Parents up in arms over 'abusive' teacher Schools & Kids, posted by Editor, Mountain View Voice Online, on Mar 19, 2009 at 1:08 pm
Mountain View parents say they are fed up with a fourth grade teacher at Huff Elementary School who they claim is not being disciplined by the district despite numerous complaints of abuse and misconduct.
Read the full story here Web Link posted Thursday, March 19, 2009, 10:49 AM
Posted by WN, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:07 pm
Whatever one thinks of this teacher, I think that the principal has the obligation to take parent views seriously, and that a child should be transferred out of the room (without having to transfer schools) if the parent feels that harm is being done to the child.
Posted by Jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:11 pm
My son had Patty Polifrone when he was in PACT. The choice was to keep him in her classsroom or pull him out of the PACT program. "Mrs. P" habitually ridiculed my son, told me I was not allowed to help him, mocked and scorned him front of me and his classmates. I had numerous meetings with her and the principal; many parents were fearful of Mrs. P on behalf of their children. There were two camps: Those who were relieved that their child was not the object of Mrs. P's negative attention, and those who made daily decisions on how to deal with the horrible situation. A year of recovery for the entire family was needed after being involved with her "teaching" methods. Having had children in schools in Mountain View since 1977, I can say that she is the worst teacher I have ever had the misfortune to be involved with; fortunately we have many stellar teachers, and it is a shame that Mrs. P has been allowed to torment students as long as she has.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 3:23 pm
The extraordinary circumstances of transferring her to a new school due to hired lawyers and then to have it happen again at the new school does not happen based on misunderstanding of "the other side" of the story.
She may have once been a wonderful teacher, but its pretty clear, regardless of her motivation, that she needs to seek out another vocation.
If not, the lawyer thing seemed to get people's attention. If my daughter was in her class I'd have an attorney on a leash with my hand on the release, ready to let it go.
Posted by Huff parent, a resident of the Whisman Station neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:09 pm
My daughter was in Mrs. Polifrone class, and she was a very happy student there, so was I as her parent. I think that Mrs. Polifrone is an experienced teacher and that she took the time and put some real effort in finding key approach to my daughter, understanding her personality. She figured out her difficult and encouraged her best sides and was able successfully communicate to my daughter, letting her grow academically and socially in school.
I think that it’s not that some of the students become a target for the teacher, it’s that these parents who are just weak to face their own difficulties in communicating with their children and putting in their children’s heads an idea that their teacher don’t favor their child for some reason.
The other comment I have – it’s an illegal move to bring all the rumors up to the newspaper instead of investigating it at the Huff school level or district level. Principal is not doing her job to keep her school as a friendly and a healthy environment. She shouldn’t let it go out of the school/district attention, it’s not professional.
Posted by Jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:17 pm
Response to the Huff parent: While it is great that the Huff parent had a good experience with Mrs. P, please do not discount other parent's negative experiences by labeling them as "weak." I worked for the school district, was on the school site council, and have decades of experiences as a parent and a volunteer. When my child, who was a happy student and liked school, was repeatedly ridiculed in from of me and his classmates, this was not an idea that I put into his head. Having raised 3 sons and a nephew I have dealt with many teachers and really tried working in the system when my son was in Mrs. P's class. In retrospect, I should have supported the parents who hired the lawyer at Slater; Mrs. P showers praise and warmth on some students while terroizing others. Just because it didn't happen to your student, don't blame the parents of those students who were victimized.
Posted by Bruce Karney, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:24 pm
What is the justification for giving tenure to school teachers? I can just barely see the value for university faculty who engage in research. In those settings I want the faculty to be able to choose their areas of research without fear that their job may depend on what they choose to study. But I don't know why any teacher at the K-12 level should get tenure.
That's not to say that employees don't deserve "due process," it's just to raise the issue that public school HR processes are increasingly out of synch with the private sector.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:42 pm
YES there are two sides to every story and I don't think that ANYONE has been silenced.
I have witnessed first hand the
racial slurs, the sexual comments, the embarrassment, the name calling. I have also had to deal with the aftermath with a child that has been traumatized. I have also talked with her about 20 times, met with Craig and Mrs. P, Met with Stephanie and spoke with Maurice. Every time they sounded amazed, and that they would get back to me... Not ONCE was there a responce.
There were many students that love Mrs. P. My daughter was actually one of them for a while.... She thought that because Mrs.P was a teacher that she walked on water and that everything she said was true.
That is why she started believing the horrible things that Mrs. P would say about my daughter, and what she would say about the other parents and what she would say about other teachers and staff.
I had to RE-TEACH my daughter that no one has the right to dump your backpack out in front of ALL of your classmates while berating you and calling you names - THAT No PERSON has the right to make you feel bad about yourself and to make you hate school and not trust any teachers. I had to reteach her that if ANYONE ever makes you feel that horrible about yourself - GET AWAY from them. When a child sees an adult... a teacher... humiliating certain kids they think it is okay and they join in. I watched it happen.
If this is the kind of chance you want to take with your child then that is your choice. Just because you were one of the lucky ones and your child had a good experience does not mean that she has not absolutely damaged other children. You may want to have a talk with your child because in 4th grade they are still learning what is okay and what is WRONG.
There are many women who still love their husbands that beat them it does not make it okay.
The only daughter I have left to get into 4th grade will NOT be in Mrs. P's classroom. Craig Goldman assured me of this (actually promised). I am more worried about all of the children that don't have someone to stand up for them... these are the ones that she picks on. I have seen it.
Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of the Martens-Carmelita neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 4:55 pm
I stand behind my assertion that the MV Voice story has included the views of 4 parents, only one of which was willing to state her name. Please correct me if I am wrong in not being able to find any quotes by parents and/or students who like Mrs. Polifrone in this article.
