116 3rd St SE
Cedar Rapids, Iowa 52401
Washington Elementary School Principal Terry Eisenbarth's birthday spankings have ignited a heated debate.
But “whapping” students' backsides is the tip of the iceberg, according to some of the school's teachers, who have been raising concerns about Eisenbarth's behavior since he first walked in the schoolhouse doors.
As far back as November, a half-dozen teachers gave Mount Vernon School District Superintendent Pam Ewell a list of 48 “unprofessional and inappropriate behaviors” that concerned them about their new principal (This was Eisenbarth's first year at the school - his fourth school since earning his master's degree in 2005.)
They complained that Eisenbarth didn't know the curriculum. That he was impulsive, moody, disrespectful and snide. (Eisenbarth declined to comment Friday, saying his attorney has advised against it.) They said he favored some students and made derogatory comments about others, that he failed to collect important data or offer academic assessment or suggestions and violated student confidentiality.
In January, teachers complained again to Ewell that while some concerns had been addressed, other issues remained or worsened.
Eisenbarth continued yelling at staff and appeared to retaliate against anyone who criticized him, they wrote. They worried about the effect his leadership was having on staff and students.
And just this week, in a letter of no confidence signed by 12 teachers and 10 more who remained anonymous, they told school board members that Eisenbarth's actions “from August to the present, have created an unstable and hostile work environment.”
“We have done our best to communicate and follow the appropriate protocol in this situation,” they wrote. “The tension has escalated significantly with each of the previous efforts to seek appropriate remediation.”
Now, the board has asked attorneys to investigate their claims. David Winkelmann, of the Gruhn Law Firm, told me Friday that attorneys hope to wrap up their investigation in the next week, but that he hopes to see the results of a related Linn County Sheriff's Office criminal investigation before the board takes any action.
Rumors are flying in every direction, of course, now that the lid is off whatever's been brewing at Washington Elementary for the better part of a year. There are a million unanswered questions.
Some big ones: Why is the board just hearing about this now that the year is over? Did teachers' complaints just fall on deaf ears?
Comments: (319) 339-3154; firstname.lastname@example.org