High school principal lashing out at ‘culture of the media’
Published Thursday, September 6, 2012 6:17PM MDT
In a sound clip sent to CTV News, the principal of Ross Sheppard High School was recorded talking about the controversial ‘No zero’ policy at the school, and the public outcry surrounding it.
In the recording, reportedly from an August 31 staff meeting, Principal Ron Bradley assured teachers at the school that the policy was sound.
“I am here to tell you that you did nothing wrong,” Bradley said in the recording. “Everything you did with regards to student achievement and high school completion was the right thing.”
The principal said the practice of handing out behavioural codes instead of zeros for incomplete work was helping students learn - he also took aim at the media.
“In my opinion, the culture of the media deteriorated to the quality of pulp fiction and talk radio,” Bradley can be heard saying.
He also called the media view on the subject ‘narrow’ – and said Ross Sheppard was the poster child for every perceived illness of public education.
A retired teacher from that school is weighing in – Doug Senuik was the head of the Social Studies Department for 20 years, before retiring last year.
Senuik told CTV News he didn’t agree with the policy from the start – and said it was brought in in February 2011, and the opinions of the teachers were not taken into account.
“It’s safe to say, most of the staff do not support this,” Senuik said. “Morale is low because it is a directive.”
The former teacher also said there are no research results to support the claim that such a policy helps students – and he didn’t adhere to the new policy.
“Common sense and experience are why, initially, my spidey sense kind of tingled and I said ‘I don’t think this is right’,” Senuik said. “The more and more I looked into it, no research, no collaboration with the staff – a directive from the principal.
“I just couldn’t do it.”
Senuik said he continued to give student’s zeroes for incomplete work until their work was finished – when he would replace the zero with a grade – the practice is called ‘replacement zeroes’.
He said he received a warning letter from the principal, but he was never suspended or fired.
“Perhaps he thought I was the lone dissenter, and perhaps when I retired he knew I was going to retire, that it would all go away,” Senuik speculated.
The policy was first put in the spotlight in May, when Lynden Dorval was suspended for giving students zeroes.
Now, Dorval is facing losing his job, after Principal Bradley wrote a letter, recommending his dismissal – he will appear before the Public School Board at a private hearing on Monday.
It was the principal’s decision to implement the policy.
In June, Bradley spoke to CTV News on the subject.
“The process is to ensure the work gets done,” Bradley said. “The consequence in this process, of not doing the work – is doing the work.”
“Perhaps if it was approached in a different manner and their input was honoured and actually taken, “ Senuik said. “And [the teachers] were allowed to express themselves, it may have turned out differently.”
Senuik said the teachers should have played a bigger role in bringing in the policy.
“Teachers are in the classroom every day, they know their students, principals aren’t – I believe that’s what should be done.”
A request to interview Ron Bradley on the audio file was declined by the Edmonton Public School Board.
The school board has formed a committee to review the controversial policy.
With files from Veronica Jubinville