Fire Stephanie Totter?! She is just doing her job as specified in the Education Code. Now Patty Polifrone AND Stephanie Totter have been trashed in a public forum.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:07 pm
I NEVER WANTED TO GO TO THE NEWSPAPER ABOUT THIS....
I spoke with Patty over 20 times, Then Craig, Stephanie and Maurice. I believe that I even copied at least one letter to the board. I told Maurice that I would send and email to the parents in her class, I told Sharon that the voice was contacted and interested in doing an article..... NO ONE CONTACTED ME ONCE...... EVERYONE involved has had numerous, numerous opportunities to address this issue.
TRASHED?????? What about the kids that she has TRASHED.
WHAT ABOUT HUFF LOVE?????
What about standing behind our students????????????
What about us when we spent 15 out of 20 minutes at our daughters Parent Teacher conference listening and watching Patty Scream and Yell at her soon to be x husband while he sat there shaking his head as she yelled.
If this would have been taken care of years ago when it started instead of PROTECTING PATTY BEHIND - Tenure ("get out of jail free" card) then we would need to contact the Voice about anything...
When you KNOW that a teacher is hurting students and believe me THEY KNOW - HOW DO YOU SLEEP AT NIGHT?????? I don't think I could.
Posted by A PARENT, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:14 pm
I was a slater parent and tho my daughter was not in the pact. We to had problems with Mrs. P she's bully. And everyone at slater new that. She could be out on the field and her voice would carry. What I heard her say to children was totally inappropriate. Everyones excuse was hey "she's from New York" she's a loud mouth.
Posted by student, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:25 pm
I was a student in Mrs. Polifrone's class several years ago, and while I agree that she could be rude, I honestly don't believe that she should be fired. Her screaming at the class basically just prepared us for many, many more teachers to come. Believe it or not, Mrs. P's teaching and discipline methods are not uncommon, and unless you want to fire half the teachers in the district, you should just have your kids suck it up. If your children are going to run crying to their parents every time that a teacher is insensitive, then your children need to develop a thicker skin. Mrs. P, insensitive though she may be, honestly does care about the kids in her class, and if she simply thought more before she spoke, I think she'd be a fantastic teacher.
Also, I agree with Robin Iwai and the other people who say that this article has only one opinion stated in it. Just because some kids dislike her does not make her a terrible teacher. I'd say about half the kids that were in her class liked her quite a lot, and the other half were not prepared for many teachers that they'd face in the future.
On a completely irrelevant note: Christine, could you please avoid the overuse of the caps lock and question marks? It hurts my eyes.
Posted by USA, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 5:58 pm
No doubt the MV Voice editors will shut down this discussion shortly as it has gotten long and bit personal. Until then, let's keep in mind that the school administrators have to answer to a lot of different masters including the students, parents, teachers, accountants, local politicians, and other administrators. Ditto for teachers who have to keep 20+ students and their parents happy. There are good teachers at Huff, some burnt-out ones, and yes, probably some bad ones.
Posted by Martha Young, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:22 pm
This is a hard one for me to write. Please, everyone, read it all the way through before you yell at me!
I sypathize with the parents whose kids have suffered. I do not doubt what they say, and the effect on their kids. However, I do have to say that my daughter enjoyed Patty's class, for the most part. She actually has fond memories of that class, though she will be the first to tell you that Mrs. P can be very "tough." But, I did see first hand some of the behaviors that parents are describing here. I was friendly with Patty in the year or so prior to my daughter being in her class. Because of that, I felt that I could tell her the things I saw that I felt were bad. Unfortunately, she did not listen to anything I, or anyone else, said. I ended up very frustrated, and was grateful that my older daughter, who was far more sensitive in 4th grade, was not the one in that class. The younger one was fine, but the older one would not have been.
She had the potential to be a good teacher. I believe she loves teaching, and she's creative and can be very funny. Unfortunately, she seems to be unable to change her destructive behaviors.
I also think that the district's options have been very limited. The teachers' union has an iron grip on that tenure thing. I have heard more than one principal and superintendent, from more than one district (not just MVWSD) complain about it taking an Act of God to remove a tenured teacher. This is a discussion that is taking place across the country, not only here. Tenure rules need to be revisited, even if not abolished. Also, since this is a personnel matter, we don't know what the district might have been doing or saying to Patty. I'm sure they would be slapped with a union law suit if they discussed a personnel matter with parents, much less the Voice. I am not defending them, necessarily -- what I am saying is, we simply do not know what they have tried to do, and probably never will -- so calling for Stephanie's resignation may not be appropriate. Maybe yes, maybe no, but since we can't get to the personnel file, we have no way of knowing.
Posted by Martha Young, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:37 pm
Huff Kinder parent,
I'm sure the principal is doing whatever she can under the union rules regarding tenure. I know when Mr. Goldman was there, he did take parents concerns seriously. But principals' and districts' hands are seriously tied in many cases. As I said before, this is why there is a nation-wide discussion about teacher tenure in the overall discussion on education. I've heard complaints from parents in other districts about teachers that parents complain about year after year after year, but the district can't do anything about it.
Posted by student, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 6:55 pm
It interests me that so many parents talk about their children's experiences as if they know every detail of their child's life. Isn't is possible that your kids are blowing certain incidents out of proportion? Now, I know that Mrs. Polifrone can be quite rude, insensitive, and all the other things people have described her as-- but it's not like she was constantly bullying specific students. In my experience in her classroom, there were times when she was extremely nice, and times when I winced at the things she told my classmates. But I can never recall her being constantly rude to any specific person.
Also, are you completely certain that some of the problems they have are not related to other incidents at school? After all, bullying is extremely common in the fourth grade and up. Maybe some of the emotional issues kids have are related to what their classmates are saying and doing rather than the behavior of their teacher.
