This letter was submitted via our open letter form. It does not necessarily reflect the views of Dear JCPS.
I attended Jefferson County Public Schools for 12 of my 13 years of education and have been working for the school system from the time that I was 18 until now. All together, I have spent 16 years in JCPS and so I feel highly qualified to say that I have watched the system fall apart more and more every day under your leadership.
I will be graduating from the University of Louisville in December of this year with a Bachelors degree in Secondary Education with a concentration in English. I am writing not only to speak for myself but to be the voice of many other wonderful teacher candidates who I have had the opportunity to share classes with. You have successfully made almost all of us wish to teach outside of Jefferson County. People are moving out of the county to teach elsewhere (I already have). We are refusing to put our children in your school system. We are afraid to teach under your leadership. We know that our children will not get the educational experience in JCPS that they could receive elsewhere.
Though, I must say, I am not so sure that you even care about the quantity or quality of your teachers considering the blatant disrespect and disregard that you have for them and their jobs. Teachers go to work every day and bring their work home with them every night because they care about their students. They get disrespected and so much of their work goes unnoticed every day because you have allowed such a climate to exist. No other profession would be if it weren’t for teachers—not even yours.
You have continuously implemented rules and ridiculous jobs to cater to the misbehaving children who ruin the educational experience for well-behaved children. Free education was never meant to be a right, but a privilege. Because you have made these children feel that it is their God-given right to be in the schools, they no longer see the value or how blessed they are to receive a free education in our country. They simply do not care and you have played a pivotal role in devaluing education in their eyes. So many of these children are leaving high school feeling as if the world owes them something and they do not have to work hard or treat anyone with respect to get it.
Students who behave and wish to be in the classroom are the ones who are suffering. Their parents are suffering. TEACHERS ARE SUFFERING. Students are being bullied and the blood is on your hands. You have made it OK for students to disrespect their teachers, their principals, their peers. These students are not being disciplined, they are being babied and sent out into the real world feeling as if they will receive that same type of treatment. They are being sent out into the real world believing that they can be disrespectful, violent and unruly and will get a slap on the wrist and get away with it. You are doing every last student a disservice.
I refuse to put my child(ren) in your school system because they should not have to deal with the unsafe environment that JCPS has become. They should not have to deal with disrespectful and violent students coming in and out of her classroom disrupting and/or bullying, being taken out for a short period of time and sent right back in to do it all over again.
Are you aware that when these students are threatened to be sent to the principals office, they either: A. Want to go to get out of class, and/or B. Respond with something along the lines of, “Go ahead b&$@h, they aren’t going to do anything to me”. This is the harsh reality. If you don’t believe me, go be a teacher for a little while. These students are fully aware that there are little to no repercussions for their actions and, believe me, they take full advantage of that.
I refuse to teach for your school system because, like Dewey Hensley said with precision in his letter, the focus is no longer on the students. The focus is on you and your image. The focus is on central office. I will not represent a school system that caters to the most disrespectful children in it. I refuse to be in a situation where a student can curse me, threaten my life and endanger the physical and mental well being of everyone around them—and absolutely nothing truly gets done about it. You are preventing people from doing their jobs, Dr. Hargens, and we are all sick of it.
We are not blind to the fact that you are trying to phase out suspension, ISAP, alternative placement, etc. with these nonsense jobs that you have created to cater to these unruly students. I do not see you as progressive, I see you as detrimental. You are running teachers and parents away from your school system and damaging the experiences of those who are stuck.
Students who break the rules are not going to stop breaking the rules because someone pulls them out of class and tells them to stop it. And I guarantee you this, watering down the rules is far from the solution. It absolutely disgusts me and so many others that you feel as if this is the answer. Numbers and statistics are all that matter to you. Students are not numbers and statistics, they are people.
How would you feel if you were in a 6 and a half-hour long board meeting and people kept getting out of their seats, throwing things, physically harming others, threatening to kill the speaker or threatening to kill YOU, cursing people out, etc. And someone comes in to pull them out for a while then sends them right back in. Period after period, day after day. Tell me, Dr. Hargens, is that the environment that you want to be in? Is that the environment that children should have to be in during the most malleable time of their lives? Is this an environment that nurtures growth and learning?
NO. The answer is NO. Because this type of behavior is not condoned in the real world. And this is what you have let the classroom come to. These are the behaviors that children now believe can be carried into adulthood—where they get a rude awakening.
You seem very worried about your image. You should be. Teachers, parents and students are unhappy with you. Your emails and speeches with articulate language which attempt to justify your wrongful actions and policies do not fool me or anyone else who sees that you are the root of the issues. You are a tyrant.
I feel confident in speaking for myself and so many of my classmates who are all so eager and excited to teach the future generations of America when I say that we care for all students. Those who behave and those who misbehave. The problem, however, is the lack of discipline for those who misbehave as it hinders our abilities to teach, our students abilities to learn and our peace of mind when it comes to our own safety as well as the safety of our students. You are facing shortages and missing out on fresh, enthusiastic incoming teachers who are graduating from college because you have created this environment and culture that caters to those with ill intentions.
I do not think I even need to discuss this “salary freeze” thing. I have faith that the union will destroy you, as they should. Teachers are already underpaid and underappreciated as it is. Here’s an idea! Let’s do something about YOUR $300,000+/year salary.
It is time for everyone to stand together against the real problems in JCPS that stem with you.
A parent/A senior in the teacher preparation program at the University of Louisville/A JCPS employee/A former JCPS student/A person with a right mind who cares about children.
NOTE: While the author’s identity is protected here, they are not anonymous to Dear JCPS. Any board member wishing to address the concerns shared here can contact our administrators to make a connection.