie and cheat and cover up for the bosses. They have no other choices if they want to survive. Our school districts' upper echelons of leadership are full of just such people. Abusive leadership and suck up, rear end kissing subordinates....who happen to be the bosses of other subordinates....all sucking up, lying and covering up for each other...until the chain lands flatly and completely in the classroom. There is no one to suck up to the teacher. But there are layers upon layers of danger for that teacher if she has any ethics at all. The first layer of danger is the principal.

More public records: This is an email from one union rep to another about last year's targeted teacher at my former school. I make no changes other than to take out the target's and the principal's names.

"I spoke with [target] Sunday morning and suggested to her that it is always possible that the district would change [principal's] position. I also believe that there have been so many cases of bullying and harassment against [principal] that the district should move him. I don't care if he is promoted...let him harass other Principals."

More public records: An email from one of the victims (can't say targets here....both lost their jobs) to regional leadership.

Verbatim with names removed:

"Hello,
I am a veteran teacher of 30+ years from (victim names the state) 28yrs. in one school.
My name is (victim gives name)

THERE IS MUCH TO EXPRESS, I have experienced the following, and MORE:

I am being HARASSED and FEAR my PERSONAL SAFETY, regarding Principal [principal's name; school's name]

*Harassments / Abuse / has personal medical papers
* Discrimination
* Intimidations / physically: personal space violated
* In-your face mood swings / out of camera OFTEN
* Threat / Threats regarding job
** RETALIATION

My initial contact to the Office of The Superintendent of Schools [superintendent's name] was on [ date]. At that time I did speak with [secretary?], and again on [date], ( then realizing, that my phone emails had not gotten through)

On [day and date] I met with region [director and superintendent] regarding [principal], approaches and demeanor toward me."

(Victim lists six instances of "principal's approaches and demeanor" towards her. These are the instances she must have relayed to my region's director and superintendent at that meeting.)

Victim continues: "I was assured at the conclusion of the meeting that boundries {sic} from Region would be expressed to [principal's name], on THAT evening, and to call or contact Region should I feel uncomfortable. (not to be alone with me)

Yesterday (after hours-approx 4:00pm), [principal's name] insisted that I signature unwarranted and inaccurate documents,without advising me of this LATE MEETING, not to SEEK representation. [Principal's name], WARNED ME!!..(in an extremely annoyed manner) that I WILL signature these three documents in the A.M. of Wednes (date), snidely reminded me that i went OVER HIS HEAD.

PLEASE HELP ME Thank you [ victim's name]"

Another email from victim soon after "boundaries" had been established: "....In that moment he acussed [sic] me of telling others and putting him in a difficult position,and that I wouldn't like to experience what he would / could put me through. In my face (3-4 inches) told me to "SHUT YOUR MOUTH!!!' (including union rep.) "DON'T TALK TO ANYONE, BECAUSE NOBOBODY [sic] CARES ABOUT YOU!!" Went on to remind me what he can put me through..."YOU WOULD'NT [sic] LIKE WHAT I WILL DO TO YOU!!"

My regional superintendent would not let me speak of the astounding similarities of this victim's case to my own.

More public records coming up.



My former bullying principal stated in the investigation following my report that I" didn't want to perform all of my (counselor) duties." He stated I "only wanted to do bullying prevention." He also stated that, in spite of that, he'd "never disciplined" me. Trust me: that was coming.

But I acted first. I didn’t know how courageous I was. I just knew I was working in a sick place and I was ill.

I turned him in for bullying and harassment. I didn’t yet have lots of documents. I just had my emails sent to the union (I’ll share those with you soon), my almost two years of hell, three formal interviews with state and district investigators about him. Imagine being called to the principal’s conference room to be interviewed by an attorney from the State of Florida about his conduct and his actions against a teacher. Imagine deciding to tell the truth (I almost wrote "having to tell the truth", but that, as you know, is not the norm) and knowing he would be very, very unhappy. Imagine how frayed my telomeres were.


In the spring of 2009--right after he proudly stated he'd "secured me" (remember, I'd told him I did not want to stay and I am certain, that’s why he “secured me”)--I presented to him the following document. I was leery as to his reasons for keeping me--I'd been offered a high school counseling position and I was being "courted" by another high school's principal--so I wanted him to approve my ideas for a Student Services Comprehensive Plan. The reason I’d turned down the high school counseling position was because I wanted to work with children….and high school counselors really don’t do that. They work with children’s data in their offices. So, I was excited about the rich possibilities of being an Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer at a K-8 school. My goodness! The community’s mayor had his children there!

But, I'd been there about seven months and I had a sick feeling about the principal, his assistant principal, and the other counselors. They didn't seem particularly committed to our students, so I thought it was time to move on.

Here's the body of the document:



Student Services Comprehensive Plan to Include:



1. Olweus Bullying Prevention Plan Full Implementation

4 pronged, K-8

School wide-Committee created through interview

Classroom--weekly guided discussion, age appropriate

Individual--all staff trained to respond to bullying events

Community--Kick off event. Local business support

2. Alternative to Suspension--both outdoor and indoor

Two evening Family Empowerment groups (2 hours)- late arrival by counselor

Two group sessions students only group

Any suspension-available only once a semester

3. Groups formed and to include—but not limited to--meeting time to be determined-- rotate periods? lunch? weekly?

Girl Power

Men of Honor (?)