Posted by eric, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2009 at 7:12 pm
"Stephanie Totter, the Mountain View Whisman School District's director of administrative services, "escorted Polifrone off the Huff campus" earlier this month"
"Totter reportedly returned to Huff last week to interview students in groups of three about the allegations"
So, Totter took the extraordinary action of ejecting an employee from the workplace (highly unusual in a school setting) and later did what sounds like careful due diligence. She then issued an appropriately vaugue quote relating to an ongoing personnel investigation.
What rational person would be bashing Ms Totter over this?
Meanwhile, Robin Iwai-- an active volunteer making a positive difference in the district, and one of the only people in this debate willing to own her comments by attaching her NAME to them, it called a BAD PARENT for offering an honest dissenting opinion? This is just idiotic.
It certainly sounds like the teacher in question is a disaster, and if this article paints an accurate picture, I hope she is fired. But the "debate" on this board is beneath what I'd expect of my community.
Posted by Bill W., a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 7:25 pm
Break out the pitchforks! Get all the parents in the village together! This isn't a lynch mob. Give this lady a raise!Your kids are a pain. Maybe if you were better parents,This lady wouldn't have to yell at your children when they misbehave.
Posted by uh, a resident of the Whisman Station neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 7:41 pm
if we let kids be taught be rude abusive individuals they will grow up to be rude abusive individuals, so I in no way see how Mrs. P is doing any type of favor to anyone. if your child wasn't personally a victim of this...great? if the argument your trying to make is that she shouldn't be fired because she only hurts some kids, but they weren't yours than that is appalling. and selfish. get over yourselves.
Posted by Lisa, a resident of the Cuesta Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 7:47 pm
This isn't Shrek. You must not have any kids.
Has anyone ever told you that you sound ignorant.
You just justified abusing a child.
School is suppose to be a safe place for kids to go and learn. Schools use to care about how children felt in the classroom and at school. Now it seems that testing scores are all they care about.
Of course NOT ALL of this teachers kids were abused. There are always going to be some that were happy.
But the point is that she is abusive to parents and children. If you child was unabused... consider yourself lucky, or blessed or whatever you believe in.
If she was hitting the kids would you be defending her, or if this was a sexual abuse case would you still say it is okay because your son or daughter did not get abused and they liked her.
I don't get you people - do you read what you write.
You've even got students saying it is okay to yell, shout and demean the kids. Does the School Board see NOW how WRONG it is to let her continue teaching young children.
The First thing an abuser does is get the victim to think it was all their fault. We are talking about an adult and 10 year olds... Yah, blame the kids way to go principle, Dr. G and HR... way to go, just let the abuse continue and condone it.... Isn't that kinda like being an accomplice to a crime, don't you go to jail for that? duh?
Posted by Long Time MV Tax Payer, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:19 pm
The Stephanie Totter in the article is the same administrator who has just, this month, forced a dozen or so MV elementary teachers to resign. Many of them were receiving great reviews right up to being terminated. She destroyed their teaching career and made it so they never will be able to teach in Mountain View again because they were not a "good match".
She obviously has a different perspective on the kind of teacher who is a "good match" for MV district. She certainly was not referring to a "good match" for the well being of our children.
Posted by sadden by all the verbal abuse, a resident of the Blossom Valley neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 8:59 pm
I'm sadden at the lynch mob mentality that I'm reading.This isn't the community I've grown to love. The article should have never been published. There are many posts from folks that don't have all the facts and are then are reading the opinions of others and saying lynch all them. Where is the justice? I don't know what is true, but Martha was accurate when she said you do not know what process has already been in place. The district must follow due process. The principal must follow due process. The fact that Ms. Totter escorted the teacher off campus and is investigating shows signs of following a due process. I don't condone teachers abusing children, but aren't you all presuming guilt? Our constitution guarentees a person the right to a fair trial. Where is the fair trial here?
Posted by Carol, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:01 pm
Mrs. P is a bully. Children watch her behavior and feel it is acceptable for them also to bully those who are victims of Mrs. P's scorn. As Christine notes, it is challenging to explain to your fourth grader that certain aspects of Mrs. P's behavior are not acceptable and should never be emulated.
"Her screaming at the class" (see student) is hardly the hallmark of a teacher who instills a love of learning. And I doubt that "toughening up" is a helpful educational objective for most fourth graders. If Mrs. P can't change her behavior after being dumped by Slater (onto Huff) and after many parent-teacher-principal conferences, parents should be able at minimum to keep their children out of her class without having to transfer them to another school.
Good teachers don't have to scream, pick on specific students, or be described as "being unable to change [their] destructive behaviors." Mrs. P may be an effective teacher for her favorites, but she's clearly destructive to many others. If she can't be terminated, perhaps parents could "opt in" to her classes instead of having to struggle so desperately to get their fourth graders out. If she fails to get enough students for a class, perhaps the district would than have concrete evidence of the lack of parent confidence.
Posted by Observer, a resident of another community, on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:06 pm
Hadn't heard about a dozen teachers being terminated. Any more details on that? And I don't know how it works in schools, but in business the HR manager isn't the one who decides who gets fired -- they may be the ones delivering the bad news, and they advise the hiring and firing managers on the decision before hand, but they don't do the picking. Not sure if Stephanie has that authority here, or if it's the principals, the supers, or who decides who to let go. My guess is, they were not making some first- or second-year teachers permanent. They couldn't have been firing anyone who'd be here more than 2 years -- tenure. This is another drawback with tenure after 2. A lot of times, teachers don't get enough time to grow into a job and prove themselves, and districts don't want to be "stuck" if they aren't sure the teacher will work out, etc., so they let them go.
May not be the case here,may be. I don't know. Long Time MV Tax Payer, do you know?
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:11 pm
Carol, my comment about her not being able to change her behaviors was not a defense, it was my comment on what I felt as something that prevented her from being the good teacher she could have been. Thought I made that clear, sorry. And my daughter wasn't a "favorite" -- she just happened to deal with the situation well, it was a temperament thing. Again, I'm not saying that this makes everything okay. I'm just stating my experience without denying yours.
