by Peter Downs
A leader of the union representing teachers and other staff in the St. Louis Public Schools Tuesday evening thanked Superintendent Creg Williams for his actions in the Applied Scholastics controversy.
As previously reported in the Argus, two middle school principals in St. Louis Public Schools had sent their teachers to the Applied Scholastics campus in Spanish Lake to learn the teaching ideas of L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of the Church of Scientology.
Last month, after complaints from some of the teachers involved, Williams ordered a stop to those principal-mandated training visits.
Byron Clemons, the first vice president of the St. Louis Federation of Teachers and School-Related Personnel, said that the principals at Fanning and Long Middle Schools then launched a hunt to find out who had complained about Applied Scholastics. He said they interrogated teachers without a union representative present, and began to harass those they thought had complained to their union and to school board members.
Clemons said he and union president Mary Armstrong first found out about hunt during a visit to Applied Scholastics. The chief executive officer of the company, Bennetta Slaughter, mentioned they were trying to find out who complained about the company’s training, and displayed some emails about teacher interrogations.
Union leaders later met with Williams about the complaints of harassment and interrogation of teachers. Williams then told the principals to stop.
“Thank you for stopping the witch hunt,” Clemons said to Williams at the school board meeting Tuesday.
School board member Bill Purdy said he supported Williams’ action. “We have policies that prohibit retaliation against any employees who exercises their right to complain to their union,” he said.
Clemons also raised concern that Applied Scholastics could get money from the school district for “tutoring” students. Applied Scholastics is on a list of companies approved by the State to provide tutoring services under the federal No Child Left Behind Act. The school board would vote later in the evening on a resolution approving the tutoring option for children in low performing schools.
Clemons urged the St. Louis school board to exclude Applied Scholastics from the tutoring program as, he said, Hazelwood was doing. Ken Brostron, the school district’s attorney, had advised the school board that federal law required that the district let parents choose a tutor from the entire list of companies approved by the State.
The school board approved the tutoring option, with Applied Scholastics included, by a vote of 5-1-1.