Higgelty Piggelty! 
 
Dr. Trotter's Letter to Fulton County's Superintendent
about Principal's Mistreatment
of High School Teacher!
 
(All names have been redacted except for those of
Dr. Trotter, the Superintendent, and Attorney Ramay.)
 
 
 When Might Teachers Pee? 

     

October 3, 2006

 

 

 

James Wilson, Superintendent

Fulton County Schools

786 Cleveland AVE, SW

Atlanta, GA  30315

 

 

Dear Mr. Wilson:

 

     I write this on behalf of Myrtice Shield, a teacher at Franklin High School, who is being unprofessionally treated by Franklin’s Principal, Milton Piggelty.  It would appear that Principal Piggelty has targeted Ms. Shield because she opted to write a referral of an “Honors” student who continually used profanity in her classroom.  Principal Piggelty not only had Ms. Shield’s pay unfairly and inappropriately docked, but he also wrote a factually-bereft conference summary in which he threatened to place Ms. Shield on a Professional Development Plan (PDP).  There have been numerous complaints over the past few years from MACE members who teach at Franklin.  MACE has staged pickets the past couple of years at Franklin on behalf of these members; however, Principal Piggelty seems not to care a whit about the professional and ethical treatment of his staff.  MACE does, though!    

 

     On August 30, 2006, a tenth grade male student continually used profanity while Ms. Shield endeavored to teach the “Honors” class.  After asking him several times to stop cursing and to sit down, Ms. Shield told him that she would refer him to an administrator, which she did.  The student, rather than follow Ms. Shield’s valid direction, chose to call his mother on his mobile device even though Ms. Shield told him several times to put away the phone.  Ms. Shield even heard him use profanity while talking on the phone.  (Incidentally, the student use of cell phone in the classroom is a violation of the Georgia Statutory Code.)  A conference was held with the student’s mom, with Administrative Assistant Gilmore, and with Ms. Shield.  Although the mom admitted her son does have a problem with the use of profanity, she was more concerned with her perception that the school was “picking on” her children.  (Her daughter had had problems at Franklin in previous school years, and the mom stated that her son’s current problem probably resulted from that, even though no shred of proof exists to substantiate such a claim.)  The bottom line?  The student was assigned ISS; however, it is doubtful that he ever served the punishment.  (Ms. Shield was unable to obtain verification of such assignment.) 

 

     After the conference, Ms. Shield needed to use the restroom.  While she was thus occupied, Principal Piggelty supposedly summoned her via intercom.  He wrote:  “At 11 a.m. [sic] Franklin High School’s administration called into your classroom and made two all [sic] calls via the PA system to meet with you in the main office to discuss concerns pertaining to your recent parent conference pertaining to a student whom you stated used profanity in the classroom.  Ms [sic] Gilmore, the administrator that [sic] facilitated the parent conference, and I were concerned about inconsistencies highlight [sic] during the parent conference.  We were unable to find you from the hours [sic] of 11 a.m. and 11:35 a.m.  You stated that you were in the restroom for the unaccounted for time.  I shared with you my concerns related to the unaccounted for time and issued a duties and responsibilities notification explaining expectations related to campus leave during the school day.  You reluctantly signed the notification [sic] which included your written rebuttal.” [sic]  Quite frankly, these statements boggle my mind!  First, there was no inconsistency in the parent conference.  Ms. Shield sought administrative assistance to quell a student’s continuous use of profanity during class.  The parent admitted her son had a “problem” with using profanity, and punishment was meted out.  What possible credence could then be given the parent’s unsubstantiated, unwarranted assertions that the referral occurred as a result of how her daughter had been treated at Franklin by other school personnel years before?  It seems obvious that Principal Piggelty wanted to affect Ms. Shield so that she would refrain from writing up another student. 

 

     Second, Principal Piggelty infers that Ms. Shield’s right to go to the restroom while at Franklin is “unaccounted for time” and “campus leave.”  That also boggles the mind!  How can a supervisor say that time spent in the restroom answering the call of nature is “unaccounted for” and “campus leave”?  Now, I can understand it being “campus leave” if Ms. Shield were to leave Franklin’s physical plant to answer the call of nature actually in nature; however, she did not.  She was at Franklin in a restroom.  What does Principal Piggelty want his staff to do when nature calls?  Reach for a rubber band?  Cross their legs?  I would hope that Fulton County Schools does not countenance such an unenlightened policy.  Also, I find it quite telling that Principal Piggelty writes that he was unable to find Ms. Shield “from the hours [sic] of 11 a.m. and 11:35 a.m.  That is not an hour, hardly “hours,” so why does Principal Piggelty write it thusly?  I believe he does so as to make it appear that Ms. Shield’s restroom time was more than it actually was, answering the call of nature.  It would seem that he exaggerated reality so as to make Ms. Shield look as if she had indeed been away for some “unaccounted for time,” which, of course she was not.  This is underscored by his statement that he “issued a duties and responsibilities notification explaining expectations related to campus leave during the school day.”  She went to the restroom following an impromptu parent conference.  Is that so deserving of such an administrative response?  And is his statement that Ms. Shield “reluctantly signed the notification” necessary?  Besides, does Principal Piggelty possess psychological training that would allow him to assess her reluctance to sign the unfair document?  She did, in fact, sign it and did append a statement of rebuttal.  How does that signify reluctance on her part?  What I believe it signifies is that Principal Piggelty neither expected nor wanted her opinion about the matter.  Ms. Shield did and does have an opinion about the matter. 