Bereavement

Relationship

4. Peer Mentoring/Mediation-partnered with Ms. (teacher's name) classes

Peers greet new students

Mediate on the spot disputes

5.Presentations planned at school year's commencement

Child Abuse Week

HIV/AIDS Awareness week

Red Ribbon Week



My plan was not accepted. I was told by two counselors and an assistant principal that it wouldn't work.


I was frustrated by the lack of vision surrounding the incredible potential at that school. We had two counselors and a mental health counselor. We were a kindergarten through eighth grade school. The potential for doing good and fine work with children was right there.


I also wrote this document to myself. I was doing things that were not counseling related. When I first started there my principal had said he expected “much more” of me than counseling of children. I remember being uncomfortable at that moment. Hackles up.


Here's the document:



Concerns:

(Counselor) has stated I will "get over wanting to counsel;"--"there is too much to do." I wish to partner with her and with (other counselor) to proactively offer services to students via classroom activities and group sessions.


What on going administrative tasks will I be given?

Already have:

Student of the Month

Enhanced Student/Teacher Conferences

Eighth grade Open House

Gifted Testing

Shadowing

Connect Ed Messages

Trips to Testing Center

(Counselor) wants to give me--

Five Star

Dade Partners



Comments like "you wait..." not encouraging of counseling efforts. Seems to feel administrative tasks are more important.


Solution:


Parents want to take on more roles.

Many duties can be performed by office staff (Community Involvement Specialist?)


I probably shouldn't be looking at these documents. They make me sad; sad for enthusiastic me....and sad for the vulnerable children of that school who not only did not receive real counseling services, but had documents used against them....much like documents were used against employees.

Four years later, these documents also make me mad; mad at a school district, a school board and a union who have knowingly allowed this one bully's ongoing, well documented, terror.

They really should be held accountable for that.

I began to send emails of documentation to my union on March 17, 2010. I share with you the first. It detailed for the union the unrelenting stress of working there. I did not, at that time. know of all the others.

I will share more next week. Looking back now, I see that had I stayed...I'd probably be dead. That kind of stress, for some, is a death sentence.

This is my first unanswered cry for help.

Sent: Wednesday, March 17, 2010 8:53:32 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada EasternSubject: Fwd: Important

S,

I feel bullied and harassed by my principal O. I begin with my journal entry of 09/16/09. This is what I wrote: "veilled threats. "we must talk" (as he passes me). told I had 2 miscommunications. I feel I am being bullied. the covert aggression is on going. the imbalance of power is in place (principal! ) B., inappropriately without going through channels, spoke-complained about me to O.

L. and B. appear to be dissatisfied with my work. My work is extensive, I am at the point of taking a medical leave. The ongoing stress is relentless. It is affecting my sleep, my dispostiion. I am depressed. I cry easily. Yesterday I made a doctor's appt. cancelled. will see what happens when we meet.

The miscommunications:

1. Greeting parents and introducing myself in classrooms at open house. This is when he pulled me to the side and stated I did not have permission to do so.

2. He requested I organize Bilingual outreach district monthly initiative. I did so. When the information came in the district required a school rep be there in the evening/one time a month. I asked Mr. O. who he planned on that being. He pointed at me. I said no.

Mr. O. has also told me there had been complaints about me. This is part of the "we must talk" bullying. I was left worried and felt ill. He never did make that conversation happen.

Mr. O. has called me "honey" three times. The first time he tossed papers to his desk and said (arrogantly) "You forgot to sign this honey". I was taken aback. I said nothing. I felt awful. The second time he called me honey, I said jokingly "Oh you're not going to call me honey are you sweetie?"

The third time was on the phone. He said "That's not the way we do things here, honey." He hung up the phone. I was upset and went to him. I requested he not call me that. That I felt demeaned and disrespected. That it was inappropriate for him, my male boss to call me a woman who works for him, honey. I have heard him twice call Ms. C., AP honey. I have heard him call B. honey as well.

Monday morning meeting. O. asked me to attend. It begins at 0730. My work day starts at 0820. I leave my house at 0700. I was routinely late by 10 minutes. He said to me "we begin at 0730." I said I would not make it at that time. He repeated 0730-need you here. I fretted about that. I decided to not go at all. Caused me great stress. I no longer attend the morning meeting.

--Summer 09--Civil rights called me. I had witnessed 2 teachers arguing. I asked if I could help. I wanted students in classrooms. One teacher, Ms. W. came out of her room and apologized to other teacher. Non issue for me. Mr. O. had used me as a witness in his case against Ms. W.. I was never informed of that. I told the Civil Rights Department that I had never been formally debriefed. Mr. O. appears to have told them he had "formerly debriefed" me. Untrue. First day of school O. was visibly unhappy with me. He questioned me as to why I hadn't supported him. I told him that I had told the truth.

January 10, Ms. C., without telling what it was about, told me I must go to principal's office. A state investigator questioned me. O. was not present. Now it was Ms. W.'s case against him. Again I stated that I had never been formally debriefed. I felt very uncomfortable and vulnerable to O..

