A former teacher speaks out on silence

Carol Cormaci (“Teachers, we want you to tell us your stories. Please,” Nov. 24), is correct in stating that there is a “culture of silence” within La Cañada Unified School District; I appreciate her initiative to upgrade it through the power of communication.

I was hired in 2007 primarily to teach advanced placement government/economics at LCHS, and was not rehired after my second year because I worked to evolve that silence into the highest professional standards for academic communication. I’ll provide my testimony and documentation for you to come to your own conclusions.

I had returned to my hometown (LCHS class of ’78; my parents have lived in town since 1957) as what I thought as the ideal gov/econ teacher to contribute to future generations of civic leaders. I brought significant real-world experience: For 18 years I helped create and grow the citizens’ lobby for policy to end domestic and global poverty, RESULTS, beginning as a Southern California group and now in more than 100 U.S. communities and seven countries. UNICEF’s executive director credited RESULTS with saving more than one million children’s lives a year. We championed two UN summits: the 1990 World Summit for Children (largest meeting of heads of state in world history) and the 1997 Microcredit Summit (topic of the 2006 Nobel Peace Prize). The UN and nations were so impressed with our work that they asked RESULTS to manage nations’ progress toward Microcredit Summit’s goals. Today, more than 100 million of the world’s lowest-income families now have access to credit.

I also had significant professional accomplishment as a teacher: Two Los Angeles mayors and USC awarded me as being among the top few teachers in a district of 45,000 teachers. I’m one of just 140 National Board Certified Teachers in California in social science, and one of only a handful certified to assist NBCT candidates. I have an Ed.M from Harvard. Please also know that my background includes helping shape 300 policy briefs for Congress that uphold the highest academic and professional standards.

So why would LCUSD choose to remove this level of professionalism and real-world experience, with roots and family in LCF?

Here’s some revealing history to consider: I asked a teacher with more than 30 years of experience in LCUSD for advice on how to teach current events. This teacher recommended that I not teach current events because several very good teachers were not rehired after their two-year provisional status for presenting real-world government and economics. These teachers would hear of no complaints, this process existed in silence, and there was no provision for the community or the teacher to communicate with the school board.

As a La Cañada native and professional educator, I felt responsible to burst this fearful “La Cañada bubble,” connect students’ learning to the real world, and act for LCUSD’s stated mission for personal growth and academic excellence.

LCUSD “leadership” rejected this work; and did so in silence. My three communications to each board member were met with silence when I requested communication to discuss reasons for non-rehire. All of my teacher evaluations at LCHS were at the highest level possible.

In moving forward, if enough members of the LCF community use their voice, a “culture of silence” will be seen for what it is: either fear lost in pre-Enlightenment dependency on dictatorial authority, or coercion to prevent professional academic communication on our most important issues. Because facts are always independently verifiable, no parent, student, teacher, or community member need fear their documentation and independent verification.

CARL HERMAN can be reached at carl.herman2001@gmail.com.

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