Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Unanswered Questions—Paula Barone and Personnel Policy

Paula Barone’s son Joseph testified at the John Freshwater hearing—in the spring of 2002 he said he informed his parents of concerns he had with his eighth-grade science class taught by Freshwater. His parents did nothing until the teacher made the news in the spring of 2008.

Joseph Barone, a student at Ohio State University, testified that he received a phone call from his dad asking about notes taken in Freshwater’s class. “I told him I think [the notes are] in a box in the basement,” Barone said. “He went through and said, I found some stuff.”

Those notes were later given by his mother to investigators. Thomas Herlevi, co-owner of H.R. On Call, spent 15 to 30 minutes interviewing her. (Joseph Barone was not interviewed by HROC—possibly due to his being away at college at the time.)

(Paula Barone, at right, listens to questions at “Meet the Candidates Night.”)

Paula Barone, who is running for the Mount Vernon Board of Education, declined to comment on her involvement with the investigation of Freshwater. She also declined to explain her views on personnel policy—specifically, the following questions:

Do you think teachers should be given performance evaluations?

If a teacher falls short of expectations, should that teacher be given instruction and opportunity to measure up?

Regarding complaints made against a teacher: What is your position on the appropriateness of using previously unreported complaints, from prior school years, as a means to support a complaint from the most recent school year?

The questions have been left unanswered by Barone—but her involvement in the HROC investigation may reflect a portion of her views on personnel policy.

On her campaign website, Barone, who is a retired teacher, does not articulate any concerns she has with how the school system currently treats personnel. She does make a broad statement in regards to upholding the law:

“I will promote implementation of best practices, and insist upon compliance with applicable state and federal laws in every Mount Vernon classroom, administrative office and support service”

Testimony of Joseph Barone

The school’s attorney, David Millstone, primarily focused on student witnesses that were not from Freshwater’s most recent class. (The HROC investigation itself did interview a few current students.) Student witnesses called by Millstone during the 2008/2009 school year: Zachary Dennis (recent student), Simon Souhrada (high school jr.), James Hoeffgen (high school sr.), Katie Button (college) and Joseph Barone (college).

After seven years Barone still had handouts from Freshwater’s class—he stated that he was pretty sure Freshwater allowed students to take the handouts home. Two of his fill-in-the-blank worksheets were on the topic of evolution. The papers, which discussed obstacles on the evolutionary path of a couple animals, ended with the phrase “Is there an I.D. involved?”

Referencing a page of his notes from class, Barone said that three theories about the development of species were discussed “probably from a lecture or a transparency.” He said that they were “Darwin, natural selection, Wallace, and intelligent design.”

After “intelligent design,” in Barone’s class notes, was the phrase “strictly religious.” The statement may have been made by Freshwater. “I would think that it was probably something that he said, but not necessarily with regards to it being invalid,” Barone said.

The topic of evolution wasn’t covered until near the end of the year. Barone said that Freshwater allowed the class to debate the topic—leading to some heated discussions. “I felt that [the students] said some things about my beliefs that were persecution in nature and that they weren't really mediated very well by our teacher,” Barone said.

Barone acknowledged that Freshwater never made any statements that were denigrating to him or his religion. Despite being offended by the statements of his classmates, Barone never talked with Freshwater about the problem. His parents also did nothing about the alleged problem in the classroom (from hearing transcript):

Q. “Could you have gone and talked to your mom about your concerns?”

A. “I did talk to my parents about my concerns when I got home at dinner.”


Q. “Ultimately, your mom nor dad did anything during that school year, correct?”
A. “Not that school year.”

Q. “They file any complaints on your behalf?”

A. “No, they did not.”

Barone gave several reasons for why he did not talk to his teacher about the problems in the classroom: Occasional negative comments were a part of going to school and interacting with his friends. He felt embarrassed going to someone with the problem. And he thought it wouldn’t do any good to talk with Freshwater—he thought he understood what his teacher’s views were and that they were too different from his own.

“Maybe he wasn’t aware of how out of control it was, but in my opinion, it was pretty out of control,” Barone said.

Although Barone described that year as being hard, he also said that it was a good year. “I loved my eighth grade year,” Barone said. “I was always looking forward to having Mr. Freshwater as a teacher. He had a great reputation as the kind of teacher you could feel comfortable with and friendly with. I still -- I maintain that friendship.”

Barone said that he probably received an “A” in Freshwater’s class.

1 comment:

Unknown said...

The questions Paula Barone was asked above are what is known as "leading questions" or "what-if" questions. Such questions are wisely left unanswered because any answer is situation-dependent and can be twisted. For example, let's consider the question "If a teacher falls short of expectations, should that teacher be given instruction and opportunity to measure up?" This sounds obvious enough. But suppose, for example, the teacher falls short in a very serious manner, such as by engaging in sexual misconduct. Most of us would agree the teacher in this hypothetical situation should NOT be given an "opportunity to measure up." Hypothetical questions invite traps with hypothetical answers.

As for the worksheets assigned to Joseph Barone, I believe (if my memory is correct) that I saw one of these worksheets at a Board meeting. It was in fact based on a creationist non-science source, designed to discredit mainstream biology.

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