 

     After leaving the restroom, Ms. Shield met with Principal Piggelty and Administrative Assistant Gilmore, a meeting Ms. Shield found professionally distressing and personally unnerving.  She told Principal Piggelty at least thrice that she “needed space” and at least twice that she wanted “representation” during the meeting.  (He had Administrative Assistant Gilmore as his “representation.”)  Principal Piggelty refused to end the meeting and refused to allow Ms. Shield to have representation.  He threatened her with being cited for insubordination should she leave his office until he dismissed her.  Ms. Shield states:  “The conversation escalated to a point where communication between he and I became extremely ineffective.  Mr. Piggelty insisted that I had performed inadequately and I contended that I had done nothing wrong, especially to the point of needing a written reprimand.  The meeting eventually reached a point of great intensity and our points of view were so divergent that I felt that I needed and expressed the concern for receiving Union representation.  Mr. Piggelty denied that representation.  I conveyed to him I was under the impression that our meeting was to discuss the circumstances and facts surrounding the student referral.  As implied by his intent and actions, the student’s referral incident became a secondary issue.  I expressed to Mr. Piggelty that I did not agree with nor did I believe this situation warranted the exchange of a written reprimand concerning my duties and responsibilities.  He told me that I needed to sign the write-up before leaving his office or I would be written up for insubordination.”  I agree with Ms. Shield that Principal Piggelty’s actions seem very over-the-top for a follow-up to such an innocuous parent conference.  His subsequent behavior that day lends credence to such thought.

 

     After signing the unwarranted “duties and responsibilities notification,” Ms. Shield informed Principal Piggelty that she would be leaving campus for the Administrative Building as she had an appointment to meet with the TAG coordinator.  She told the department chair and signed out around 12:30 p.m.  Fifteen minutes later, she arrived at the Administrative Building, from which she departed around 2:50 p.m., returning to Franklin around 3:10 p.m.  She checked in and let her department chair know that she was back.  According to Ms. Shield, while at the Administrative Building, she encountered you in a hallway when she was trying to locate a particular administrator.  You supposedly showed her to the office and engaged in conversation with her.  Ms. Shield tells me that the two of you discussed “slowing down the curriculum” being presented to “Honors” students because they did not have the appropriate background to plow through the curriculum as written (Ms. Shield says that you agreed to such a “slowing down” so as “to meet the needs of the students”) and how the Central Office needs to support teachers at Franklin because they are “harassed” and because of their “low morale” (Ms. Shield says that you told her to speak with Fred Dukes, which she did around 2:45 p.m., being told that he would “call Milton”).  Mr. Dukes did phone Principal Piggelty because, the next day, he confronted Ms. Shield, who said Principal Piggelty told her:  “Fred called me and asked what’s going on in your office.  I told him Ms. Shield was having a bad day.”  Well, yes, Ms. Shield was having “a bad day,” one that was compounded by Principal Piggelty’s bad professionalism. 

 

     For instance, in the factually-bereft conference summary he produced, Principal Piggelty wrote:  “You also left campus today following our meeting without properly securing approval.  Leaving campus without proper prior approval violates the expectations given to you during our meeting. . . .  Via this correspondence [sic] I am directing Dr. Sherlock, our CASE administrator; [sic] to mark your absence as unexcused from 12noon [sic] today until 3:50 p.m. [sic]  Dr. Sherlock will also submit the appropriate paperwork to Mr. Pynchon, our LS1 facilitator, to ensure that payroll responds accordingly.”  Now, Principal Piggelty’s “expectations,” which he terms, “corrective measure” on the “duties and responsibilities notification,” are that, prior to leaving campus, Ms. Shield should “secure prior permission from the principal and sign-out [sic] via [sic] the front office.”  She did this.  She informed Principal Piggelty at the conclusion of the conference that she had a scheduled meeting with the TAG coordinator.  She also informed her department chair, which was not part of the “corrective measure,” and signed out appropriately in the front office.  Upon her return to Franklin, she signed in and informed her department chair.  How has she violated anything?  I suggest that Principal Piggelty has violated ethical codes as well as law in having Ms. Shield’s pay docked.  Not one minute should be deducted from her pay, especially the thirty minutes from 12:00 p.m. until 12:30 p.m. prior to her leaving Franklin for her meeting at the Administrative Building and the forty minutes from 3:10 p.m. until 3:50 p.m. when she was at Franklin, having returned from the Administrative Building.  How can Principal Piggelty justify those seventy minutes being docked from Ms. Shield’s pay?  Indeed, how can he justify any minutes being docked from her pay?  If anything, Principal Piggelty should have his pay docked as a moral lesson in not using an employee’s finances as a tool with which to wage unprofessional treatment in an apparent effort to exert control.        

