Thursday, October 19, 2006

Save Humanitas....Please...I never ask for anything!

It's been quite sometime since I've ventured over to this neck of the web...lately I've spent my time unraveling the universe within. As neurotic as I am about anything that comes out of my mouth or flows from my fingertips, I did't have to make a list or even think twice about this topic. I found it on the infamous pages of Myspace. Please read the below article. And help for pete's sake. Most of you out there have benefited from the these two phenomenal teacher. Please help out and trying to preserve as many good teachers as I can.Please help out and take a few minuts to save f asave this program...Please Please Please just take a moment to read it...then another to make a difference.

Dear Birmingham High School Parents, Parents of Humanitas Students, Students, Community Members, and Alumni that sucs..

We are writing to you to assist us in removing the principal of Birmingham High School. Marsha Coates has been the principal of this school for two years now and she has hurt thousands of students and faculty members with her callous and unprofessional behavior. Before coming to Birmingham High School she had never been a principal or assistant principal. Her inexperience and malicious behavior has created a soulless environment for our students. The school is in total chaos; students dislike what is happening to them; teachers are leaving in record numbers and a very special program, Humanitas, has been decimated. We need your help to end this terrible period.

In order to remove a principal, the community, in large numbers, must contact her immediate supervisor who is Jean Brown and our local school board member, who is Jon Lauritzen. Mr. Lauritzen is elected by us and will be very nervous about being kicked out of office by his constituency. Therefore, he needs to hear your displeasure with Marsha Coates.

Local District 1
6621 Balboa Blvd
Lake Balboa, Ca 91406
Superintendent Jean B. Brown
Phone: 818/654-3600
Fax: 818/881-6728


Dist. 3
Fax: 213-241-8979

What follows are the actions taken by Ms. Coates in chronological order directed against the Humanitas Honors Program. When you are done reading this inventory, you will begin to understand how her actions were malicious, spiteful, and unprofessional.


In August, 2005, before the first day of school, Ms. Coates, in one of her first acts as a principal, told Dr. Liberman and Robert Leight that things were not going to be the same for Humanitas, and that the "perks" were over. When asked what "perks" she meant, she told them it meant common conference periods and anything else the "rest of the faculty perceived to be unfair." So at no time were her judgments based on what she experienced herself, but rather on the perceptions of others. This was a pattern to be repeated several times over the year. Had she explored this just a tad further, or even thought about it, she would understand that common conference is a necessity for Humanitas, the prototype of the much-touted smaller learning communities. At the time, Humanitas was the only interdisciplinary, project based, thematically taught program. In most ways, it still is the only one.


Marsha Coates' next policy decision that affected the Humanitas honors program was to overturn a decision about the SAS(The other honors program at BHS) and Humanitas counselor being the same person. After much discussion, Dr. Lasiter, Mr. Krog (former head counselor), and the Humanitas department decided that the SAS and Humanitas counselor should be the same PERSON in order to best serve both sets of students. Students could then be counseled into the type of learning that best suited them. So after years of problems balancing the issues of the two programs, Dr. Lasiter, having written a dissertation on Humanitas, an experienced counselor and administrator, and two teachers who had worked in the program for years, had finally found a resolution. Ms. Coates' decision had no philosophical or practical basis. At the time it was thought the decision ignorant and impulsive; in light of so many other things that transpired, it was the beginning of many malicious acts.


The Humanitas program brought biology into the program and Dr. Lasiter had assigned its teacher a biology room. It seemed ethical to give her the correct room and to have her Humanitas classes scheduled with Humanitas students only. Instead she was given a small math classroom without adequate tables and a math teacher was given her biology room. Her Humanitas classes had other students enrolled in them even though this precluded teaming adequately with the rest of the 9th grade team. It took a conscientious custodian to see that the room assignments were unsafe, and rectify at least that part of the situation.

When the semester finally began, the following events took place: School year 2005/2006


Humanitas is honors because it is taught on an honors level, taking students of average ability, students new to English, and students with socio-economic depravations, and educating them so that they can compete with other college-bound students. These students obviously need help and encouragement and in years past, they have received this from their teachers, principals, and counselors. Counselors and administrators no longer provide this, especially under Ms. Coates' leadership. Instead, when some Humanitas students wanted to leave the program, unlike previous administrators who encouraged the students to stay, she told Ms. Long, the head counselor, to let them out without any type of discussion. This behavior runs counter to what one would think educators should do. Making matters worse, it became nearly impossible to recruit for Humanitas. The administration made it very difficult to get any kids into the program and the ones who wanted in were quite often programmed into different classes even though they wanted Humanitas.


A few weeks before the winter recess, Ms. Coates, in passing comments to Ms. Burnett and Mr. Leight, said that the 12th grade Humanitas classes might be closed 2nd semester because the numbers were low, even though the size of the individual classes were equal to other honors and AP classes. Mr. Leight and Ms. Burnett wrote a letter before the winter break asking that if she were going to do this, could she please let the teachers know before the break so they could lesson plan for the new classes and restructure the senior Humanitas classes. They received no reply to this note until Robert Leight contacted Mr. Ruben at District I. A week before the new semester started, five weeks after the original note, Ms. Coates apologized disingenuously for not getting back to them, but said she had misplaced the note in her abundant paperwork. At this time she finally told them that she was collapsing the classes. What this suggests is that Ms. Coates doesn't care about teachers (lesson planning), or kids (teachers being prepared to teach them and damaging a teamed program).


