Retain Bettie Grinnell in Galileo's Main Office
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Photo by Janice Chen, captioned: "Happy Birthday to Bettie, the heart of #ghssf! We appreciate all that you do for Galileo!" Click Here to see original Tweet.
Superintendent of Schools, Board of Education, Chief of Staff, Chief General Counsel, and Director of Office of Equity of the San Francisco Unified School District,
The community of Galileo Academy of Science and Technology collectively protests the decision to move Main Office Secretary Bettie Grinnell to the school Registrar's office.
Michael Reimer has been the principal of Galileo Academy of Science and Technology since August 2015. Reimer has been at the center of controversies revolving inequitable staffing practices for the past two school years. This time, such practice directly jeopardizes Grinnell’s long-term position in the Main Office.
Bettie Grinnell, a forty-five-year veteran on the Galileo Staff, started as a secretary back in 1972. She worked closely with twelve principals, and in the Main Office since 1998. Principals (including Reimer) recognized her as the heart of Galileo’s daily operations. In most cases, the principal also regards her as a close mentor, advisor, and friend. She has seen a lot in the school, and her experience would be helpful to the principal’s navigation in the school site. She was also promoted to “1446 Secretary II” position back in the 1990s. Her title and length of service makes her the second most senior and the highest ranking secretary at Galileo.
Near the last hours of Tuesday, May 30, 2017 (last work day for classified personnel), Grinnell was asked to enter Reimer’s office for a conversation. During this last-minute, unexpected meeting, Reimer informed Grinnell that she will no longer be working in the Main Office for the 2017-2018 school year, and she will be reassigned the Registrar’s role in the Counseling Office. (The position is currently being held by Iris Rivera, a relative new secretary who started in late 2016. It is assumed that Rivera will be reassigned to the Main Office consequently.)
Along with the reassignment, Reimer provides the following justifications:
- Grinnell does not have enough technology skill to staff the Main Office;
- The Main Office needs a Spanish-speaking staff to greet Spanish-speaking parents;
- Reimer heard from one of the administrators that Grinnell hates Reimer.
An anonymous source also revealed that Reimer justified to his supervisor, Assistant Superintendent of High Schools Bill Sanderson, that Grinnell is racist towards African American and Latino students.
While as a principal Reimer has the power to reassign duties to staff members he oversees, the community does not agree with the reasons provided by Reimer are justifiable for this reassignment. As the community protests the decision and calls for its rescindment, we present the following rebuttals and arguments for retaining Grinnell in the Main Office.
- Seniority and Experience. Grinnell is the second most senior classified staff and the second longest-serving member. “She knows it all” and “go ask Bettie if you don’t know” describe her valuable experiences and the large amount of information she can efficiently provide to anyone in need. She is an expert on substitute assignments. She developed a system for all sub coverages and built a broad network, one that comes in handy for teachers in need of a trusted and familiar face to cover their classes. This personal network will shatter and damage all ends if she is reassigned, and the Main Office will be in chaos when there are shortages for substitute.
- Qualification for Registrar. Reimer claims that Grinnell does not have enough technology skill to staff the Main Office; where, in reality, the only technology skills she need are printing schedules and rosters, inputting time roll and staff attendance, managing sub requests and coverage, distribute teacher and department mails, track office and water supplies, and using the phone and the fax machine. The Main Office does not require Grinnell to have expert tech skills, and she completes all her tasks efficiently every day. In contrast, the Registrar’s office is highly technical and Internet-based, with training required for (1) Synergy SIS to register new students and generate transcripts, (2) Synergy Gradebook to enter report card grades, (3) Illuminate to track student achievement and testing data, (4) iDepot to print student ID cards, and (5) School Messenger to send out auto-dialer calls. Aside from using the phone, printer and fax machine, the Registrar’s office requires a much more rigorous technology training and knowledge compared to the Main Office. The principal’s justification for low technology skill is contradictory to the reassigned role.
- Communication Skills. Grinnell is a Professor in Communications. Her skill and expertise are extremely useful to the daily interactions in the Main Office. Her strength in communications combines with her sea of knowledge to produce fast, efficient, and accurate information when visitors and members of the community enter the office for specific inquiries. The use of her skills and knowledge will be limited once she is reassigned the Registrar’s role, as she will be staring into the computer most of the time. Faculty, staff, and students will continue to rely on Grinnell for help and information (for “she knows it all”), and that would hypothetically add on to her workload as the Registrar, aside from the pressure on the new technology in her role.
