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A letter to Gary Richards September 15, 2007

Posted by Jeff in "Reality has a well-known liberal bias", "Voices Of Conflict", Drama in Wilton.

Dr. Gary Richards
Superintendent of Schools
Wilton Public Schools
395 Danbury Road
Wilton, CT 06897

Re: Bonnie Dickinson
Dear Dr. Richards:

As you know, Bonnie Dickinson has been a teacher in Wilton Schools since 1993. She has, as you do, copies of all of her evaluations and staff appraisals dating back to 1997. Each evaluation by the high school administrative staff concludes with Ms. Dickinson being referred to as an excellent, organized and supportive teacher.

Last April, Ms. Dickinson was the subject of a parent complaint. This complaint was investigated by Assistant Superintendent, Deborah Low, and the Head of Personnel, Ellen Andrews. In June, these two administrators wrote a report on the investigation that they conducted and certain “findings” were made.

In July, you made a statement to the local press in which you stated that “After receiving the complaint, we followed an investigative process that included administrative review of the complaint, an opportunity for both parties to be heard, and examination of the facts….” Ms. Dickinson does not agree with the statement that suggests that there was enough of “an opportunity for both parties to be heard” and she does not agree that there was “an examination of the facts”.

Given the severity of the charges made by the parent in the 50-page complaint (breach of student confidentiality, defamation, harassment, plagiarism, etc.) Ms. Dickinson had requested that the students who were directly involved in the play be called as witnesses, and their parents as well. This request was denied. Ms. Dickinson also submitted letters from her professors at New York University who teach teachers of Theatre Education, and letters from world renowned playwrights such as Edward Albee in defense of the scope and sequence of her teaching methods. None of these were mentioned in the findings of the report.

In that July release mentioned above, you went on to state: “After a thorough review, we found no evidence that would justify disciplinary action against Ms. Dickinson. We consider the matter concluded.” Ms. Dickinson was delighted by these words and received letters of congratulations from around the country based on your statement. By August 23, after a meeting with Principal Tim Canty and Ellen Andrews, we find that the July statement made by you was very misleading. At the end of the report were a series of “Recommendations” and the high school administration was directed to follow up on those “Recommendations” as “part of Ms. Dickinson’s 2008 Staff Appraisal”.

It is Ms. Dickinson’s view that the conclusions of the report were biased and made without due process. We contend that the findings were derived out of subject area ignorance and a lack of understanding of the methods and objectives in Educational Theatre. Instead she was held to the methods of a social studies teacher. No attempt was made by the investigators to research the methods of educational theatre. Ms. Dickinson and I believe that the “Recommendations” were biased by the fact that not one administrator from Wilton Public Schools attended any of the 16 performances of the play, Voices in Conflict. But more importantly, the findings of the report were retaliatory since the media and press had portrayed the Wilton High School administration in a very unfavorable light.

It is my and Ms. Dickinson’s understanding that she is on her in-depth appraisal year and that it is the school’s intent to proceed in accordance with the Staff Appraisal plan as would normally be done. In short, we feel that her 2008 Staff Appraisal has no connection to the findings of the unsubstantiated parent complaint of 2007 or to the play about Iraq. Nor should Tim Canty be her appraiser this year, nor should there be any attempt to “brief her new appraiser” or have the administration craft her 2008 professional goals based on the “recommendations of the report”. Ms. Dickinson is not doing a devised documentary play this year.

As stated above, Ms. Dickinson has been evaluated and appraised by Wilton school administrators as an “exemplary teacher” since 1996 and it is our understanding that based on your July statement, there will be no attempt to treat her any differently than any other teacher in his/her in depth staff appraisal year.

The Wilton students and Ms. Dickinson made a substantial contribution last year, both to the reputation of Wilton, in the educational and theatrical areas, and in the public debate on Iraq. For that they should be applauded. Ms. Dickinson should be honored and not harassed and intimidated. It seems to me that the position now taken by the school contradicts the position previously taken and dishonors a wonderful Wilton experience. It will help insure that such an experience will not happen again at Wilton. The losers will be Wilton High School, The People of Connecticut and public debate in the United States. Please do not put yourself in the position of having encouraged that personal and societal loss.

I request a meeting. I at least would like to tell you why I think this matter is so important.

      Very truly yours,
      Martin Garbus, Esq.

More on Voices In Conflict, including emails of the guilty parties.

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