March 16-called into O's office. L., TRUST and Ms. C., AP had been dealing with a bullying issue since I believe October. I was not included in this issue. Parent removed her child from school and case is being investigated by district. O. asked me to verify dates on my having trained staff, parents and students on the district's bullying and harrassment policy. I told him I had not done so. That although I had introduced topics there was no training done. He was livid. He spat out that I had had 40 minutes and just get the dates! Mr. G.was outside principal's door. I believe he heard what I said. Ms. C. was seated at his desk. I did as told. I also wrote by the dates that I had NOT trained on policy. I noted that Mr. O. had turned down the 2 comprehensive bullying prevention programs, Olweus and StopBullyingNow!, and had decided to go with district's initiative. I have emails to support all this. I also made a copy of the form. L. brought a training manual from a TRUST meeting. I told her that our principal had decided to go with district and that it was her responsibility as TRUST to inform and instruct our staff. I believe Mr. O. will go ahead and use the dates of the presentations I did and claim they meet the training of policy requirement. They do not. This is important.

Feb 2-called to a student services meeting to "get things out on the table" C., L., B.present. I felt this the appropriate time to address my concern of L. routinely arriving late and leaving early. Ms.C.s defended L-stating "she was trying to connect the dots.' and looked with amazement at B and L.. L. began to cry and was then defended by the other 2. C told me my work with the middle school kids on bullying hadn't made a dent in her work load. She stated I appeared to need validation. I said no. I knew I did excellent work. This is important. L, B. and C. spoke of them being family. That it had taken 4 years to get where they were at. going through fire together etc. When I asked specifically what they were talking about, they said Mr. O. I told them that I too had felt his fire. I told them that he had told me there had been complaints about me. I was told that this is his leadership style. That he divides to conquer. That he had done that to the 2 assisant principals. I believe C is scared. She looked once at B (who reports to principal-they are friends) and said "I love my boss." This conversation validates for me that they too know his leadership style to be one of harrassment, bullying and intimidation..

The next workday O called a meeting. C, L and B had obviously spoken to him of the meeting. It was all to be rehashed. I told them (another courageous move!) I was done with that. That I would only discuss our upcoming work. I asked if they were each done with the meeting. They each shook their heads yes. They appeared at a loss. It was obvious to me that I was to become in that meeting a scapegoat. I said if he was going to continue to discuss the meeting I'd had with C, L., and B., I would have union representation present. He asked each of them if they wanted to say something. Following that meeting, I turned in a transfer request-region 2 to region 1 or 3. He signed it.

S, there is more. I simply as too tired right now to go on. Is this enough? Thank you so much for your help! Sending this email is going to get me a good night's sleep!

Kim

My district's superintendent is, apparently, making a big deal about principals seeing the movie "Bully." I don't know the man expect that he is held in high regard by many national educational leaders.  I only know this: once, last summer at a school board meeting, I saw him snap his fingers in a staccato like fashion and flip his thumb to the right.  He made this gesture to an elderly, over weight, and balding man--a high ranking district employee--who then slowly got up and lumbered off in the direction of my superintendent's thumb. I was kind of shocked. I was at the school board meeting because my former principal's latest target had asked me to support her. So, my superintendent's impatient finger snapping and my reason for being there-- I was festooned with buttons: "No Place For Hate," "Bully Free It Starts With Me," and a MDCPS button stating "It Takes Courage" seemed to fit well together. 
  
 I also saw my superintendent on TV once sarcastically ridicule a young man who had brought his concerns to the board.  I don't remember what the young man said.  I just remember thinking to myself, "Wow!  That's a courageous thing to do!"  
  
 To another board member's credit, he defended the boy's right to speak.

 I have seen my superintendent twice more in person.  Once, I had helped organize a parent event at a district high school. This event was a very big deal and took lots and lots of time.  I'd invited a local radio personality to present her heartfelt story to us.  She'd agreed to be there and because she hadn't arrived yet, I went looking for her in the school's parking lot.  A huge SUV type vehicle pulled up and my superintendent got out of the passenger's seat.  Assistant principals and such radioed each other of his arrival.  It was impressive to witness.  I, however, did not have the opportunity to even say "Hi, Mr. C.! Thanks for being here."  
  
 He made a nice speech, though, and then was whisked away. He didn't stay for the radio personality's speech.  Apparently, he had other more important things to do.
  
 The other time I saw him in person was at my school. I didn't witness his arrival, but I can tell you my principal made sure he didn't see ANY children in the halls.  Honestly, my school was eerily quiet.  One student--a troublesome girl--apparently demanded to go to the bathroom during his visit and so--as was relayed to me--was accompanied by security to the restroom.
  
 I've tried to communicate to my superintendent my ideas about true bullying prevention in our schools.  I was especially excited last year as I was selected to be interviewed by the Broad Prize folk.  Although I was told my selection was "completely random," I didn't and still don't believe it.  The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is featured by my district as a bullying prevention program it uses.  Olweus was also submitted to the Broad folk as evidence of the district's work in bullying and violence prevention.  As I am the only Olweus trainer in the district, I suspect that was why I was asked to participate. 
  
 My district won the Broad Prize. That's good. My attempts to further explore meaningful efforts towards ending bullying, though, go unanswered by all district leaders.  That's bad.
  
 My former principal is working very, very hard at becoming a superintendent in my state. He has enthusiastic support from key community and school district leaders so he'll probably get that job soon. They, district leaders and my community's most influential education advocates--hey, not to mention a governor!-- all seem to be friends. In fact, I recently saw a video of my former principal with my state's governor and other well known educational leaders in his school's media center. The governor was speaking about how great the school was. Everybody seemed happy and excited with the school and with my former principal's leadership. There were lots of smiles and back slapping.  Probably there were a few "high-fives" outside of the camera's lense.
  
