Teachers in Hartland are fed up with their school board’s politics

Teachers in Hartland are fed up with their school board’s politics

HARTLAND TWP. — Staff dissatisfaction with Hartland’s school board has increased 30 percent in two years, an internal survey by The Daily found.

When asked whether they “appreciate and support the operation of the district under the current school board,” 41% of Hartland Consolidated Schools teachers and staff members voted “disagree to strongly disagree.”

In 2023, more people responded that way, at 60%. But the number is up significantly from just 10% in 2022. And some employees who chose “strongly agree” in 2024 later said they only felt supported by some board members.

In their responses, many raised concerns about three conservative representatives: Michelle Blondeel, Glenn Gogoleski and Greg Keller. The three campaigned together as “Clean Slate” candidates under the slogan “Education Not Indoctrination.” They have also defended policies that have been criticized by some as anti-LGBTQ+.

In a separate question, when employees were asked whether their opinions were “valued by management in decisions that affect your job,” 58% of survey respondents said “sometimes or never.” That was up from 49% in 2023 and 42% in 2022. In total, 229 of the 500 employees responded to the survey.

The results prompted the board’s personnel committee to discuss how to improve morale and bridge political divisions among members. The board agreed to meet in small groups, discuss agenda items and try to better understand each other’s politics.

Recently retired teacher Carol Hall is not surprised that staff voiced displeasure with the board. She told The Daily she is “shocked” by the actions of the “Clean Slate” board members.

Hall, who has worked with special needs students in the district for 25 years, says the comments from those administrators have a derogatory effect on special needs and LGBTQ+ students.

Last year, the board narrowly passed a policy change introduced by Gogoleski that effectively bans rainbow “safe space” decals — meant to signify that the classroom is a safe space for LGBTQ+ students — and other Pride displays. The policy passed 4-3 with support from all three “Clean Slate” members and current board president Meghan Glabach.

On June 17, the school board postponed a discussion about whether students should be required to use a restroom that matched their birth certificate, or else change their birth certificates, or attend a “comprehensive” meeting with parents, administrators and school staff to assess whether their claim was “sincere.”

The possible change prompted the ACLU of Michigan to send a letter opposing it on Friday, June 14.

“We have serious concerns about this proposed policy because it discriminates against transgender people in access to restrooms and exposes students who are not ‘out’ to their parents to danger,” ACLU officials wrote.

“It’s totally disheartening,” Hall said of the board’s actions. “The names that (some) board members have called these students are horrible. I don’t distrust the entire school board because the majority, in my opinion, are good people who have the best interests of the students at heart. I just feel angry.”

This year she decided to retire.

“I just can’t work under them,” she said.

“These (board members) are just mean, and I wish more people would stand up to them. I can understand why they don’t. I’ve met a lot of teachers who feel the same way I do.”

Gogoleski responded to several negative public comments on June 17.

“What I find really interesting is that so many people are supposedly angry at three people and they talk about it repeatedly, with one person not mentioning one incident,” he said.

“Two, never mention one specific person, but mention the three. It stinks a little bit of having an agenda. And when you hear people coming to the microphone and accusing them of having a political agenda while they’re wearing their social cause de jure shirts, it loses a lot of power when you come here and complain.”

In the investigation, one staff member wrote that the three board members “appear to view their positions as a pulpit for their political and religious views.”

“Their continued harassment and interrogation of the district makes it difficult to do the job that district employees are there to do: educate children,” they wrote.

The Daily reached out to all seven school board members for comment by email. Four board members — Kristin Coleman, Chris Costa, Glabach and Cindy Shaw — responded. Blondeel, Gogoleski and Keller did not.

The four respondents generally agreed that teachers do not feel supported or heard.

“They don’t feel empowered or trusted to do the work they were hired to do and have been doing successfully for years,” Coleman wrote. “And unfortunately, with all the noise at the board level, they feel unheard or lost in the mix.”

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“The common theme,” Shaw wrote, “is that teachers want a school board that supports and respects them and their profession, and that allows them to do their work and meet students where they are.”

“They want board meetings to be about students, not about someone’s specific agenda,” Glabach wrote. “Furthermore, they want to know that the board trusts them and believes that they have been trained to do their jobs properly and with the utmost integrity.”

“It is clear that some of the school board members are impacting the staff and students of HCS, and not in a positive way,” Costa wrote. “When I read the comments about the board, it was clear that the teachers are frustrated.”

Contact reporter Jennifer Eberbach at [email protected].