Posted by Andrea, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:15 pm
Why making children going through an interrogation? isn't it enough that there are several parents complaining about Mrs. P's misconduct? Besides, there is already a history of abusive behavior. This teacher should not be transfered to any other school; she should rather be dismissed and have her teacher credential revoqued. [Portion removed]
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 9:27 pm
First of all for all of those that have children in K through 3rd grade at Huff that do not want your children in her class. I spoke with Sharon Burns two days ago and asked her the same question because I have many friends in the same situation. She told me that "Those parents need to send a letter to me stating that they do not want their child in Mrs. P's class". I do have a 3rd grader and she will not be in that class.
Yes Martha is correct and I am glad that she commented. But to eric and lynn and everyone else with the crappy attitude. It is so easy to sit on the sidelines and make your comments when it does not effect you or your family. I guarantee your opinions would be much different if your son or daughter went through what I witnessed the kids go through. I WAS in the class along with other parents. This is not an assumption and the board knows this... The abuse was on tape at slater that is why she was transferred to Huff.
I am sorry that there are those in this community that justify abuse because the abuser was liked and their kids had a good experience. That is just plain pathetic.
Robin I am glad that your daughter had a good experience, I know that there are alot of kids that love mrs. p. but that does not help the ones that are hurt. What do I tell my daughter later in life? Oh sorry honey your were humiliated, degraded, made fun of, and yelled at, BUT Robins daughter really liked the teacher so it was okay. Give me a break.
YES this should NEVER have gotten to the newspaper... it should have been dealt with privately, I agree 100%.. we tried for years...yes years... That is why it took me so long to take any further action. I was just sick of hearing Mrs P brag about how she punished and yell at kids. Read my comments above what else should I have done when I have been blown off by everyone else that has the power to make the change.
Unfortunately she does have tenure and it would have been a difficult move to get her away from children, but NO ONE had the guts to stand up for the kids and take it on... I was just passed from slater to huff then from craig to rick and now to sharon..... I agree that it is sad that it had to come to this, but if this is the only way to get people to see what is going on then I think it is pretty pathetic. It is a crime.....
I guess it is okay for me to beat the crap out of one person, because I am nice to others... what a great mentality.
The question should be "ARE ALL CHILDREN SAFE AND HAPPY IN THAT CLASSROOM?" And if they are not then there is a problem and if they are not over and over again then there is a big problem.
And to eric, my name is Christine and I have my name on everything I have stated her because I have seen and heard it personally. I am not making any accusations I am simply stating my personal experiences with all involved.
Posted by parent, a resident of the Jackson Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:00 pm
People like you really make a difference in our community. It is a shame that you had to fight so hard for your voice to be heard. I am sorry that you did not get the support you needed from more Huff parents. What a bunch of whimps. You put your energy into something the District should have.
I am thankful for you that you are trying to keep this from happening to anyone else. I am sure your kids will appreciate what you have done for them when they are old enough to understand.
I am glad it made the paper. We have the right to know what is going on in our public schools.
You definitely did the right thing. Thank you so much for being honest.
Posted by Liz, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:06 pm
I know a child that is in this class at this time and she has told me that this teacher screams a lot and says very nice things to her students. My daugter last year went to pick up this littel girl who happens to be in the class and as the teacher opened the door to let the kids out of the class she put her hands on my daughter and pushed her out of the way. As a parent who pays taxes to pay this womans salary I demand that the school district get rid of this teacher. Otherwise you are going to have a lot of legal issues that you can't afford to pay. As school officals your first concern should be the children not some crazy teacher. Kids go to school to learn not to be yelled at. It sounds like this woman is making all these poor kids end up in therapy. The Mountain View school board has there head in the sand. All I can say is that you have a lot of parents with children who have issues. Becareful School Board
Posted by Mom in this class, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:26 pm
I am astonished about all the piling on. Mrs. P is harsh for sure - out there - and says and does things that are not typical of what you expect out of a teacher. I think that is part of the issue. Also what may be acceptable to some is not so to others. Its clear by these posts that there is a lot of passion on this subject - both ways. I can tell you that the way most of you channel this "passion" makes me not want to be your friend nor want to interact with you in my community. I believe that most of the posts here are abusive to Mrs. P or to other posters. Maybe I will ask this newspaper to publish an article about how awful you are in these posts - and remove you from my community.
My child said that no one in the class is afraid - they all laugh and have fun. They take her harshness - not as a reflection on them but as a part of her. Parents can set a tone with their kids - and can help their children to not be owning of this. The anomaly is her - not them. I expect it could be more the reaction of the parents that told kids to be offended by her - rather than the other way around.
This is not Salem. Learn - then teach - how to get along in this world with many types of people, including harsh and abrasive ones. I got a good dose of the harsh and abrasive ones in Mountain View from these reads tonight.
Posted by Mary, a resident of the Martens-Carmelita neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:35 pm
Haha, I agree with student, the capslock does hurt my eyes. I am a former student of Mrs. Polifrone, and she was totally awesome. Sure she yelled when she got frustrated, but that's perfectly normal. She was kind, creative and inspiring. I think many parents on this forum are blinded by their children's perspective. I think that Mrs. Polifrone prepared me very well for 5th grade and middle school. I also agree when student says that your children should suck it up and take it. In the real world there are bitchy people, much like those on this forum. They exist! And you just need to get over it. In middle school there are many more teachers who constantly undermine students confidence, and tell them they aren't smart and such, so she is great prep for the future anyways. And no children are EVER safe and happy and comfortable in a classroom. GET OVER IT. And I apologize for abusing the capslock button.