 There is one individual in the video who caught my eye--my former assistant principal. She didn't seem to know she was in the camera's view. She looked sad. Now, I know of the hell she has endured as "second-in-command" to this well documented abusive man.  I can only imagine what it was like for her to see this celebration of his greatness.
  
My heart, honestly, breaks for her.  Someone needs to save that woman. As an aside, before I left the school she shared with me that she was writing her doctoral dissertation on workplace bullying in schools. God save her.
  
 I am reading three books right now.  One is called "Breaking the Silence: Overcoming the Problem of Principal Mistreatment of Teachers." It's a book about the national travesty of principals' abuse of their employees.  It's painful to read. It's even more painful to live. I lived it.
  
My former assistant principal lives it right now--every day.  
  
 My superintendent's snapping fingers and "get-up-and-do-what-I-tell-you-to-do" thumb gesture spoke more to me than all of his well spoken words of educational reform. 
  
 Honestly, unless I, his employee, can say "Hi, Mr. Superintendent!  Thanks for showing the movie "Bully"!  Thanks for setting such a fine example!  Thanks for assuring that following principals' seeing this movie,  they are going to set a tone of trust, honor and integrity in all of your schools."  
  
 Unless I can say, directly to my superintendent, a sincere "thank you; thank you for your accessiblity; thank you for your kindess; thank you for your courage in addressing the rampant bullying of your employees by the school leaders you place there".....unless I can say that to him with sincerity, I will suspect that he and his leadership are the true reason we in my county are in such a mess.
  
 Good luck with the "Bully" movie, Mr. Superintendent.
 __________________________________________ 

 More to the union in 2010.
  

 From: kim
 To: s@
 Sent: Sunday, March 21, 2010 9:22:22 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
 Subject: Fwd: Important/More

 S,
  
 I add this for the record. I am a Certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Trainer. As such it is clear to me now that I must include the following. Twice I have heard O yelling, screaming at children. Most recently THIS IS MY SCHOOL!! SHUT UP! to 2 eighth grade girls who raised their voices to each other in his presence. I took on the role of typical bystander. I was nervous and felt guilty that I wasn't standing up for these girls--typical reaction to bullying. C, Br and I believe G, our security monitor present.
  

  
  

 I'm missing many of God's gifts.  I'm missing them because my mind is wrapped around my experience of abuse; learning about the dynamics of domestic and workplace violence...and figuring out just how to help out with this pernicious issue of bullying in our schools. 

 Today, for instance, I just looked up from my typing and noted the beauty of the sunrise.  For Miami, it's really cold, so the crisp air probably has something to do with the glorious oranges and pinks that are reflected on the small lake behind my house.  

 I am, however, back to typing. 

 A friend of mine recently got excited about a book of great bullying prevention/respect building tools for teachers to use in the classroom.  She notes in her review that there are 67 bullying prevention initiatives in schools throughout the United States.  Not one of them is working.  In spite of our societal outrage and desire to "do something," children are in greater peril from bullying in 2013 than they were in 2012, or 2011 or years before that.  

 There are on line reporting systems, zero tolerance policies, and meticulous documentation of bullying events.  

 There are assemblies and presentations.  There are celebrities and foundations.  There are student poster and video contests.  

 And there is lots and lots of money from lots and lots of wealthy people wanting to help. 

 None of it is working.  As much as I love and admire my friend and her enthusiasm, I don't think this book will work either. Why?

 Here's why: Because the prevention of bullying cannot begin in the classroom with the teacher and her/his students. That's the wrong approach.  It has to start with school district superintendents, and district directors, and regional superintendents, and regional directors, and then principals, and assistant principals, treating their employees with courage and respect.   That is not happening. We--and I mean educators throughout our nation's schools--have no true leadership on this issue.  We have no one who "gets it;" who "gets" that we will never, ever keep children safe from bullying without keeping employees in schools safe from the same.  In fact, many of those leading our school districts were/are the biggest bullies of all.  Either their bullying tactics are celebrated as "tough yet effective" leadership or they were promoted to get them into regional and district offices so that they were away from children, but still making "the big bucks."

 So, to start in the class room with "scared-they-will-lose-their-jobs-if-they-displease-the-boss" teachers is just plain futile. 

 I keep coming back to my own experience with my former principal and what I am learning from all of that. My experience of being emotionally ripped to shreds by him and by his counselor friend is, honestly, my best example of why, in general, bullying continues unfettered and unchecked in schools.  My horrible and outrageous experience--one that I thought was rare and unique--is common place and common practice throughout our nation.  

 When I write of my experience, it is broader than just what happened TO me: it also includes my shock at the documentation of destroyed careers of others who went before me. It now includes those following me.  Although I only have semi- complete documents from three other targets, I have names of at least ten more.  Please let me write that again: ten more people and ten more careers and ten more instances of my district's....what?  blind eye turning?  It's worse than that.  My district doesn't just turn a blind eye, it turns a cannon and points it directly at the latest target.  It allows my former principal, with the help of his counselor friend, to stuff the barrel and light the fuse. 

 Boom.  Move on.  Clear path to a superintendency. Who cares that the path's edges are littered with the carcasses of former targets' careers. 

 Apparently that is what is happening in school districts throughout the nation. Bullying principals get promoted. 

 I recently found my former principal's latest application to become a superintendent of schools in my state.  I've on occasion googled his name and the word superintendent to see what's happening.  I was crushed--sick to the point of vomiting--to see letters of recommendations from people I admire; who, although they may not have all the details of his years of abuse, at least know of my case.  "How can they do that?!" my mind screamed. "How can they write that his personal motto is 'when there is a human being there is always an opportunity for kindness' that reveals 'his people person disposition'?!"  