Ms. Coates lied to Mr. Ruben, at a parent/news/community meeting regarding the numbers of senior Humanitas students. She asserted repeatedly that there were only 18 students whereas there were 36.

i. Upon talking to Mr. Ruben in yet another conversation, it appears that Ms. Coates misled him in two areas. First, she told him there were only 18 senior Humanitas students, which was patently false. There were 36 and would have been more if the students who wanted to leave met a united front.

ii. Secondly she told Mr. Ruben that Humanitas students were kicked out once their grades went down. Once more, as Mr. Leight explained to Mr. Ruben, nothing could be further from the truth. We have many students who have failed many sections of Humanitas and are still with us. Failing a Humanitas class has never resulted in the removal of a student.

iii. She repeated this lie in the community meeting


It became clear to the Humanitas teachers that Ms. Coates' actions were personal when Mr. Leight and Dr. Liberman met with then Assistant Principal, Mrs. CJ Foss, just prior to her leaving to accept a promotion. She explained to Dr. Liberman and Mr. Leight that the reason Ms. Coates was treating the Humanitas teachers this way was due to the fact that the previous year, when Dr. Lasiter was still principal and Ms. Coates was an AP, she felt that the Humanitas teachers undermined her authority by going to the principal regarding issues she didn't understand. The Humanitas teachers were quite dumbfounded that anyone would be that vindictive, especially in view of the harm this does to students. Mr. Leight and Dr. Liberman explained to Mrs. Foss that Ms. Coates had ideas that were not conducive to Humanitas, and that really, she was not familiar enough with the program to understand what her suggestions might do. Mrs. Foss said that, she wanted Mr. Leight and Dr. Liberman to try to understand Ms. Coates' motives for being malicious. Indeed, they had heard this from two other sources, but Mrs. Foss removed all doubt.


Mr. Leight had taught Advance Placement Government for eight years at BHS with one of the highest pass rates in the city. After stopping it for one year Ms. Coates brought it back and did not let Mr. Leight teach the class even though he had seniority, had taught it successfully for eight years, has a masters in United States history, and had even told Ms. Coates that if she wanted he would lower his expectations if she just wanted high numbers. Ms. Coates would not have it.


Now this brings us to the events which have taken place at BHS this school year 2006/2007. Ms. Coates decided to break up the school into smaller learning communities and move teachers into new classrooms. Many individuals told her it would not work and it hasn't. It has resulted in mass chaos. Kids have been misprogrammed by the hundreds. Teachers have left in droves because of the callous and unprofessionalism of this new principal.


With respect to the Humanitas Program, the attacks continued even though it was the best small learning community at BHS. Upon coming back to school, Ms. Burnett, one of two longtime 12th grade Humanitas teachers was removed from this position. This was awful because it takes years of planning together to make a successful teaching partnership.


Ms. Coates removed biology and the biology teacher from the Humanitas Program. Since then, the Humanitas Biology teacher has left the school along with many others.


Ms. Coates collapsed the 11th grade Humanitas classes just as she did the 12th grade the year before. Now Dr. Liberman teaches the 11th graders periods 1 and 6 and the history teacher only has one class of Humanitas period 2. The whole idea of Humanitas is to have both teachers in the same room teaching the students for 2 hours together. Ms. Coates has totally destroyed all aspects of what made this program the greatest program in the world.


After having a meeting with the Humanitas parents, a meeting it must be added where both the principal and assistant principal Fern Somoza spoke in a disrespectful and derogatory manner to the parents, Ms. Coates promised to once more help Humanitas. This was a common behavior by this principal. She says that she is trying to help Humanitas to her superiors and to the parents and yet when the pressure lessens she continues her attack. For those who attended the principal's meeting, that night assistant principal Fern Somoza said that the administration had nothing to do with Mr. Leight not attending the meeting and later we found out that it was assistant principal Fern Somoza who had suggested that he not attend.


Within just a few days of having the meeting with the parents, Ms. Coates began her attack on the 9th grade Humanitas Program. Ms. Tingley, one of the 9th grade Humanitas English teachers, had twelve students in her English class. The head counselor Ms. Long decided this class was too small to be supported and must be closed, even though other English classes of that size remain untouched. Ms. Tingley's students were dispersed to the other teachers in the 9th grade team and Ms. Tingley was assigned her conference period during the time when the 9th grade Humanitas students receive instruction, thus breaking up the 9th grade team of teachers. Now when the students meet all together, they are missing a teacher's support which means that the students receive less individualized attention.


Of course, there are so many more tragic blunders and malicious acts perpetrated by this Principal and two of her Assistant Principals Fern Somoza and Ms. Long, but this list would become a tragic novel.

I hope this shows the current situation in its proper light, as the latest in a series of actions meant to hurt Humanitas despite rhetoric to the contrary.

The students at Birmingham High School need your help desperately. Please contact the two main individuals listed above and have your voices heard.

Please E-mail this letter to all those who will be interested in solving this terrible situation.

Thank you for your time and consideration!!!!!!!!!!!!!!


Shak said...

This is nuts, whatever became of this?

somgrl8 said...

I believe Mr. Leight is at a private school, Chaminade, I believe is the name. I attended BHS Mr. Leight's first year at BHS and I believe as a teacher. He is a phenomenal teacher and any school would be tremendously lucky to have him. Unfortunately, the BHS that once was is doomed w/the rest of the educational system in this country. With the outstanding quality of doctors and teachers we should be looking to Cuba for guidance.