Ontario High School. (Enterprise/File)
ONTARIO – Three teachers from Ontario High School resigned within less than a month, one of them alleging in his letter of resignation he was bullied and intimidated by school administration, a claim school and district officials said they were unaware of.
School and Ontario School District officials said they are taking the allegations seriously and are currently investigating the claims, but only first heard of them on the day Chad Mann, the alternative education teacher, resigned from his position on Tuesday, Feb. 4.
Mann outlined the reasons he is unable to continue at the school, citing in his letter, “the level of stress, lack of job security due to administrative intimidation and overall hostile work environment at Ontario High School.”
Mann confirmed the investigation, and said he was contacted about the matter. He otherwise declined comment.
Jodi Elizondo, Ontario High School principal, wrote in an email to the Enterprise that the “highly charged and sweeping accusations,” brought by Mann would have prompted an immediate response from the Oregon Education Association if brought to its attention.
“We would have expected to hear something from someone if accusations such as these were true or even perceived to be true. The district is very thorough about investigating any claim and works regularly with the union on many levels,” Elizondo wrote.
School and district officials said no such claims or similar allegations to those made by Mann in his letter had ever come up in the past by him or any other educator in the district.
“Ontario School District takes these types of allegations very seriously,” Nicole Albisu, Ontario School District superintendent, wrote in an email to the Enterprise.
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“The district began conducting a thorough investigation of the claims that Mr. Mann described in his letter immediately upon receipt of his resignation,” Albisu wrote.
She said the district is not investigating the claims per Mann’s request, but is doing so “because it’s the right thing to do and it’s our job.”
The two other teachers that resigned include, math teacher Loma Bittick, who submitted her letter of resignation on Friday, Jan. 24, and English Language Development teacher Mayra Rodriguez, who submitted hers on Friday, Jan. 31.
Bittick cited the reason for her resignation in her letter being a position offered to her “that will present opportunities for myself and my family which I cannot decline.”
In her resignation letter, Rodriguez offered to continue coaching at the school despite resigning from her position as the English Language Development teacher.
Bittick declined to comment for this story, and Rodriguez didn’t respond to a request for comment.
Bittick, and Mann are no longer at the school, but Rodriguez will stay in the classroom until the end of the school year, district officials said.
Eric Norton, district personnel director, said Rodriguez told him she resigned because “teaching might not be for her.”
Norton said the three departures, despite being within such close proximity, are not out of the ordinary for a school of Ontario High School’s size, which employs around 46 teachers.
According to data compiled by the district, 21 staff members either resigned or were terminated between 2018 and 2019.
Rodriguez and Mann were in their second year at the high school, while Bittick was in her third, Norton said.
Norton said that the school has already found a replacement for Bittick’s math class and Mann’s students now have a substitute.
Elizondo, said the school is currently interviewing for Rodriguez’s position to begin next year.
Norton added that Ontario School Board members are aware of the resignations.
In Mann’s letter he wrote, “The culture and work environment at OHS is not something I can work through anymore. Due to this fact, I am issuing my resignation from my position as the OTA teacher, yearbook teacher, site council member and Friday detention teacher.”
Mann wrote that, “based on previous actions of intimidation towards me,” he feels he is unable to approach administration with concerns.
“I currently feel like I am ignored and not a valued member of the teaching staff,” Mann wrote. “I find myself in dread, as if I am walking into a prison, every day when I leave my house for work. I do not want to feel like this anymore. No self-respecting human deserves to feel this when they go to work.”
Mann alleged that he was the target of administrative backlash after he brought to attention the inappropriate nature of school employee’s Instagram account.
“I was attacked for professionalism and felt bullied into silence,” Mann wrote.
Albisu said that the district doesn’t condone the behavior described in Mann’s letter, and that its first priority is to retain the best educators for its students.
She wrote, “Until recently, not one of the letters of resignation stated they were leaving because we are terrible and have treated them poorly… Sometimes teachers resign because they are unwilling or incapable of improving their poor performance when initiated by the school/district..”
“We need to have people that are willing to work hard, teach kids of all kinds, and do what it takes to help them succeed. If an individual is not willing or capable of doing that, they may need to move on,” Albisu added.
Elizondo said that the issues Mann detailed in his letter were only brought to the administration’s attention in a single conversation on the same day he resigned.
“Since he didn’t discuss it with anyone and he states a plethora of very serious and diverse issues we were not aware of, we can’t speak to his particular rationale,” Elizondo wrote. “We cannot understand or address what is never communicated.”
Elizondo continued, “The stress level, fear for his job, administrative intimidation and hostile work environment Mr. Mann claims he experienced was only known to him. He never shared any concerns with OHS or district administration and in fact, I personally always had a very positive relationship with Mr. Mann where he was comfortable coming to my office on his own just to chat.”
“It is unfortunate Mr. Mann chose to leave as he did. Not only did it disrupt the consistency for the alternative student class he was serving, it was a huge disruption to the yearbook class he taught, affecting their progress in meeting deadlines. This is something that means a lot to our students,” she wrote.
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