 He most definitely is not a person of "fairness and integrity" as was written by the person I admire most on the planet. My God. 

 I cried.  Yes.  Shed tears at those words of betrayal.  Not a betrayal of me, but of children and employees and parents.  Betrayal of trust. Betrayal of
 entire school districts.  Betrayal. 

 These are bottom line ethics and integrity issues for me.  This is a matter of protecting children from "trickle down" abuse.  

 The right thing to do then, is to send all of the documents that I have to what ever school district hires him as superintendent.  

 I am no longer sick inside.  I am peaceful and feel forgiving. I have decided that this resolve to speak the real truth about bullying in schools  is, like this morning's sunrise, a "no-matter-what" God given gift. 

 Still, I am learning to look up from my typing.  The sun is now up.  The lake reflects its light.  My daughter is awakening.  I can see her eye lids flutter.  She's piled high with blankets.  Delicious.  

 Time to get on with the day

-----------------------------------------------
  ----- Forwarded Message -----
From: kim
To: s@ Sent: Friday, April 9, 2010 10:00:34 PM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Fwd: Important/More
 The following:  H has told me I "will not counsel.  There is too much to do."  She told me before the holiday break that "Bullying prevention is only one tiny piece of what I do."  L  has told me "bullying prevention doesn't interest her."--that she "is hiding." C has informed me that my work on bullying prevention "hasn't impacted (her) work load one bit."  I have not been supported in my bullying prevention efforts. I am alone in the effort.  I do weekly classroom presentations.  I have had students create anti-bullying raps and posters.  I work with students individually on bullying issues.There is little- if any- support.

 I tell you this because of the recent district investigation into the bullying incident at (school's name) (see March 16).  I also add attachments that indicate my plan and my concerns from  April/09. I presented the plan to C, L, and H in April 09.  It was rejected.  I gave it to O. He agreed (with H present) that I do those items on the list.  I believe he did so because he really wanted me to stay at that time. I was being recruited by other principals. Now he agrees I am not a good fit. You will find attached O's letter of recommendation.  I have sent letters of interest to 14 middle schools

From: kim@
To: s@
Cc: m@
Sent: Friday, May 28, 2010 6:06:27 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Fwd: Important/More/Again

I make note of this. I see how the stress of daily harrassment, or the anticipation of that harrassment has affected my health. I hardly slept Tuesday night. In addition to my anticipation of another meeting of bullying (see below), I was fretful about a fellow employee. I feel he and a female employee who had asked for my help are being exploited and coerced by Mr. O. This however is not why I write. I anticipate O's wrath at my having spoken to them. I have taken 3 days of my sick time to recuperate. I feel strenghened.

From: kim@
To: s@
Cc: m@
Sent: Thursday, May 27, 2010 6:35:13 AM GMT -05:00 US/Canada Eastern
Subject: Fwd: Important/More/Again

I add this. On Monday Mr. O swore at the morning meeting. "Jesus Christ!", he said as I answered his questions about assisting a fellow employee. Ms. B, Ms. C and Ms. H present. Ms. H took this opportunity to say this-- "When are we going to have that meeting with Kim, Mr. O?" Mr. O stated that he would see how "this week went." I felt insecure. I believe this will be another meeting of bullying. I am again sleeping poorly. I feel threatened and harrassed by that comment.

Another email to my union.  Check it out: THREE interviews with district and state investigators...

From: kim@

To: s@
Cc: m@
Sent: Friday, May 28, 2010 6:37:42 AM
Subject: Fwd: Important/More/Again

And this- On Monday I was interviewed by Mrs. D. P.. This is the third time in my 1 year and a half at (school's name) that I have been interviewed by the district and by the state about my principal. She questioned me as to why I, a Certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer, --why I had not stayed in the meeting with K and the other girls involved in the alleged bullying incident. I agreed that it would have made sense to have included me from the beginning.

Here is my experience of that meeting--I believe I was called into the meeting at the end. The girls were quiet. A few were crying. Ms. C and Ms. R were present. They had been the 2 professionals (Ms. R is a licensed therapist and currently is pursuing her Doctorate degree) who had dealt with this issue from the beginning. They had chosen not to include me. I do not know what interventions had been used-not just in that meeting, but throughout the school year. Neither C nor R had consulted with me. Ms. C asked me to get the chocolates from Mr. O's desk. I did so. She gave chocolates to a few of the girls. She hugged one of the girls and stated "You did good".

At that time I was perplexed as to my role. I felt my presence was not needed. I said, "looks like you have this handled. I 'm going back to work." I did not know of the enormity of the situation. I now feel that C and R were working at diffusing the responsibility on me.


I told Mrs. P that if this were indeed a bullying issue, that it is inappropriate to have the harrassed student with the harrassing students.

----- Forwarded Message -----
From: ki@
To: M@
Sent: Wed, 22 Sep 2010 09:37:28 -0000 (UTC)
Subject: Fwd: Important/More/Again/2010

M-


Although I briefly write here, I fully documented this incident from yesterday. A girl was tripped. Last year I mediated a conflict with her and 2 friends. This year the same child came to me. I found out from her that last year she had been called to the principal's office without knowing what it was about. She stated she thought she would receive an award. There she found one of the two girls with whom she was having conflict--and her parents. She states that Mr. O made her apologize and stated if she ever called () a "bitch" again-he would expell her. I told Ms. C. She later told me that Mr. O does not recall the incident.


