Bad times at Chapel Hill High School

06/11/2014 12:43 PM

06/11/2014 1:07 PM

Parents of Chapel Hill High School athletes might be interested to see the state’s report on teacher satisfaction and then contemplate the departure of some talented people from the school.

Athletics Director and basketball coach Tod Morgan and veteran, championship-winning coaches Ron Benson (soccer) and Sherry Norris (volleyball, girls basketball) all announced departures within one calendar year.

None of them cited the work environment at CHHS as a reason for leaving. But it couldn’t have helped.

Morgan opted to leave for a position at C.B. Aycock and to be closer to his family, still living in New Bern. Benson and Norris both had plenty of years in on their retirement pensions, although both choose to leave before reaching typical “milestone years.” Norris didn’t even teach at CHHS; she taught at Seawell and coached at Chapel Hill High after classes.

This hardly seems like an indictment of Chapel Hill.

Still, the atmosphere inside CHHS has been described as “oppressive,” “toxic” and “poisonous” by some web commentators. One teacher said it was worse than that.

Every teacher at Chapel Hill High School answered the N.C. Teacher Working Conditions Survey, which in itself is revealing. Most political professionals will tell you that voter turnout and even the field of candidates tends to go up when dissatisfaction is high. Conversely, contented people rarely feel the urge to vocalize their feelings.

The survey results from Chapel Hill show that only 13 percent of CHHS teachers agree that “there is an atmosphere of trust and mutual respect” at Chapel Hill High. Only 14 percent “feel comfortable raising issues and concerns,” and only 18.9 percent believe the school leadership “consistently supports teachers.”

The problems appear to be systemic, with Chapel Hill High School just being the worst case. Chapel Hill-Carrboro teachers across the board rate the district below the statewide average in these areas. They say they have plenty of infrastructure and technological support. But support for them personally or their profession? Not so much.

Maybe it’s just an example of the post hoc ergo propter hoc fallacy – “after this, therefore because of this” – but the report’s bad grades for Chapel Hill High couldn’t have helped prevent the retirement of any of the talented coaches at the school.

In more than one case, coaches have been treated shabbily by the school system, which seems to side automatically with any players’ parents who state unhappiness while ignoring the parents who support a coach under fire.

In other cases, teachers have felt belittled and intimidated by school and administrative leaders.

Few will state their complaint publicly. (Note the response above about being uncomfortable in raising concerns.)

In this case, silence does not imply consent.

It implies fear of retaliation.

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