Dr. Trotter Writes to Clayton County Superintendent Morcease Beasley About Principal Rochelle Harris of Mt. Zion Elementary School

Dear Dr. Beasley:

I know that you are not be as old as I am, but I have followed your career for the last twenty years or so and see that you have matriculated throughout a few schools and school systems from DeKalb County Schools to Port Arthur, Texas and back to DeKalb County Schools and down to the Clayton County Public Schools.  By the way, in my career, I started off at DeKalb’s Southwest DeKalb High School, and I also spent some very good and eventful years at the old Jonesboro Jr. High School in the early 1980s.  I also was a teacher in the Athens area and a school administrator in both South Georgia and North Georgia.  But, my greatest experience was living with and also teaching for my father who was a legendary teacher/coach/administrator in the Muscogee Country School District (this is the appellation that this system has been using for decades).  Like my father, I could discipline the students and run a very taut ship, and the disciplined students still respected me and him and lauded our fairness and kindness as a public school educator.  And I learned from my father that you always praise the teachers in public, and if any criticism was in order, you did this only in private.  You always allowed the teachers to save face.  We both realized that if you treated teachers with such fairness and allowed them to maintain their dignity that they would always go the extra mile to serve the students.  In short, leadership by inspiration is much more effective than leadership by intimidation.  Of course when I founded MACE on September 1, 1995, MACE’s mantra was announced to the world:  “You cannot have good learning conditions until you first have good teaching conditions” (MACE, © 1995).

Over the past two years, the MACE Office has received a sortie of complaints about Principal Rochelle Harris at Mount Zion Elementary School.  The complaints range from the constant derision of the teachers and the condescending upbraiding of the teachers in public and even the egregious violation of the State’s Complaint Law (O.C.G.A. 20-2-989.5).  It has been reported to the MACE Office that when one of the MACE Members filed an official complaint with Principal Harris that Principal Harris ostentatiously tore up the complaint form in front of the complaining teacher.  The State Code of Georgia Annotated specifically states that the complaining teacher has to file the complaint with his or her immediate supervision for the Level One hearing.  The State statute also specifically states in paragraph eight of the above-referenced statute that “the complainant has the right to present relevant evidence, to examine witnesses, and to be heard at each level.”  This statute also has a provision against administrative reprisals against the teacher for filing the complaint.  Principal Harris apparently engaged in an egregious and flagrant violation of the law as it pertains to Georgia educators.

It has also been reported to the MACE Office that after MACE conducted a picket in front of Mount Zion Elementary School in the 2019-2020 school year, Principal Harris and the lunchroom manager cornered one of the MACE Members the day after the picket, “taunt[ing] me in a bullying manner.”  I assure you that treating this teacher who has been teaching for over 20 years in the Clayton system “in a bulling manner” right after the MACE picket violates the First Amendment to the U. S. Constitution.  The Court has ruled unequivocally that union membership is freedom of association within the penumbra of the First Amendment and that such alleged action by Principal Harris created what The Court describes as “a chilling effect” on the First Amendment.

Dr. Beasley, I have only cited a few illustrious matters at the school, but MACE is officially requesting that your office investigate and address this sordid situation at Mount Zion Elementary School.

Respectfully:

John R. Alston Trotter, EdD, JD

Chairman of the MACE Board

 

c. School Board members

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