I believe Mr. O remembers the incident. I also believe he was informed of a website (of which I was not told) last year called something like "People Who Hate (this student)." I have no proof other than Ms. B stating she remembers hearing of it last year. Perhaps Ms. C and Dr. R knew as well. It was inappropriate to bring the child into such an intimidating environment. I worked hard on this issue yesterday. I believe I will be pressured to put bullying codes into the computer.

 

My school district has started a "customer care" program. I, as you will see, had ideas to share. I wrote this to the district director of the "iCare" program.

Mr. W,

Since our meeting yesterday
, I've been thinking a lot about your/our efforts with the iCare program. I've been thinking about companies' cultures and how they are shaped and formed over time. I've been specifically thinking about my employment at Delta Air Lines (I am a retired flight attendant with 26 years experience) and its commitment to worldwide excellence. I've been considering, since our meeting, how employment with Delta compares and contrasts with employment at Miami-Dade County Public Schools.

I felt secure and happy at Delta. I felt confident. I felt respected. My contributions were valued. My creativity and my ideas were solicited and heard by my bosses. I worked on many special projects. Those projects included recruitment and training special assignments.

I was language qualified in French, Portuguese and Spanish.

I worked hard. We all worked hard.

I was a satisfied Delta employee "customer."

I am not as satisfied a Miami-Dade County Public Schools employee "customer." My conversations with many other employees indicate that there are many other dissatisfied employee "customers." Why? Many of us feel discounted. Many of us do not feel supported by our principals. Many of our administrators are not feeling great support either. They feel overwhelmed and scared and so bring their fear into our schools. Their fear "trickles down" to those of working for them.

Here's a simple remedy to poor customer service: respond to emails. My emails to superiors--be they at the school level, the region level, or the district level--simply go unanswered. That's frustrating. It's certainly not good customer service.

Creative ideas-- for instance, my having brought to the district grants for the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program-- are shot down; "You do not have authority, Ms. Werner. Your initiatives are not sanctioned by the district," I've been told many times. Yet I am "pulled out of the bullying prevention hat" for the Broad Prize and asked to speak about Olweus with its interviewers; only to be closed down once again following our district's winning of that coveted prize. As an aside, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program is featured on our district's website.

Some employees have become jaded and cynical. I have not, hence my writing this letter. Others have "given up" and hide in their classrooms and offices. Again, I have not--in spite of blocks, barriers, discouragement, and words of caution from many.

Employees at Delta Air Lines know that their leaders care about them. Delta is a "give-it-to-me-straight-so-we-can-really-do-something-about-it" kind of employer. That kind of openness leads to its internal "customers"-- its employees--feeling confident in solving problems.

Employees at MDCPS do not know that their leaders truly care. Instead of being a place of collective commitment to excellence, MDCPS is, it seems, a place of fear for many. No one--particularly school principals--wants any piece of bad news to get out about his/her school--not to parents, not to the community, and certainly not to regional and district leadership.

That has to change. We need to be encouraged to "give-it-to-you-straight."

Here's a start, I think:

iListen. iRespond.....and then you/we might--we just might--break through fear and cynicism and authentically demonstrate that weCare--we really do.

I invite you to check out my website, www.apiecefullworld.com. I tell my story of being a bullied target of an abusive administrator. I also provide resources to prevent bullying for children and for adults.

Thanks so much, Mr. W. I would sincerely appreciate your response.

Kim Werner

 

 
 _________________________________________________
 
 
Dear Fellow Principal,
It is with mixed emotion that I write this letter of recommendation. Ms. Kim Werner, my counselor, has requested a transfer back to Region 6 or to Region 7-both of which would allow Ms. Werner to be close to home and family. I certainly understand Ms. Werner’s desire to be closer to her home, juggling family and work obligations is tough for any involved parent.
Ms. Werner is a proactive, visionary employee. She is the only certified Olweus Bullying Prevention Program trainer in our district. The Florida Association of School Administrators (FASA) chose Ms. Werner as one of only 10 FASA sponsored trainers statewide. Through our district, Ms. Werner is introducing the Olweus program to two schools.
Ms. Werner also presents seminars not only to the students and their parents at our school, but to students and parents district wide. Most recently she facilitated the “Success Academy” at one of our district’s elementary schools. She has also presented to parents of many local high schools. In addition to the “Success Academy”, Ms. Werner’s former school led the district in numbers of participants in the Alternative to Suspension Program. Ms. Werner was recently asked to train all district facilitators of the program.
Ms. Werner’s vision is for all of our district’s children to be not only physically safe, but emotionally safe as well. This is Ms. Werner’s true strength. She is genuine and courageous in being with the children and staff at my school. People know and respect her. She is present and available to parents, students and fellow teachers. I know I can take to her any task and she will go beyond my expectation. Yet I do not need to direct her. She is a self motivated employee--motivated by what she knows to be right.
In addition to her excellent work ethic, I must write that Ms. Werner’s family was recently voted “Family of the Year” by her children’s school. She is as involved here at our school as she is the lives of her own two children. I am proud of her. It has been my pleasure to have Ms. Werner be a part of my staff. She will be an asset to any school.
Please call me with any questions.
O,
Principal of............

My Broad Prize Interview


 From a recent email to me from my district's Director of the Bullying and Harassment Policy:

 "As we discussed, while I applaud your passion and commitment to creating a safe learning environment for students through Miami-Dade County Public Schools, I appreciate you understanding that you are not the spokesperson for the programs and policies related to bullying in our District.   My office has this responsibility."