- Inequity of service. Reimer presents the justification that the Main Office requires someone who speaks Spanish, and Grinnell is not one. In reality, many Spanish-speaking visitors are parents who are trying to locate the Registrar’s Office to enroll their students, then are redirected to the Counseling Office. If Grinnell is reassigned to the Registrar’s Office, she will be put in a much tougher place where Spanish skills are much more needed; whereas the current Registrar speaks fluent Spanish and is able to use that to the office’s advantage.
[Personal note: And hey! Are you not going to provide language services to parents speaking Cantonese, Tagalog, Vietnamese, or Arabic? Where’s their place in the Main Office that hypothetically emphasizes Spanish only? No one is perfect and that’s why there’s something called team work! You can easily redirect parents or call for help, needless of the reassignment!]
- “The Face of Galileo.” In the tweet above from Assistant Principal Janice Chen, she appreciated Grinnell’s service and complimented her as the “Heart of [Galileo]”. From the highest level of the administration, to the broader level of induvial students, teachers and parents, the whole community appreciates Grinnell for her hard work and dedication every day in the Main Office. She does not hate, nor does she discriminate. She welcomes everyone and will help them to her best. From a small call home, a favor to print out homework, an inquiry of a classroom location, to a request for supplies, she complies and helps you however she can. Maybe people do not remember the name “Bettie”, but people remember what Grinnell has done for them. It is true, as Maya Angelou said, “At the end of the day people won't remember what you said or did, they will remember how you made them feel.” Grinnell is someone that holds Galileo together, and someone that make others remember Galileo as a welcoming and friendly space.
- Discrimination of Age. This reassignment exemplifies characteristics of Age Discrimination in her work situation. The Age Discrimination in Employment Act (ADEA) forbids age discrimination against people over 40. This reassignment places Grinnell at a less desirable work location (reasons presented above) and replaces her position with a younger staff. This is an attempt by the principal to force her retirement, or taking the chances to find legitimate reasons for termination in her expected decrease in efficiency as the registrar. (And keep in mind that she is an efficient worker in the Main Office to start off with, and will have some struggle figuring out all the new online systems for the new role.)
- Center of Positivity. Since the rolling-out of the School Climate and Culture Survey as part of the School Qualify Improvement Index (SQII) two year ago, members of Galileo community reported a low sense of belonging and security*. Galileo was recently given a two-year probation by the Western Association of Schools and Colleges (WASC) Accreditation Commission for Schools partly for its low school climate and morale. Grinnell, on the other hand, has been the center of positivity at Galileo. Despite the fact that the school has low morale, everyone knows they can “depend on Bettie” when in need, knowing she will be an ally and be of help when asked. Furthermore, Grinnell goes beyond her job and provides the staff with special treats during holidays and appreciation events. She has been a key person in appreciating teachers and retirees, and her care extends beyond the Main Office. The Grinnell Main Office remains a safe place for everyone asking for help, or maybe for just stopping by and chatting a bit after a long, exhausting day.
[*Sense of Belonging Data: student average at 51% favorable (1463 responses), staff average at 49% favorable (129 responses). District average at 60% and 72% with margins of -8% and -25% respectively. Data taken from Social-Emotional and Culture Climate Report, 2015-16.]
- Personal Prejudice and Abuse of Power. As you survey random faculty and students and ask them to describe Reimer as a principal, many would use the world “authoritarian”. This reassignment is an example of Reimer’s abuse of power, for it is a decision based on a personal prejudice that evolved from a rumor he heard. Reimer places “hatred” and “racism” on Grinnell’s dedication and service for all members of the community. Grinnell works hard to assist the principal even when they disagree, and the trust in the supervisor-staff relationship is invaluable to a high morale and healthy culture. This reassignment shows no trust of Grinnell from Reimer, breaking up the working dynamics of many others whose jobs are interconnected to Grinnell and the Main Office. This reassignment will worsen the workplace culture that is on the verge of breaking up. It places fear of repercussion on many staff members after disagreement with the principal, one that has become a pattern at Galileo. Grinnell is not the first one to receive unjust and unequitable treatment among the Galileo staff. It is truly heartless and senseless of Reimer to break the dynamics and working routine for someone who works tirelessly for Galileo.
With all above stated, we the members of the Galileo Community petition the Superintendent and the Board of Education to immediately investigate this reassignment, and demand the Central Office to act on reverting this unjust decision.
Graduate, Class of 2017
President, Associated Student Body 2016-2017
June 7th, 2017
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