Guest Column: Tolerating adult indiscretions taints leadership in Rockford schools

By Jane Hayes

Moral turpitude — even the words sound dirty and scandalous. Let’s start with the dictionary definition. Moral turpitude is a base act of depravity against societal norms of ethical actions and morality. Actions of immorality and unethical behavior have tarnished political, civic, government and school leaders and destroyed careers. Why? Because cheating is just wrong and secrets are rarely secret for long.

How do such words as moral turpitude or depravity relate to Rockford Public School District 205? The public only has to ask the staff or students at Guilford, Jefferson and/or Roosevelt high schools, where scandalous behavior has been tolerated and concealed by this school district for far too long over the past few years. Who needs to watch the wildly popular TV show called Scandal regarding rampant and high-reaching scandals in the Washington, D.C., power scene? In Rockford, we have our own high-reaching scandals and concealed corruption within our school district.

Unfortunately, what used to be fodder for gossip in teachers’ lounges has now turned public knowledge, and the dirty laundry has been hung out to dry. As a teacher, I rarely spent time in staff lounges where personal stories were shared, preferring to work with students or on my lessons. However, when I needed to know something, I could always ask students, who were far more knowledgeable of adult shortcomings, school fights and wrongs within our school. Too often, adults want their children to do as we say and not as we do; however, kids are far too smart for such nonsense today.

Years ago, married teachers were not allowed to work in the same schools, issues of immorality and promiscuity were hush-hush, and workplace liaisons were discouraged. Will we ever return to a principled, examined lifestyle where powerful bullies and scandals are revealed?

Now, everything is digitally or publicly exposed, so anything goes. Perhaps society has changed and become more tolerant, but ignoring or tolerating adult indiscretions and immorality taints leadership and has to be properly corrected.

Moving principals to other schools or awarding them as golden leaders is just a scam and should be seen as a true travesty. How often has a person’s power or place in the school leadership hierarchy resulted in sexual misconduct or harassment of an underling because of his/her power? How many lawsuits are still pending in this district as a result of such practice?

According to district spin regarding the state report cards, one of our school leaders stated, “Now, with these revelations (data showing that Rockford District 205 is 41st of 41 schools in the area), we have the power to improve.” So, why don’t we? I believe power corrupts, making our leadership irresponsible and unaccountable to standard morality and expectations of ethical behavior.

Socrates has warned us, “The unexamined life is not worth living.” With his Socratic method of dialogue, he wanted us to take our blinders off so we could examine and reflect on our personal and spiritual growth. Without it, professional growth is nothing.

Too bad there are so many double standards in District 205 suggesting the powerful are hiding their heads in the sand and not reflecting on fiscal, moral, personal and professional wrongdoings and their responsibility to correct them.

Unfortunately, they have spent too much time and money hiding their dirty little secrets instead.

Jane Hayes is a member of Watchdogs for Ethics in Education and Rockford Educators Advocating Civil Treatment.

From the Nov. 6-12, 2013, issue

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