 First I must note that, in addition to some indignation at my district's continued....what? disrespect? bullying? lying?....I am also mirthful inside.  That mirth saves me.  That mirth--and the knowledge that I do this work and "press these buttons", not to annoy "people in charge", but to simply point out that what we are doing is NOT WORKING.  It's not working because we do not have real and true and committed leadership on the issue of bullying PREVENTION.  We do, indeed, (and this is where the mirth comes in) have real and true and committed leadership on the issue of BULLYING (as stated in the email I recently received from my district's director of the bullying and harassment policy). 

 Even this email high-lights the perceptual problem of bullying and its prevention.  Our policies are focused on acts of bullying and harassment and what we do-not to prevent them from happening-- but what to do once they happen. 

 That's ineffective.  That doesn't work. 

 Sigh. 

 Here's what works: The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program.  It works.  We all know that.  We all know that it is evidence based.  We all know that it meets the nation's highest standards as a violence prevention initiative.  We all know that, if done right, the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program transforms schools from places of disrespect into places of respect. 

 We all know that if done really, REALLY, right....the Olweus Bullying Prevention Program transforms entire school districts.  

 And we all know that if we get that right--yeah, get that "spot-on" RIGHT--we can transform communities.  

 If ever there were a time to get this "spot-on" really, REALLY right, it's NOW. 

 The Olweus Bullying Prevention Program holds adults in school districts as primarily responsible for being the foundation from which successful programs launch.   Adults in schools who work directly with children,have to demonstrate respect and inclusiveness and openness and warmth.  Adults must smile and greet and make eye contact with each other and with kids and with parents. When they don't; when they roll their eyes or say something "slick"--and not one of us is perfect--adults have to have the courage to say to a child, or to a colleague, "Hey, I'm sorry."  

 Adults in offices "far, far away"--superintendents and directors of  "thises and thats"-- must acknowledge all emails from adults working for them.  Let me write that again.  All emails must be answered.  

 Those superintendents and directors also must have the courage to say to those of us working in schools, "Hey, We're sorry."

 So, I am not "THE spokesperson for programs and policies related to bullying in our District [sic]."  But I certainly  was THE spokesperson for Olweus and A spokesperson for bullying PREVENTION when I spoke with the Broad Prize interviewers.  

 Thank God for the mirth.  Thank God, too, for the indignation. 

 I am not sorry for either. 



There've been at least fifteen targets/victims of my former principal and I think there's another one "coming my way."  Not sure.  I just suspect that her lateral transfer to my school--a swap of sorts between assistant principals made by my regional leadership--is again about him...and her having said "HELP ME!" And if that's true, that will make four since I left. There may be more.  I don't know. I'm just talking about the three who've contacted me--and now her.  

So.  A recap of my experience.  In 2011, I was transferred from that school to my current school. I'd reported him for his bullying. The district covered itself with charges against him--charges of school board "Rules of Ethics" and "Duties and Responsibilities" violations. The guy lied on documents and used my name and said I did stuff on Sundays (couldn't even get that right. I mean, c'mon!  If you're going to lie, do it right and choose a weekday for goodness sake!). But I know now--and it really makes me sad--any possibility of holding him accountable was not the reason for the charges. The charges were just more butt covering in case I went public.

"Hey, hey, hey! We looked into the whole mess and it was just a misunderstanding!" district leadership would have said to the media. "Werner is just a cry baby and is most definitely NOT a team player..."

I am certain many, many "man (and woman) hours" were spent on my report. How about that?  There're your tax dollars at work: not into the classroom to educate your children, but into the courtroom to protect your children's psychopath of a principal.

The "investigation" of my former principal took all of a few weeks before charges were "unfounded" and he and his buddies could continue on their "yellow brick road" of bullying. And thus, at least four more employee casualties have been transferred out. Happily, that yellow brick road doesn't seem to be leading to a superintendency.  I'm grateful, at least, for that. I'd have to send all the public records I have to any school district hiring him.  I couldn't just let them hire him--with all of his wonderful recommendations from influential people--without them knowing "the other side," right?   I'd be called upon AGAIN to "come forward," wouldn't I?  I'd have to.  I'm just made that way.  For good God Almighty, how could this individual be foisted upon an ENTIRE school district?! 

Back to my new assistant principal. I've not yet met her.  I've not had any "heart-to-heart" conversation.  But I know her name--and not from the "hey-guess-what-we're-getting-a-new-assistant-principal!" news of my school.  I know her name from her having signed documents that were used against a teacher. There's her name as a witness to one of his many attempts at a teacher's career obliteration. There's her name on trumped up charges. There's her name...  Oh, I can feel her unease!  There she is in his office--right there at the conference table.  She's facing the teacher. Neither she nor the teacher has slept in days. 

He, of course, is well rested.  

I can see her looking with pleading eyes of understanding at this targeted teacher! "It's not you!", her eyes might speak. "But I have no choice.  My career, too, is in jeopardy if I do not sign these forms!" And so she picks up the pen with fingers shaking, and signs as a witness. 

"Forgive me", her eyes speak as she signs.

The targeted teacher is the teacher who called me in the middle of the night so distraught that when I listened to my messages in the morning--I'd missed her call as I was sleeping--I truly thought she might have killed herself.  She was that desperate at 3:00AM.  

