Support Brian Rollfinke
Below is a letter sent by a large group of parents to the Friends School of Baltimore Board of Trustees. Please sign your name and add supportive comments if you agree:
April 4, 2019
To the members of the Friends School of Baltimore Board of Trustees:
As parents of Friends School students, we are both shocked and dismayed that one of the school’s most revered and effective teachers, Middle School math teacher Brian Rollfinke, will not have his contract renewed for the 2019-2020 school year. While we respect the school administrators’ and Board’s role concerning matters involving personnel, in this particular case we cannot in good conscience remain silent. Our immediate request is for the Board and administration to adhere to the Quaker value of integrity and afford Mr. Rollfinke the opportunity to have this termination decision reviewed through a meaningful, impartial appeal process. Our overarching, and more long-range request is for Friends School to 1) establish a routine, uniform, and clear teacher evaluation process that is consistent with best practices in educational institutions; 2) allow teachers to have a full and fair opportunity to be heard and present evidence in their defense prior to disciplinary actions against them; and 3) establish a teacher appeal process for termination decisions.
It would be difficult to find a teacher at Friends who is more committed to teaching and supporting their students than Brian Rollfinke. As a testament to this, a large group of students protested outside the school in support of Mr. Rollfinke on March 28, and nearly 400 students have signed a petition in his support, with well over 100 impassioned comments such as, “Mr. Rollfinke has left an impact on me not only as a student, but also as a person. He is the best math teacher I’ve had, and pushed me to build a new way of thinking by encouraging me and believing in me when other teachers have not,” “Mr. Rollfinke was a spectacular math teacher and one of the most supportive figures I’ve had at the school,” “For me Mr. Rollfinke’s room is a safe place. I can go [there] at Morning break, and be able to express myself in my own mathy ways, and I don’t want to lose that as I become an 8th grader next year. Please help us save our favorite Math Teacher,” “Mr. Rollfinke was one of my favorite, if not my favorite, teachers at the Friends School. He was a spectacular math teacher and one of the most supportive figures I’ve had at the school,” and “Mr. Rollfinke is everything that is great at Friends. He was my home room and math teacher. He sheparded me thru a rough middle school transition and made me love math. More than that, he is the heart of the middle school.” The petition and comments can be found here:
The decision to end Mr. Rollfinke’s career at Friends, after some 31 years of outstanding service to the school, seems to have been made on the basis of complaints raised by a handful of current 7th grade students over the last few months. We are confident that, if Mr. Rollfinke were credibly accused of any serious conduct that would jeopardize student safety (e.g. sexual assault or harassment) he would have been suspended immediately. The fact that he remains at school is telling, and supports our belief that the complaints fall into a gray, subjective area. To our understanding, the school made no attempt to meaningfully investigate the allegations by speaking with other students in the class who may have offered different perspectives or contradicted the charges in question. Similarly, there appears to have been no attempt to speak with colleagues who have worked closely with Mr. Rollfinke over many decades and who can attest to his strong character, commitment to teaching, and impeccable ethical standards. It is also deeply troubling that there is no system in place for the routine, uniform, and thorough evaluation of teachers that would provide meaningful feedback to both teachers and the administration about the quality of the school’s instructors, as well as context to the administration when students or parents make complaints about teachers. Further, there is no systematic resource in place (ombudsperson, human resources, or otherwise) that Mr. Rollfinke could have turned to for assistance in answering allegations concerning his conduct in the classroom. And lastly, there appears to be no procedure in place to appeal this decision to end a distinguished, 30-plus year career. In short, Brian Rollfinke was afforded no due process – a situation that is untenable to us and one wholly antithetical to school’s Quaker values of truth, equality, and peaceful resolution of conflict.
Please know we do not write this letter whimsically, or out of some blind allegiance to Mr. Rollfinke. Indeed, some of us whose names appear below have no longstanding relationships with him, but have only known him since the beginning of this school year. Yet the issues raised and message sent by the school’s decision concerning Mr. Rollfinke threaten to fracture the Friends community and cannot be ignored, with longtime and dedicated parent volunteers resigning from posts and families mounting a campaign to withhold future financial contributions to the school. Beyond the signatories of this letter, dozens of parents have communicated directly with Mr. Micciche and Mr. Golon to express their strong disapproval of both the process and decision in this matter.
We did not choose Friends because of its academic excellence alone – there are a number of schools in Baltimore with excellent academic reputations. We chose Friends because of its Quaker ethos. It is because of this that we cannot overemphasize our dismay at how the matter of Brian Rollfinke’s contract renewal at Friends has been handled thus far.
We urge the Board to take action immediately by affording Brian Rollfinke the due process he was denied. Ultimately, we hope that the decision will be reversed and his contract renewed.