Education

Nashville teachers, school board disagree over district leadership

The Nashville High School teachers union has some concerns about the school district’s current leadership. But the school board doesn’t share those concerns.

A majority of the union’s members said they think Superintendent Ernie Fowler hasn’t been an effective leader since he was hired in 2015, according to a news release from the union.

“We believe that Mr. Fowler’s unprofessional approach to educational leadership has caused dysfunction in our district and failed to promote positive collegiality, which in turn negatively impacts our students and school climate,” the union stated.

The teachers on May 9 approved a no-confidence vote on Fowler. “We are aware of the gravity of such a vote and do not take it lightly,” they stated.

In a news release of their own, Nashville District 99 school board members called the teachers’ accusations “baseless and without merit.”

Jesus Christ was perfect and was killed for his actions. I guess I should be flattered that some want to hang me as well.

Ernie Fowler, Nashville District 99 superintendent

Christina Robinson, union co-president and high school teacher, said in an email to the News-Democrat that a letter was mailed to school board members asking for action. Board members stated in their release that they had no intention of firing the superintendent.

“We, the NCHS school board, believe that the students and families of District 99 are in good hands under the direction of Mr. Fowler,” they stated.

Fowler said he knows he can’t make everyone happy in his position. He responded to teachers’ complaints in a column for The Nashville News that he provided to the BND.

“I’m in good company. Santa Claus can’t make everybody happy. Jesus Christ was perfect and was killed for his actions,” he wrote in the column. “I guess I should be flattered that some want to hang me as well.”

We, the NCHS School Board, believe that the students and families of District 99 are in good hands under the direction of Mr. Fowler.

The Nashville District 99 School Board in a news release

Among the allegations against Fowler are:

▪  That he expresses support for teachers and student programs in private, “but when called upon to take action, Mr. Fowler bends to the will of others.”

In his column, Fowler said he supports teachers when they’re “doing the right thing.”

“I cannot support any teacher if I feel like a student has been treated unfairly. I cannot support a teacher if they provide misinformation to the public,” Fowler stated. “I want to support the teachers, but I expect the teachers to act in a manner that is proper.”

▪  That he fails to solicit teachers’ input about decisions that affect academics, extracurricular activities and scheduling. When input is sought, teachers say there is a failure to follow through or a “total disregard for the ideas from educators.”

Fowler stated that he rejects input when he thinks the advice wouldn’t benefit the entire district.

▪  That he spends district money “without being able to clearly justify the need for doing so” and discourages teachers from seeking grant money.

The superintendent said he considers himself to be “one of the most frugal ... people around” and that he “cautioned” teachers about grants.

“Some will cost the district money as they are only start up in nature,” he stated. “A grant may fund the first year of a project, but it will require the district to fund say years two to five.”

We believe that Mr. Fowler’s unprofessional approach to educational leadership has caused dysfunction in our district and failed to promote positive collegiality...

The Nashville High School teachers union in a news release

School board members pointed to an example of a time they said Fowler was a “good steward” of the district’s money; They say he “found several ways to save taxpayer funds” during a school building remodel.

Nashville District 99 had a roughly $5.4 million budget in 2017.

More than 400 students were enrolled at the high school in 2016, the latest demographics available from the state, and the district employed about 27 teachers.

Lexi Cortes: 618-239-2528, @lexicortes

Related stories from Belleville News-Democrat

  Comments