 

     What truly concerns me, though, is Principal Piggelty’s statements in that highly-suspect conference summary about Ms. Shield as a teacher.  He wrote:  “After addressing the accounted for time, we then discussed concerns you shared with me pertaining to your classroom management, specifically, assistance with classroom design that supports will [sic] effective classroom management, your concerns pertaining to student engagement (homework participation), and strategies to use when working with non-compliant students.  During our meeting [sic] suggestions to alleviate the aforementioned classroom management concerns were provided, specifically, you were advised to observe the science department chair’s use of the same room for classroom design ideas and strategies that supports [sic] effective classroom instruction.  You were also offered a DVD on classroom management [sic] and you were offered a copy of the book The Educator’s Guide to Preventing and Solving Discipline Problems.  You were not receptive to any of the provided suggestions.  You were asked to provide some suggestions that might help you to effectively [sic] manage your classroom.  You offer [sic] no suggestions within your scope of control.  At that time [sic] I recommended that a Professional Development Plan be created to support you.  You became upset and walked out of our meeting.  This behavior is insubordinate and counter [sic] productive.”  The counter-productive behavior is not that of Ms. Shield.  It is Principal Piggelty’s.  Ms. Shield’s immediate concern was with the particular “Honors” student who would not stop cursing during her instruction.  What remedy is there for this that Ms. Shield would glean from watching a “DVD on classroom management” or reading a book?  The best corrective measure for such an offense is removal from the class for a period of time, which supposedly occurred after a parent conference.  Just because the parent opined that her children had been singled out at Franklin hardly warrants Principal Piggelty’s subsequent inquisition of Ms. Shield, a ten-year veteran teacher who, because of her passion to teach, left lucrative employment in the private sector to share her experience and knowledge with kids.  Ms. Shield, a nuclear chemist by trade, has worked with Georgia Power, the Environment Protection Agency, and the Centers for Disease Control.  She possesses the pedigree that any worthwhile principal would want on his/her staff.  Principal Piggelty, I contend, displays his unworthiness to be a principal in his handling of Ms. Shield.  Not only does he fail as an educational leader to provide appropriate support for Ms. Shield within the scope of his control (rather than discuss ways with her that might militate against “Honors” students who lack proper background to pursue the established curriculum being “non-compliant,” he directs her to watch a DVD and read a book), he also apparently purposefully misrepresents Ms. Shield’s reaction to his inappropriate support. 

 

     Ms. Shield did not walk out of the meeting prior to its conclusion.  She walked out when it was over, telling Principal Piggelty that she would be leaving campus for a meeting with the TAG coordinator.  Although she was professionally concerned about Principal Piggelty’s comments during the meeting, she was not “upset,” and I challenge Principal Piggelty to explain his training in psychology that justifies his inclusion of his assessment of Ms. Shield’s mental state in such a conference summary.  Ms. Shield writes:  “In my opinion, this meeting was conducted in an unprofessional manner and I was treated very unfairly.  Mr. Piggelty created a very hostile environment for me in his office and I was very uncomfortable.”  What teacher would not be uncomfortable when, out of the blue, a principal threatens to place him/her on a Professional Development Plan when that principal has yet even to observe the teacher?  What Ms. Shield has gleaned from this affair is that she should not share any professional concern with Principal Piggelty because he, rather than discuss the concern with her in a rational, professional manner as you did when you met Ms. Shield in the hallway at the Administrative Building, will use such sharing to intimate that Ms. Shield has some deficiency that necessitates remediation.  She does not.  Ms. Shield, as she told you, is concerned that “Honors” students are ill-prepared for the rigors of a high school science “Honors” class and that they should not be penalized for their lack of background knowledge.  She wanted to go slower through the curriculum, and you agreed.  Such agreement occurred in less than twenty minutes of impromptu conversation in the hallway of an Administrative Building.  Why could such agreement not occur in twice that amount of time at the school?  The reason is, I believe, that Principal Piggelty could care less about the needs of his staff or of the students under his control.  I believe that he cares only for the petty exercise of his control of the people forced to be within the confines of Franklin High School.

 

     I ask you to intercede on behalf of Ms. Shield as well as on behalf of the other teachers at Franklin as well as on behalf of their students.  I tire of having to deal with these unnecessary issues that Principal Piggelty creates through his botched undertakings at Franklin.  This will be the fourth year in a row that MACE will have to make a negative pilgrimage to Franklin on behalf of teachers and students; however, this attention from MACE will quickly devolve from Principal Piggelty onto you.  As Fulton County’s Superintendent, you are responsible for the actions of the administrators you allow to function within the schools under your sway.  It beggars my conscience that, in consideration of the public good, you would allow this administrative goofball to continue to pervert professional ethics in his apparent mission to empower himself at the expense of all around him. 

 

                                                                        Respectfully,

 

 

 

                                                                        John R. A. Trotter, Ed.D.,J.D.

 

JRAT/pt

 

Copy:  Ms. Myrtice Shield

          Mr. J. Anderson Ramay, Jr., General Counsel, MACE

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