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One of five transferred teachers returning to SWD High

8/1/2014, 7:51 a.m.

Special education teacher Bernice Foreman, who was transferred from Southwest DeKalb High in alleged retaliation for complaining about the school’s management and learning conditions, will return to SWD just in time for the first day of school on Aug. 11.

This week, PTSA leaders said they were optimistic that four other Southwest DeKalb teachers reassigned with Foreman will be brought back to the school after evidence surfaced of a critical communications breakdown that may have played a role in the transfers.

Foreman was one of five teachers reassigned in May to other schools for the upcoming school year after they and 20 other teachers complained in a Sept. 23, 2013, memorandum to Principal Carolyn Williams, Area Superintendent Ken Bradshaw and the PTSA’s general membership about poor management and working conditions that threaten the learning environment at the school.

Ninth-grade math teacher Monica Hardesty, business administration teacher Lucy Wright, and ninth-grade English teachers Carla Jordan and Marsha Murray-Bunsei are still reassigned to other schools.

Williams, who had been principal at Southwest DeKalb High since July 2012, also was transferred. She will be principal at Stephenson Middle School for the 2014-2015 academic year.

Foreman, who logged 17 years at the Decatur school teaching students with severe disabilities in ninth through 12th grades, said on July 28 that she is very glad to be back.

“It takes time and effort to build a rapport with these students and their parents,” she said. “The kids need stability and consistency. If they feel comfortable, they will accomplish more for themselves.”

The 30-year educator said she found out inadvertently on July 17 that she will be back with her students for the 2014-15 school year when she called the district’s human resources office to get formal written notice of her transfer that was reported in CrossRoadsNews on June 12.

PTSA Vice President Cooky Huff said on July 22 that Foreman’s return is good news for her students.

“We’re really happy and excited for her,” Huff said. “She’s definitely a treasure and having her return will be a service to those students and a valuable asset to the school. We’re hoping and working for the rest of the teachers to be reinstated.”

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Southwest DeKalb High School parents stood in protest at a July 7 School Board meeting after five teachers who complained about problems at the school were transferred.

The whistle-blowers said Southwest DeKalb High, which used to have a reputation of being a well-run school, has been chaotic and disorganized for the past two years under Williams.

“First year it declined, second year it just plummeted basically,” Foreman said. “They didn’t listen to any advice from us.”

The teachers’ concerns ranged from ineffective leadership and planning to apathetic management, poor communication, disciplinary and campus safety issues, constant interruptions of instructional time, inconsistent policies and procedures, low morale, nepotism, hostile environment, and personal vendettas.

DeKalb Schools spokesman Jeff Dickerson said the teacher transfers had nothing to do with their complaints.

“Ms. Foreman’s reassignment was over a certification issue that was resolved,” he said on July 22. “I can’t go into detail about it because it’s a personnel matter. The others were reassigned because of dropping enrollment at Southwest DeKalb.”