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Hartland teachers are fed up with their school board’s politics

HARTLAND TWP. — Staff dissatisfaction with Hartland’s Board of Education has increased 30% in two years, according to an internal survey obtained by The Daily.

When asked if they “value and support the operation of the district under the current Board of Education,” 41% of teachers and staff at Hartland Consolidated Schools chose “disagree to disagree”.

More answered that way, 60%, in 2023. But that number has increased significantly from just 10% in 2022. And some employees who chose “agree to strongly agree” in 2024 later clarified that they only feel supported by some board members.

In their responses, many were concerned about three conservative representatives: Michelle Blondeel, Glenn Gogoleski and Greg Keller. The three campaigned together as “Clean Slate” candidates under the slogan “Education Not Indoctrination”. They have also advocated policies criticized by some as anti-LGBTQ+.

In a separate question, when asked if staff felt their opinions were “valued by the board in decisions that affect your job,” 58% of survey respondents said “some or none of the time.” That was up from 49% in 2023 and 42% in 2022. A total of 229 out of 500 employees responded to the survey.

The results have prompted the board’s personnel committee to discuss how to improve morale and bridge political divides among members. The board agreed to gather in small groups, discuss agenda items and try to better understand each other’s policies.

Recently retired teacher Carol Hall is not surprised that staff expressed displeasure with the board. She told The Daily that she has been “appalled” by the actions of the “Clean Slate” board members.

Hall, who has worked with special education students for many of her 25 years in the district, said comments from those board members have denigrated special education and LGBTQ+ students.

Last year, the board narrowly passed a policy change introduced by Gogoleski that effectively banned rainbow “safe space” stickers — meant to signal that the classroom is a safe space for LGBTQ+ students — and other Pride displays. The policy passed 4-3 with support from all three “Clean Slate” members and current board chair Meghan Glabach.

On June 17, the board tabled a discussion on whether to require students to use a bathroom that matches their birth certificate — or change their birth certificate or attend a “wrap-around” meeting with parents, administrators and school staff to review whether their claim is “genuine “.

The possible change prompted the ACLU of Michigan to send a letter in opposition, dated Friday, June 14.

“We have serious concerns with this proposed policy, in that it singles out transgender people for discriminatory treatment regarding bathroom access and puts those students who are not ‘out’ to their parents at risk of harm,” ACLU officials wrote.

“It’s been absolutely disappointing,” Hall said of the board’s actions. “The names that (some) board members have called these students are horrible. I don’t distrust the entire school board, because the majority, I feel, are good people who have the students’ best interests at heart. I just feel angry.”

She decided to retire this year.

“I just can’t work under them,” she said.

“These (board members) are just mean, and I wish more people would stand up to them. But I can understand why they don’t. I’ve run into a lot of teachers who feel the same way I do.”

Gogoleski responded after several negative public comments on June 17.

“What I think is really interesting is that you can have so many people who are allegedly upset about three individuals and talk about it repeatedly, one without citing an incident,” he said.

“Two, to never mention any one person but to name the three. It kind of smacks of being set up and having an agenda. And to hear some people come up to the microphone and accuse people of having a political agenda while wearing their social agenda. for de jure shirts, well, I’ll tell you it loses a lot of punch when you come up here and complain.”

In the survey, one employee wrote that the three board members “seem to treat (their) position as a pulpit for their political and religious views.”

“Their continued harassment and questioning of the district makes it difficult to do the work that district employees are here to do – educate children,” they wrote.

The Daily reached out to all seven school board members for comment via email. Four board members – Kristin Coleman, Chris Costa, Glabach and Cindy Shaw – responded. Blondeel, Gogoleski and Keller did not.

The four who responded generally agreed that the teachers do not feel supported or heard.

“They do not feel empowered or trusted to do the job they have been hired to do, and have successfully done for years,” Coleman wrote. “And unfortunately, with all the noise going on at the board level, they feel unheard or lost in the mix.”

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“The common theme,” Shaw wrote, “is that teachers want a board of education that supports and respects them and their profession and lets them do their jobs and meet students where they are.”

“They want board meetings to be about students, and no one’s particular agenda,” Glabach wrote. “In addition, they want to know that the board trusts them and believes that they are trained to perform their jobs effectively and with the utmost integrity.”

“It is clear that part of the board of education is having an impact on HCS staff and students, and not in a positive way,” Costa wrote. “When I read the comments about the board, it was obvious that the teachers are frustrated.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected].

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