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A Letter to the Principal

March 1, 2012

Click here to view the Letter that was recently sent home.


Dear Principal Fox,

I regret to inform you that there is a quotation mark out of place in your recent letter regarding the dismissal of Jay Flewelling. And while I don’t wish to be a stickler, the origin of the second paragraph is obscured by this error.

The quotation mark at the end of paragraph one ends the Playworks quote. In this case there should not be a quotation mark at the end of paragraph two. If paragraph two is indeed part of the Playworks quote, the quotation mark at the end of paragraph one should be at the beginning of paragraph two, indicating that the quote extends beyond paragraphs.

At the moment I am unsure whether paragraph two is part of the Playworks quote or something written by yourself (or another Bridger school staffer). And since the second sentence in the second paragraph is – in my opinion – a piece of meaningless rhetoric, I would like to know where it comes from.

Frankly I am becoming disillusioned with the Portland Public School system, and Bridger school in particular. I’ve heard a teacher expounding a false view of history in the hallways. My daughter comes home with three quarters of her lunch because she’s not given enough time to eat it. She’s been physically intimidated (and hurt) by her classmates. I didn’t bring her to school on Wednesday (Feb 29th) because her class was having a substitute teacher and I don’t feel that she’s safe without Mrs. Polizos – who is aware of the problem children in the class – being present.

I know that you are new to Bridger, and everybody tells me you are doing a great job. Thank you for being here for our children. So far my daughter has been blessed with wonderful teachers and she looks forward to going to school. But it breaks my heart when she tells me that a boy in her class – the same one as last time – grabbed her pinky finger and bent it backwards. This is a boy who got transferred out of the other first grade class due to similar issues.

I firmly believe that there is no such thing as a bad child, that behavioral problems come from parental inability to provide a positive example. I don’t want this boy to get labeled as a problem child. But we need to provide positive examples at school, too. What I gathered from the Playworks letter is this: a very well-liked role model at Bridger has been taken away from the students. Without any explanation, how can I assume it was for anything other than a mishap on his part? Which leads me to the conclusion that he wasn’t the role model he’d been touted as. And from that viewpoint, sentence two of paragraph two simply rings false.

So I hope the first quotation mark is out of place and paragraph two is part of the Playworks quote. I would prefer to believe in you than in them. I understand that human resources policy disallows any comments to be made regarding Coach Jay. But please understand that – in this situation – this policy reflects badly on both Playworks and Bridger School. Rumors are guaranteed to proliferate. If he’s done something truly horrific we will find out. And if he hasn’t, he doesn’t deserve the rumors.

During my time in high school, one of our teachers was involved in a sex scandal. Another acted in a school play under the influence of alcohol. The headmaster had an affair with the math teacher. And one had an affair with a student. In each case the guilty party was fired immediately, and in each case the school chose a policy of silence.

It never worked. The sex scandal made the daily paper. Everyone knew the teacher was drunk. And the student bragged about the affair as soon as she got her diploma.

Conversely, every student who got into trouble had their garbage aired publicly. They were held up as an example to the other students. They were expelled or suspended or otherwise reprimanded. But there was no policy protecting their privacy.

How is it at Bridger? Do the students have the same privacy rights as contracted employees? If not, why is it that adults – who should already know better – are handled delicately while students – who are by definition still learning – aren’t?

Thanks for taking the time to consider my thoughts and questions. I know that PPS schools are facing budget difficulties as well as inordinate amounts of red tape to cut through in order to instigate change. I am glad you are there to take it all on. To date that red tape has been the reason why I’ve not involved myself with politics or the PTA. But perhaps it’s time for me to make a change as well.



Bo Mandoe


From → Rants

  1. This is a skilfully written letter, and if I were the Principal I would embrace your thoughtfully expressed attitudes towards children. I hope she takes the time to get to know you personally, although you reveal a great deal about yourself in the letter.

    • Thank you! While it started out as a cheeky response to a simple typo, it quickly became obvious that it could be much more. I, too, hope it is received in the spirit in which it was written.

  2. Anna permalink

    Wow- like, like, like!!! And eloquently stated.

    My kindergartener has been complaining this week that he and his friends are being “beaten up” repeatedly on the playground. They must run away every time the child comes near. (first grader, maybe the same one?) My child has informed the teachers and they have informed the principal but why has no one notified me? And what is really being done about it? There seems to be extreme behavioral issues and complete lack of ability of control it.

    In our classroom, I am hearing stories of one particular kid being sent to the office 9 times in a day, everyday. Foul language, destruction of property…how typical are these scenerios for a kindergartener/ first grader to have to deal with? My experience says that ours is an extreme case. If a child is that disruptive and/or repeatedly hurting other children they belong in an alternative classroom, right?!?! And why don’t we, as parents, hear anything from the teachers about what our child is really going through?

    So there seems to be a real disconnect between school staff and keeping the parents informed on a social level. The firing of coach Jay for example. The bullying on the playground and in classrooms. The fact that my child changes classrooms and teachers (some of which I have not met) multiple times within the week. Something I had no idea of until well into the year. Why does the school staff assume we don’t care or need to know the details?

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