Posted by Tina Cortinas, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:41 pm
First of all, get your facts straight. Mrs. P was not "transferred" beacuse of parent complaints, as you have stated more then once. She applied for the job at Huff and was hired. She wanted to teach the upper grades and this was her opportunity to do so. This article is full of libel and I would be concerned with how that may affect you.
The district is to blame for how all allegations have been handled. I have known Mrs. P for over 9 years. My daughter is a student in her class this year, and wants to know when Mrs. P will be back. I have no issues or complaints with her. I volunteer in the class weekly and have NOT witnessed any of the accusations made. She is a strict teacher but fair. My daughter enjoys school and is there to learn. When you have more than a few students in a 4th grade class who have already checked out, it is a distraction to her and other students who want to learn. I have witnessed students in the class that blatantly disrespect the teacher, parents who volunteer in the classroom, and their fellow students. I am speaking from what I have seen and experienced for myself.
If the allegations are true and were ignored by the district, then I sympathize for those families. My 2 older sons had her as a teacher and have fond memories, and my daughter wants Mrs. P. back. Maybe some parents are happy that she is on personal leave (not administrative leave) but my daughter has had a sub for almost 2 weeks now. I don't see this as a benfit to my daughter, or the other students, when there is a large amount of curriculum that she still needs to be taught and the state tests approaching. A sub is not going to work as hard or be as dedicated.
If I felt that in any way Mrs.P was a threat to my child then she would not be a student in her class.
Posted by Long Time MV Tax Payer, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:42 pm
Observer, the official comments from the district is that there is no layoff this spring. There was no mentioning of the dozen teachers terminated.
The teachers let go mostly have taught in the district for around two years and are up for tenure. They were told that they will be not offered tenure and had two to fours day to resign. In most of the cases, there were no warnings or need to improve comments. In reality many of them have received great reviews from their principal right up to the forced “resignation”.
Contrary to all the considerations given to the teacher at Huff (from what I read in the article and comments), the young teachers did not receive any considerations. My understanding is that Stephanie Totter told the teachers that this was her decision and she is not going to give any reason. If any of them tried to find out from their principals, the principals are informed to not give any reasons. So we have a group of teachers who gave their heart and soul for our kids had their teaching career destroyed without even knowing why. To destroy bright, young teachers’ spirit and career without prior mentoring, without giving reasons and an opportunity to grow and improve is not only unfair, it is plain WRONG.
Reading about the considerations Stephanie Totter is giving to the teacher from Huff, I do wonder if she has the well being future of our children in her sight.
Posted by Lisa, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:48 pm
Mom in this class...thank you for posting your comment. You are spot on! It sounds like there is a definite agenda against this teacher and the administrators are certainly trying to sort it out. I've seen posts from people who actually have had experiences with the teacher (if they are true posts) and sounds like some things may have been exaggerated. When it comes to seeing/hearing things second-hand, exaggerations are inevitable.
The amount of lashing out and bashing people over the head is really sad. And this is from people who supposedly are against this type of behavior!
Posted by jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 10:57 pm
to Rombo: My child were not nipped in the bud on his way to becoming a gang member. I was there when Mrs. P berated him - berated me - berated and humilated other children. Having a child in a fetal position hiding under their covers scared to go to school when they had loved school before and having to fight a system that blames the vistims is SICK.
Posted by jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:07 pm
To Bill: If you think bullying and berating and insulting and embarassing children are ways to teach them to become good citizens and are appropriate....that is an abusive way of thinking ... my son is a good, honorable student who suffered for a year of bullying from a teacher in a position of power - developed sleep disorders and other problems - he is now older, a volunteer, a Scout, a person who is admired in the community - he did not deserve to be bullied. It is really sad that you think any child - we are talking children here- deserves this type of treatment - kind of like water boarding is not tortue, it is okay - bullying students must be okay too?
Posted by vin, a resident of the Sylvan Park neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:13 pm
Christine, if you had problems with this teacher , why didn't you take your kid out of the class. Why did you wait two years to talk about it, makes no sense. How did you live it with it so far? What is the real reason behind this whole fiasco? Any responsible adult will take action immediately.
Posted by jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:19 pm
To Vin - good question about why parents didn't take children out of Mrs. P's class - it is a bit like a wife in an abusive situation - you think it won't happen again - you don't want to over-react - for my son his friends and community were there since kindergarten - it was PACT and our neighborhood school - his after-school day care was there - and I worked with the teacher and the principal to try and get this resolved and had many meetings, each one hopeful that the mistreatment would stop - it is not always easy to pull a child out of a school - for a single mom working without transportation to take a child to another school - perhaps you think this sounds easy, but changing schools is not like changing your socks!
Posted by Michelle, a resident of the Castro City neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:28 pm
Taking Christine's kid out of the classroom does not solve the problem. That is like putting a band aid on the problem and hope it goes away.
If you read the article and her posts, she tried to give the District a chance to stop this behavior. They pretended to hear her.
It sounds like Christine knows what she is doing. Support would be nice to give her. We should stick together as a community.
Vin, the teacher needs to go. School is for the kids. Why should the kids experience abuse and then have to change classrooms. Meanwhile the teacher continues on with her behavior, just on a different kid.
Stop pin-pointing the mother. Christine is not to blame. You are starting to twist this story now. [Portion removed]
Posted by Parent, mom, etc., a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 19, 2009 at 11:58 pm
I actually have posted about 30 posts here, trying to defend the kids and Christine. I would not want this to happen to my children at all. I am thankful my kids don't go to Huff school. I am not identifying myself to protect myself from being abused by idiots out there. But if my child was involved I would do what Christine has done. It would make me sick to my stomach to have my child exposed to this outrageous teacher.
Next step: Christine should contact The View in NYC and have the ladies talk about what is going on in Mountain View, California.
[Editor's Note: Many of this person's posts have been removed due to excessive and/or repetitive posting, and due to disrespectful or inappropriate comments.]
