Why are the Board President & Superintendent Villainizing our Teachers?

Why are the Board President & Superintendent Villainizing our Teachers?

Camryn Chehreh, Staff Writer

The best thing to do when fighting a fire is to add gasoline, right? 

According to Melissa Ellis, the president of the AACPS Board of Education, and Dr. George Arlotto, the superintendent of AACPS, public criticism of the teacher’s association is the way to solve the impasse between the board and teachers. 

The two released a statement following claims from TAAAC President Russell Leone regarding events happening around the county. The Teachers Association of Anne Arundel County, also known as TAAAC, is responsible for representing educators within AACPS. 

The press release begins by calling Leone´s claims “specious” with “overreaching characterizations aimed purely at provoking emotion.” The irony of this statement immediately stands out; The claims made by TAAAC have been discussed at countless board meetings and troubled students and teachers alike since September. 

Using such pointed words to address the situation simply adds fuel to an already raging fire. For those who may be unfamiliar with the term, “specious’” is defined as “seeming right or true but actually wrong or false” by the Oxford Dictionary. 

In reality, the term specious could be used to describe the responses given by Melissa Ellis and George Arlotto in this release. At one point, they call BrightSpace “an invaluable tool to help students and families connect to what is occurring within the classroom each day.” TAAAC has been pushing back against the workload BrightSpace requires. 

The BrightSpace platform does not include a parent log-in or a way for parents to contact teachers. Most students said they are confused about how to email teachers using the platform. Upon speaking with students and teachers in school buildings across the county, I have yet to discover a person who has anything but bad feelings for the new virtual platform. 

It’s also worth noting that while the board of education may find BrightSpace useful, it is teachers and students who are stuck using this platform that they find confusing and difficult to use. “I do not appreciate BrightSpace,” student Caffrey Helpa said. “It feels like you have to go through ten different steps just to get to where you want to be,” Helpa added that the platform causes more stress than good.  “The teachers utilize BrightSpace to different extents, so having to manage classes that use virtual resources versus paper can be hard to manage as a student.” 

In regards to mental health, Ellis and Arlotto claim that “opportunities for relationship building, social-emotional growth, and learning support” are offered during Flex blocks in high schools. 

Junior Jamie Goldinger said that Flex times alone are not enough to support student mental health and that students would benefit from access to a professional within the school building. It’s worth noting that while Anne Arundel county has implemented specific programs to gauge student opinions on mental health and wellbeing within their schools, it is unclear how that information is being used. 

The impact of a press release such as this one is felt throughout the county. Teachers, parents, and students alike are blown away by the language used by board president Melissa Ellis and Superintendent George Arlotto. This press release not only creates a false narrative of our schools but also takes jabs at the integrity of the TAAAC and our teachers. Teachers devote endless amounts of time to their schools and their students, something that only a hero would do in times like these. The last year has been incredibly difficult for students and teachers alike, yet our teachers are the ones who have stood by and guided us through the fog. To imply that our teachers have intentions to harm our school system or spread false information is reckless and untrue. 

Much like students, teachers have been upset at the county’s handling of issues for the past year. To take an opportunity to attack teachers and the TAAAC is an irresponsible use of the board of education’s platform and power.