I was grateful to call an acquaintance at the school and find that she was in her classroom.

"Come on. You'll be my witness." When I worked there--tip toeing though the abuse field of mines--I'd often hear him say that to his two female sycophants, a counselor and an assistant principal, as he'd start gathering "evidence" against a someone-of-some-integrity-who-was-horrified-at-what-was-really-going-on-at-that-school. He'd flick a finger and off the two of them would go.  They'd probably discuss later what he/they had "seen" so that the stories would match.  

My future assistant principal, I suspect, was often summoned by his finger flick and maybe--just maybe--she finally said, "uh-uh.  Not me again.  This is not worth it.  HELP ME!  GET ME OUT OF HERE!"

I cannot wait to meet my new assistant principal.  I cannot wait to shake her hand and say, "Welcome. Welcome to the "We Survived His Abuse" club.




"He died."

It's been three days since I heard. I was descending my school's stairs when my assistant principal stopped me.  "I've got bad news," she said.  

The sledge hammer of her words is now a thudding rhythmic pain.  He died. Pause. Pause. Pause.  He died.  Pause, pause, pause.  He died. He died.  He died.

The pounding makes my eyes narrow and my head shake as the truth of it, unbidden, enters my mind. At work, my fingers lift from the computer's keyboard as his smile--broad and real; teeth straight and white--comes to me. They scratch my forehead. Deaths of loved ones make me do that.  I cover my face with my hands and scratch my forehead.

I am bewildered. Bewildered at this next and surely most awful thing to happen at that school.  This?  Really, this?  Could we not, years ago, have avoided this? His being called into the principal's office. "Already?" he must have said to himself as he again made his way into that savage arena.  "Already? Why, the school year has barely started.."  

He would not have known that call for classroom coverage so that he, the union steward, could be present for another "Conference for the Record" would be his last patient wait for another adult to take his place in his classroom. He'd again listen to whatever trumped up charges the principal and his sycophants had documented against another teacher who'd said:"That's a lie. I will not do/say/write that". He'd not known either that words like these would be his last to his beloved students;  "I'll be back soon. You be good boys and girls."

What made him stop at the door and look back in?  What tug of children's eyes on his back? There!  His smile.  His eyes.  They speak:  "Dear boys and girls.  Good boys and girls.  Beloved boys and girls.  I'll be back soon."

Mine is a state of disbelief.  I cannot take in--cannot fathom--that he is gone.

 "It's like being at church!" a delighted boy once spontaneously cried out as he and I presented a lesson together.  His turn, then mine.  A duet.  A performance.  And a release for me; a fleeting feeling of freedom from the incessant bondage of uncertainty our principal's sick leadership had created.  

I did not want to leave that protective space--his and his students' fourth grade class.

"Come to my school," I said two years ago. I'd called him from the school at which I'd accepted a position after my report to the school district of our principal's bullying and violence. "There's a counselor's slot opening. Get out.  You've done all you can do there."  

On the phone.  A pause.  "No.  I am needed here."

I wish I were outraged.  I wish I were beating drums and honking horns and painting signs and picketing.  I wish I were writing letters and organizing people and standing on rooftops with a megaphone, screaming "THIS IS WRONG!"

I wish I were "marching on Miami" and standing at the podium of my school board's meetings and saying, "Now whatcha gonna do, huh? What's it gonna take to cover this up?"

I wish I were pissed off, angry, and vengeful.  Wish I were filled with such a lust for revenge that it carried my voice up and out of my vengeful belly and into the ears of others craving retaliation for all of the lies and coverups surrounding that awful place. Wish I'd take those words to producers of TV shows and writers of newspaper editorials, for his death--right there in the principal's office!--must be news worthy. There have been so many of us bullied educators for whom he stood tall; for whom he spoke when we simply could not speak for ourselves; to whom he offered the only solace and refuge we were to find in that house of horrors.

But I am not angry.  I am not outraged. I am just sad. 

My friend and my protector has died.  

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!


  


Pickles....and getting into and out of them...

It's a complex issue--this PTSD with which I've been diagnosed.  The "who-I-am" piece--the people pleasing, hard working, do-gooder--can work hard all the time, but certainly can't please everybody.  There will be people unhappy with me and my work. 

I tend to focus on them.

So, there's that. 

Put the caring "me's" of the world--and most educators get into education because they are caring--into schools with crazy but well connected men and women in charge (there are lots of those)--and you got yourselves briny pickles of schools.  Maybe entire "pickley" school districts.  

There's just no way for do-gooders to please psychopaths. Good work just makes them mad.  Honesty scares them. Before you know it, the honest do gooders are in major pickles.  Big ones.  We're talking "on-top-of-New York-deli-counters" size.

A very big pickle: I was placed by my district into the briniest, craziest. most dangerous, pickliest school in my district. But that was 2008!  I've been out of there since 2010!  I work for a good guy now.  I like and trust him.  So why am I writing again about it?! 

As I said, PTSD is a complex issue.  And I've been in a PTSD pickle. Although I trust my current principal, I don't trust the big bosses.  I don't feel I am safe.  I don't feel my children--students in our school district--are safe either. 

I suffer.  Can't sleep.  Obsess. 

But maybe the education pickles ain't all so big and briny. Maybe the pickles we nice educators get into are just tiny no account gherkins and it's our diagnosed and undiagnosed PTSD a-talkin'.

So, how do I get out of this pickle?  

I go back to work.  God bless me.  I'm going back to work.