Posted by veteran parent, a resident of the Monta Loma neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 4:25 am
Stephanie Totter is way out of her league in her present job. She has shown herself unable to manage the teachers that have burnt out and have begin to act out...inflicting emotional harm on their students.
There have been two cases at Monta Loma school, one recent and another about 8 years ago, when a teacher's actions in class have had a negative impact on students.....students that were performing well in the previous year.
Examples of the behaviors of these negatively impacted students are:
- loss of interest in reading (avoids reading out loud)
- reluctance to attend school (illness that clears up by 9am)
- aggression on the playground (venting anger)
- loss of potty training skills (accidents in class)
- loss of desire to stay at school and play with friends after class
These were all behaviors that these children did not exhibit in the previous year classroom situation.
Parents of these kids are reluctant to speak up about these things for fear that their child will suffer from "extra" attention. When parents, talking with each other, realize that these problems are appearing in many other children, they take a risk and report these problems to the principal. The principal then arranges for classroom monitors, mentor teachers, and personal supervision. Guess what happens? All of these reports come back OK, or "no problems" because the teacher behaves better when being watched.
Now I read about how this sort of thing is going on at another school in the MVWSD. (Insert standard comments of shock, irony, futility, trapped acceptance...)
This is a typical scenario, and yes, there is the problem of teacher tenure. But Stephanie Totter has been in her job for more than a decade now....she should know that "transferring a teacher to another school and hoping that there will not be a problem" is NOT a strategy that is sustainable. She needs to re-think her job responsibility; it is to the students, not the teachers -- they have a union to watch out for them, the kids do not.
Our (relatively) new superintendent, Dr Ghysels has had to face many problems as he has settled into this job (retaining parcel tax funding, the inflated salaries scandal, unstable state money, etc.), and he has done some great things (children's health initiative, Continuous Improvement system, bike ride to Sacramento) but he is not getting the support he deserves from this key member of his staff.
Posted by Bill W, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 5:53 am
First of all,As a parent myself,If you think your child is being abused,You go directly to the abuser. Not to an outside source. I bet you would change your tune,if I got in your face. Also if your child is telling you they are afraid, you don't wait to read about it or file multiple complaints. You immediately remove your child from that situation.Maybe you only care after its too late. Teachers are underpaid and overworked. Maybe if parents volunteered their help,all teachers would be less stressed.If you are more involved, this kind of situation doesn't happen.Turn off Oprah,and get involved.
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 8:55 am
I believe that Tina is correct, that Patty was not transferred from Slater but applied for the position at Huff. I also believe that it was because she was told she was going to have to move from her 3rd grade classroom to a 4/5 split in PACT, which she did not want to do. This is what she told me. I think she felt that the Slater principal was making this move to try to get her to leave. One thing I will say for Patty, she has no guile--whatever she is thinking, she'll tell you (part of the problem, I think)--so if she was forcibly transferred, my guess is she would have said that.
Here's my final take on this. Again, please read all the way to the end before you flame me! My daughter liked her. Sometimes she'd get yelled at for not being organized, forgetting homework, etc., but she never felt singled out. My daughter would sometimes get frustrated and complain about how Mrs. P did things, but that is true for a lot of teachers (at least in my experience). She thought that Mrs. P was a good teacher in that she learned a lot, she liked the creativity in the classroom, and Mrs. P could be a lot of fun. She did not perceive that Mrs. P was picking on anyone in particular in her class (whether that was happening or not, I don't know, I just know that my daughter didn't pick up on it if it happened). She looks on 4th grade as a good year.
That is NOT to say that the kids & parents who feel traumatized are wrong. It appears that many, maybe most, kids can either deal with her or actually like her class. There are some every year who either really don't like her or are honestly traumatized by the experience. How many, I don't know, but probably at least a few every year, based on conversations I have had with other parents. One child every 5 or 10 years, you'd say it was a personality conflict between that one child and the teacher and transferring the student is the answer. If it's even one student, but EVERY YEAR, then the teacher has a problem she needs to fix.
I like Patty a lot. I wish she could change. She'd still rub some people the wrong way -- she talks too loudly, she's stubborn and can be pushy -- but those would end up as more minor irritations if she could just filter what she says and how she says it, deal with them with some senstivity, and listen to them and to their parents. Then I do think she would be a good teacher. The tragedy, and I know some people won't believe this, is she does really care about the kids. I have seen that side of her many times. But I'm sure it's hard to even imagine when your kid is feeling like they are being singled out. Even if a teacher is not trying to do that, if kids are consistently feeling that way, then the teacher needs to change.
I'm sorry this all came to a head in such a public forum. Sad for the kids, sad for Mrs. P, sad for the community.
Posted by Martha, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:04 am
Bill W., I just had to respond. I know these parents. They are highly involved, they volunteer large amounts of their time to the school and in the classroom, and I'm sure they volunteered in Mrs. P's class. I'm also sure they tried to speak with Mrs. P about their concerns.
Posted by Robin Iwai, a resident of the Martens-Carmelita neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:14 am
This conversation has evolved from complaints about one specific teacher, to a call for the firing of the head of personnel, to accusations that "this is what kids are learning in MVWSD" to "the schools are not safe" ????!!!!!
Posted by Parent, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:28 am
To the parent from Cuernavaca who criticized Mary -- I happen to know her (no, she's not my daughter, I know her family from Huff and Graham). And, yes, she is still in middle school. She is supposed to be, she's an 8th grader. And no, she didn't repeat any grades. She's an honor-roll student.
Calling a 13- or 14-year-old kid "arrogant and selfish" for expressing her opinion in public (and, obliquely, calling her stupid by implying that she's been held back) sounds to me like what we're all accusing Mrs. P of - humiliation, verbal abuse. This is getting nasty.
