Simeon Career Academy Vote of No Confidence
Monday, July 15, 2019
To CPS and the Simeon LSC:
This Letter of No Confidence is being written on behalf of the staff of Simeon Career Academy in order to express our concern about the ability of Principal Michelle Brumfield to adequately operate and lead our school. While we understand the difficulty of entering a school mid-year, and we have repeatedly attempted to facilitate a smooth transition for Ms. Brumfield during this time period, it has become apparent that Ms. Brumfield is incapable of fulfilling the role of principal at Simeon Career Academy.
This Letter of No Confidence will outline the ways in which Ms. Brumfield is incompetent for this position, including her:
1. Failure to Communicate Effectively
2. Failure to Utilize the Administrative Team
3. Failure to Ensure Student Discipline
4. Failure to Complete REACH Evaluations
5. Failure to Engage in Professional Relationships with CTU Members
6. Refusal to Accept Support
These incompetencies have been documented between December 2018 and June 2019, and are supported through the Professional Problem Committee (PPC) minutes, as well as in Local School Council (LSC) reports by Teacher Representatives.
1. Failure to Communicate Effectively:
Ms. Brumfield refused to communicate in a timely and effective manner. Beginning with her arrival in November, staff repeatedly asked for more and clearer communication from Ms. Brumfield. Staff made these requests via email, in person, and through the PPC. While Ms. Brumfield often stated in conversation and meetings that she was providing timely and clear communication, she has, in fact, failed to provide either. This not only shows a lack of professionalism on the part of Ms. Brumfield, it has led to chaos because of the lack of information and has negatively impacted the school climate by undermining the safety and security of the staff and students.
2. Failure to Be Present in the Building and Utilize the Administrative Team:
Ms. Brumfield’s presence in the common areas of the building was severely lacking. In spite of introducing herself in a series of Town Hall Meetings shortly after her arrival at Simeon, Ms. Brumfield spent so much time in her office that it took until well after Winter Break for students to recognize her as an administrator in the building, let alone as the new principal. Simultaneously, teachers could not reach Ms. Brumfield to address concerns or answer questions, as Ms. Brumfield refused to answer emails, and could not be found in the building on teacher prep time or before / after school hours.
Between December and May, student altercations broke out in the hallways at an increasing rate because of the lack of administrative presence. It was documented repeatedly through student video recordings and teacher witnesses that Ms. Brumfield left the scene of these altercations. These altercations hit such an peak in March and April, and Ms. Brumfield was totally absent from the building, that the Network came in to the building to restore order.
Because of Ms. Brumfield’s absence, the Assistant Principal Ms. Mathews attempted to maintain order and continuity in the building. However, Ms. Brumfield has made a concerted effort not to include Ms. Mathews in her decisions or communications, and appears to be downright hostile towards Ms. Mathews. For example, Ms. Brumfield led teachers to listen to Ms. Mathews’ directives on certain topics, and then undermined those directives once teachers began to follow them. A second Assistant Principal was hired at the beginning of February, Mr. Love. Staff have seen similar divisive tactics used against Mr. Love by Ms. Brumfield, even though she brought him onto her administrative team herself. Again, Ms. Brumfield assigned Mr. Love certain administrative tasks, informed staff of this, and then chastised staff for going to Mr. Love to handle those issues.
Ms. Brumfield has failed to create a cohesive administrative team to lead Simeon. This failure has led not only to a lack of trust in the ability of the administration to lead, but to an increased chaos and lack of connection between staff and administration, and to a lack of safety for students and staff.
3. Failure to Ensure Student Discipline:
The PPC has raised concerns about discipline since the beginning of the 2018-2019 school year. Staff have asked repeatedly for professional development on implementing the new Restorative Justice procedures, as well as asking for more personnel in the Dean’s Office to help implement these new practices at a school-wide level. Ms. Brumfield has repeatedly failed to follow through on these requests in spite of both having Flex Professional Development days with no other scheduled PD and in spite of hiring a second Assistant Principal who was immediately put in charge of School Climate. These requests were also ignored in spite of the increased altercations between students, the increased disrespect towards teachers by students, and the increased lack of safety felt by both teachers and students.
Because of the lack of discipline between December 2018 and June 2019, Simeon students were increasingly empowered to roam the hallways and engage in low-level interruptive tactics in the classroom, undermining the climate and safety of the building. This was in direct response to the absence of Ms. Brumfield in the building, and her failure to implement either the CPS Student Code of Conduct or general school policies to maintain order. During this time period, students were bullied, robbed, and jumped in alarming numbers. Students let outsiders into the building and brought weapons to school. Teachers were cursed at, threatened with bodily harm, and assaulted. When teachers asked for student disciplinary records in order to assure the safety of themselves and other students, and in order to assure that students were getting the support services they needed, they were denied access to those records.
This failure to ensure safety in Simeon has led not only to an unsafe working and learning environment, it has negatively impacted student enrollment.
