“The Fall of Phaeton” by Sir Peter Paul Rubens
Tuesday, March 26, 2019
There are few places for children as political as the gym. Friends, enemies, cliques, and out-groups congeal here. Rumors slip past heated negotiations of lunchtime trades before dodgeballs replace lunch tables. It’s a microcosm of Darwinism, survival of the fittest. For those deficient in school’s societal expectations, the gym is purgatory. It’s political for parents, too.
Last night’s Tecumseh Public Schools board meeting took place in a gym—awkwardly lit with a sound system as unqualified for its job as Supt. Ryan Rhoades. Maybe the problem wasn’t the sound system, but the hushed discussions among board members, conversing with one another in private during an open meeting, tip-toeing toward an Open Meetings Act violation.
But I digress.
Before last night’s meeting, an email sent from TPS board president Tim Simpson to staff leaked. It read, in part:
“It has come to our attention that there are rumors that all of the principals will be terminated.”
“We have selected our Superintendent and we expect you to support Mr. Rhoades.”
You can read the full letter here but let us digest these two statements.
Anyone with even a modicum of English language skills understands the semantics of the first statement. “All” in this context doesn’t mean they won’t fire some of the principals. And such assumptions proved correct.
Rhoades submitted Carl Lewandowski, a longtime TPS administrator, for non-renewal of his contract after the end of this school year. The reason? Carl’s alleged support of competency-based grading, as laid out by Rhoades in a letter to the board.
The second statement is more damning considering the litany of allegations levied at Rhoades during the meeting. How is it fair to teachers to support a superintendent so unqualified for his job the board had to change its requirements for the position? How does that look to teachers, who have studied and continue to study education, to be led by a man with no background in public education?
A third statement of importance from Simpson’s letter reads:
“We are currently in the process of evaluating what our leadership team will look like next year to drive the necessary changes.”
How can an unqualified superintendent with no background in public education evaluate the skills of school administrators and staff?
He can’t. But it’s not about the skills and ability. It’s about conformity—the rule of law delivered with an iron fist, which is Rhoades’ modus operandi.
During public comment, five TPS principals took to the podium to raise concerns about Rhoades’ conduct. Allegations of disturbing behavior were levied against Rhoades—harassment, intimidation, character assassination, and the creation of a hostile work environment. Allegedly he questioned the dedication and the ability of a single parent in her role as a principal.
“If anyone crosses me, I’ll burn them to the ground.”
Lawsuits are coming.
And yet, the board ignored the allegations. They usurped due process and an investigation into Rhoades’ alleged conduct, approving his $115,000 contract through the consent agenda. There was no fanfare. It happened so fast, some in the audience were stunned after the fact. If the board had any concerns about the allegations, the possible lawsuits, the fear of retaliation teachers are feeling for speaking out about an unqualified superintendent, they showed no emotion of the sort.
For a board that’s allegedly so concerned with budgetary concerns, you would think even the possibility of spending thousands of dollars in legal fees to fight lawsuits alleging harassment, character assassination, and intimidation would be an easy way to save the district money. But no expense is too extravagant to keep Rhoades in his position.
Last night was a watershed moment for TPS. Teachers and administrators are fearful of retaliation. One who spoke whispered to his wife, “I’ll probably be fired for this” before he took the podium to discuss his dissatisfaction with the administration, and his hopes of trying to work together.
But it gets worse.
High school principal Griff Mills resigned from his position as co-superintendent. He didn’t sign up for the drama, he said, and who can blame him? Sadly, it leaves the district with no qualified person in a leadership role at Tecumseh Public Schools.
How does it look when teachers are fearful of losing their jobs for speaking out? How can we attract students, families, teachers, and principals to Tecumseh with an unqualified superintendent accused of vile workplace behavior?