Posted by KGM, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 9:30 am
I have to say that I like Ms. P. She says what is on her mind and doesn't hold back. Each grade has challenges for kids and in 4th grade the challenge is that the kids are treated more like adults. They are given much more responsiblity and are expected at the beginning of the year to adjust. I think Ms. P treats the kids like she would treat an adult, that being said, they aren't adults yet and what would be tolerated in a middle school or high school isn't ok at this grade level. I think the disctict office knows what they are doing and will handle this appropriaely.
Posted by Christine, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 10:24 am
Wow, I am amazed at how insensitive many of you parents are about child abuse. I would never call another persons child a failure and my daughter is anything but.
My daughters state/star testing went from 94% in math and eng every year, but in Pattys class it went to 40% then she was given an award by the Graham principal and asst. princ and school board at an award ceremony in the begining of this year for bringing her testing scores up so many levels back up to 90%. Craig, Maurice both know this, they have not once done or said anything to me about it. If you just turn your head then it will go away, that is what everyone including many parents seem to think. That is whats sad.
If this is okay with you I feel sorry for you. Some people sound so ignorant on these postings. I have never said Mrs. P was a bad teacher. Ask Craig Goldman... I have always said that she has a passion for teaching and seems to really care, BUT the abuse has gotten so out of control that for some children it is a nightmare.
I TRIED TO PULL HER OUT OF THE CLASS - Do you not get it? YES that would solve EVERYTHING.. Why don't you meet with Craig, Sharon and Maurice to see if you can make that an option. WE WERE TOLD IT WAS NOT AN OPTION UNLESS we transferred out of the school. Which MANY parents have done.
Craig assured me that it would be taken care of and that they would deal with her. So he sat in her class for an hour a day for a few weeks. What did that do?.
I looked into transferring, charter, home and private school, but I have 3 other children and it was not in their best interest to move them to. And once again... Craig assured me it was being taken care of.
YES patty applied for a job at HUFF because no other teachers wanted to do the job that she was applying for. Craig went ahead and transferred her regardless of everything he knew about her, now that is HUFF LOVE.
I was at the BOARD meeting last night Restating everything that we have gone through directly to Craig and Maurice and the board. There were other parents there too.... once again nothing was said, not a word good or bad, no 'Thank you to the parents for taking time to speak' for or against Mrs P teaching 4th at huff. NOT A WORD.
Why don't we have a meeting? Parents and Craig, Maurice, Sharon, The board. Clear the air so there is no misunderstanding. Without speaking about patty directly, they can explain what they have done for parents, how they have communicated to parents, kept them in the loop, gotten back to them when they were told that they would. Let them explain without breaking any confidential contract with Mrs. P.
Let them tell us what they have done for our kids.
Posted by I saw it, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 10:32 am
My son was a student at Slater. EVERYONE within earshot of Mrs. P's class could hear her screaming at students at some point or another. She also would scream at adults. Basically, she was a bully. While I am sure her methods may work well for some students, the majority of parents told horror stories of their kid"s self esteem being lost.
Totter can be very ineffective as an administrator. This problem will probably be hidden by the district and Mrs. P will end up being placed in some administrative position where she will continue to get a salary while the district is out of money. The district office is already overloaded with "administrators" compared to other districts, costing LOTS of money that could be going to the classroom.
Posted by Don Frances, Mountain View Voice Editor, on Mar 20, 2009 at 11:52 am Don Frances is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
In another post, a reader asked: "Why would you close this post except to registered users? It is a very good discussion, something that is much needed. We all think these cases are isolated and we will just get our children through the 'bad teacher' year. We need to speak up more for our children and for our good teachers. This is a great forum to get that discussion started. You should really keep it open. Parents, kids-keep talking, your voice is important."
It's a good question, and below is my response, which I'm re-posting here:
The first thing to say is that we agree, it's a good and important discussion, but we felt (and so did other posters) that it was becoming hijacked by one or two excessive posters and hampered by personal attacks. We needed to slow it down to get things back under control. (This morning we took down about 25 comments for excessive postings, personal swipes and other misuse).
The other point to make is that limiting a comment thread to registered-only users does not mean it's closed! It's very quick and easy to register (click here: Web Link) and doing so does not sacrifice your anonymity (we do ask that you give your name during the sign-up process, but your "handle" -- the name seen online by other Town Square users -- is whatever you want it to be).
We've found that registered-only use creates more accountability, and many of the attackers, pranksters, etc. tend to disappear.
Posted by sc, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 2:11 pm sc is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
I want to thank Christine for bringing this to everyone attention. While obviously the accused is inocent until proven guilty, we all have the obligation to report possible child abuse and keep reporting until it is properly investigated.
I am not sure a possible investigation includes a district administrator interviewing children, was their witnesses to this interview? Is the person trained on interviewing children? What about the harmfull effects of if not done well?
Posted by Jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 2:24 pm Jane is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
Reading the article and these comments took me back to the events that I went through at PACT six years ago. I couldn't sleep last night with the realization that Mrs. P is still acting the same way that whe did when my son was in her class, when he was victimized by Mrs. P. Having a forum to talk about this is really good... the question is: Will good result from it. I hope so. Are there next steps? Is there anything that can happen that would involve the parents who were directly impacted? Slater is closed now; the former administrators are mostly gone - what can the people who were impacted in the past do that will cause the best possible outcome to happen?
Posted by USA, a resident of the Old Mountain View neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 2:49 pm
Most of you are talking about this as if it were a black and white, right and wrong issue. However, every school has its share of teachers who are controversial. Every school has its share of aggressive parents. There is going to be a clash of personalities. This is not new, and this certainly should not have been published in the Voice. It won't solve anything and will only be a major headache for Totter to have to deal with a bunch of angry people of have been whipped up on both sides.
Of course, that is not to say that Christine and other don't have a case, but it is not as simple as the above debaters argue. People who know Christine refer to her as an "alpha dog". People who know Patty say she is abrupt. No matter what happens, there is going to be a fight.