4. Failure to Complete REACH Evaluations:
Under Ms. Brumfield’s administration, fewer than 30% of staff members had evaluations finalized. While there was a team of administrators evaluating in the building, Ms. Brumfield, specifically, proved that she had little knowledge of the REACH process or technology as a whole. Concerns about procedural errors in the REACH process were raised by staff, and were then ignored by Ms. Brumfield. CPS was made aware of this situation and scheduled their own process to help Ms. Brumfield correct these errors. Ms. Brumfield did not follow through with these communications, and her high rate of absenteeism from the building led CPS to be unable to complete this process.
REACH Evaluations not only provide information to the school community about instruction in the building, they also provide teachers with necessary feedback on their areas of strength and weakness in order to grow as professionals. An administrator who is not invested in growing faculty and staff is not invested in supporting the school community as a whole. This failure to complete REACH Evaluations, and Ms. Brumfield's underlying ineptitude with the REACH system, was particularly alarming given the large number of new and untenured teachers that Simeon had during the 2018-2019 school year. For this group of teachers, REACH acts as a component of their mentorship and helps to provide the supports needed to remain both a teacher and a teacher at Simeon.
At the end of the school year, once the REACH Evaluation Cycle was closed, Ms. Brumfield disciplined certain teachers. She claimed she was doing this under the guise of the teachers failure to perform their “Professional Responsibilities”, a REACH Evaluation Domain. However, it was not done in a timely fashion so that staff had any way to correct their behavior during this school year, nor during the 2018-2019 REACH Evaluation Cycle. Some of these teachers have since been denied transfers by Ms. Brumfield, in spite of finding work elsewhere. Others now face a hostile work environment when they return next year, as Ms. Brumfield has already proven she is targeting staff through the disciplinary process.
5. Failure to Engage in Professional Relationships with CTU Members:
There have been 7 grievances filed at Simeon this year. This is more than in the past 5 years, combined. While several of these grievances were issues that began prior to the arrival of Ms. Brumfield, and 2 of those prior grievances have been remedied, Ms. Brumfield has been hostile to working with staff to remedy workplace complaints. In fact, when the first concern about a contractual breach because of her own policy was brought to Ms. Brumfield, instead of having a conversation and working towards solutions in the school, her response was that she would change her policy only once staff proved their complaint via the grievance process. This not only undermines the ability of staff to trust Ms. Brumfield’s understanding of contractual rights and her ability to create a welcoming work environment, it costs the district (and Simeon directly) money. At this point, there are 5 outstanding grievances in appeal – 2 because of Ms. Brumfield’s refusal to even schedule a time to hear or respond to the grievance, and 3 because of Ms. Brumfield’s refusal to appropriately compensate staff.
The budget Ms. Brumfield presented to the LSC for the 2019-2020 school year showed no closed or lost positions. However, our Programmer, who worked through the Post-Secondary Office, was cut on June 1st. The LSC was told that this position was “closed” due to “personnel reasons”, which include evaluations or discipline, and that someone from “inside the building” had been identified to take over this programming position. Just three hours prior to this statement to the June LSC meeting, however, the PPC was told by Ms. Brumfield that the programmer was let go in order to bring in someone from outside of Simeon who had more experience in connecting students to Dual Enrollment Programs and the City Colleges. It must be noted that the Programmer's evaluations showed no areas of concern, nor was there any disciplining of the Programmer this year: thus, there were no "personnel reasons".
In the bigger picture, this failure of Ms. Brumfield to protect the working conditions of Simeon staff and engage in building professional relationships has directly led Simeon teachers to seek positions elsewhere. At the close of the school year, 15% of faculty reported that they were seeking employment elsewhere.
6. Refusal to Accept Support:
Ms. Brumfield was introduced to the Simeon staff the last day of Quarter 1, during our full day Professional Development. Between that start date and Winter Break, Ms. Brumfield was offered support from every group of organized staff in the building. This included, but was not limited to: Department Chairpeople, the PPC, the Counseling Department, the Discipline Office, the Attendance Office, Main Office staff (clerks and Assistant Principal), and the ILT. At each of these levels, Ms. Brumfield expressed her thanks for the offer, and then failed to follow through or show any interest in collaborating with the existing structures of the school community. She refused to communicate in pro-active ways, to disseminate information, or to respond to emails or direct requests to meet or discuss Simeon's current policies and climate. She failed to show up to scheduled meetings, arrived unprepared, or spent the duration of her time at those meetings on her phone disengaged from the meeting itself. When it was brought to her attention that these things were detrimental to the morale and climate of Simeon, she withdrew further, citing that it was the staff and students who were hostile to her.
In conclusion, Simeon needs a principal who is a strong and diplomatic leader, and who understands both the history of Simeon as a community CTE school and who is able to promote the future vision of Simeon as a school community. Simeon needs a principal who understands the needs of our particular student body, who is deeply invested in the growth of our staff, and who is invested in balancing our core academic courses with our CTE programs. Simeon needs a principal who has experience keeping order and implementing discipline in a school, and who is also invested in communicating with and empowering those in the building to support each other.
Ms. Brumfield has repeatedly proven that not only is she unable to engage in these ways, but that she is unwilling to do so when offered support from the existing community of students, staff, and parents.
As such, we have No Confidence in the administration of Ms. Brumfield, and respectfully request that she be removed from the principalship of Simeon Career Academy.
The Staff of Simeon Career Academy