If you are looking for a real issue to get mad about, take a look at the other stories in the Voice this week. Among other things, we have had two cases of alleged child molesters caught recently. My comments on the suitable treatments for the molesters got me in trouble, but maybe your comments may be more palatable. Give it a shot.
Posted by Deniece, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 2:59 pm
I am an ex-4th grade teacher who is outraged with how schools handle tenured teachers. The year I taught (yes, only one) my principle tenured another teacher who had her own child taken out of her home for abuse. This teacher would "brag" to others about how she had her class put their heads down on their desks ALL DAY because she had some business to take care of on the internet and couldn't pay attention to them during that.
I heard another teacher scream at a child who was panicked and crying under a desk saying, "Get up! You're embarrassing your mother!" We all knew the child had abusive parents and now the teacher was taking advantage of this 11 year old victim.
I watched the Vice Principle say to the principle, "Watch this!" then called a fire drill during STAR testing, an extremely serious test that helps schools determine their funding and growth. We were directed, as teachers, to keep the tests under lock and key the whole time we were administering them so as to ensure accurate test results. The Vice Principle knew this, yet jeopardized the validity of the tests by her prank.
My principle insisted that all children clear the campus within five minutes from the last bell ringing. It was not possible to safely move that many children that quickly. Sometimes parents were late and she would send them walking home through the neighborhood of thirteen "high-risk registered sex offenders".
I sell real estate now. And although I cannot say that Realtors are not the most integrity filled people as a whole, I can say that we have a choice in what we do and how we do it as independent contractors. The adults who work with us have a choice to work with us or someone else.
Children do not have the opportunity to choose their teachers, their school, or their principle. Their voices go unheard on a daily basis as abuses occur over and over again in classrooms.
I say we put surveylance cameras in classrooms and make the teachers accountable to everyone for their actions. I also say we pay them more so we have an opportunity to hire better talent and retain good talent.
As for real estate when people wonder why good school districts add such value to a home, I only have to say, "When you see the bad schools in California, you'll understand."
Posted by Deniece, a resident of the Shoreline West neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 3:05 pm
By the way, I did report these abuses to the Superintendent of Schools and to the California Teachers Association. They were aware of these and many more abuses. Neither was willing to do anything more than to ask me to be quiet..herego..one year.
Posted by Jeff Mulligan, a resident of the Waverly Park neighborhood, on Mar 20, 2009 at 6:56 pm Jeff Mulligan is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
My daughter is currently a student in the class. Today she told me they had heard that Mrs. P. is not coming back. She was sad.
I don't like everything I have heard about what has gone on in class, but I have been impressed with Patty's commitment to the kids. Whether her methods are right or wrong, she is doing what she does because she thinks it is good for them. It is troubling to hear allegations of "abuse" and I do not condone humiliation as a teaching tool, but I don't want to see a dedicated teacher have their career ruined because of sarcasm either. Hopefully the school board will handle this well.
I've done a little volunteering at school this year with a group of 4th and 5th graders, and it has been a bit frustrating: I can't yell loudly enough to be heard when they are all yacking (which is most of the time), and haven't gotten much respect. It has been my view that the strict discipline in class has been necessary.
Posted by Jane, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2009 at 5:15 am Jane is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
Yes, there is a lot of sadness involved in the whole situation. Looking at my involvement with Slater School here in Mountain View, my children attended elementary school with the following teachers: L Garden; T McNaughten; H Green; B Bensen; K Workman; P Kawamura; D Biardo; N Kallas; K Serby (nee Machuga); M Garcia; B Laster; B Ross; S Aderman; B Maloof; P Polifrone and others. Added up, this totals 19 school years in elementary school with more than 15 different teachers. Additionally, I was an instructional aide for 7 years and have volunteered for more that 30 years in the classroom and am still a school volunteer. I say this only because it shows that my children and I have experienced many different teaching styles and many differing classroom experiences. We learned styles that were warm and humorous, and styles that were rigid and matter-of-fact, and our lives were enriched by all these teachers, except for Mrs. P. So when I read about Patty's commitment and dedication and "allegations of 'abuse'" I can only repeat this: my son was in her class. She was unlike any other teacher I have ever known in her abusiveness. It was repeated, targeted, cruel and intentional. It was combined with manipulation and fear tactics. She got away with this for years; no student should have ever been in that position, nor should any parent. Parents are not trained in how to deal with this situation; the District historically has excused her behavior because of her experience and commitment. The question is, "If there ever is another teacher that we learn is terrorizing and abusing students, will or can it be stopped?" For the alledged good that Mrs. P had in the lives of some students, the damage she did to many others should never had been tolerated over at least a decade. And it was. So that is sad. Hopefully Mrs. P. will never be allowed to continue her abusive methods ever again in any classroom, anywhere.
Posted by Carina, a resident of the North Whisman neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2009 at 1:35 pm Carina is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
I have to admit, when I first met Mrs. P I was looking forward to her being my sons teacher. I thought with her directness and hard personality that it would be a good thing. I have had teachers, who I remembered and who were my favorite for their directness. HOWEVER, throughout the year, she proved over and over that she was not actually a good direct and hard teacher, she was a rude and abusive teacher who made my son pray for 4th grade to end.
Posted by Opportunistic Activist, a resident of the Jackson Park neighborhood, on Mar 21, 2009 at 10:03 pm Opportunistic Activist is a member (registered user) of Mountain View Online
Gee, this Patty Polifrone thing sounds a lot like the Catholic church transferring pedophile priests from one assignment to another when complaints were lodged. The district might be earning itself more than a little legal vulnerability here.
Can some of those more closely involved explain why Child Protective Services and the Mountain View Police Department are apparently not yet involved here?
Also, isn't a child abuse conviction grounds for revoking a teaching credential, tenure or no tenure?