Thursday, April 5, 2012

The Jacobson Decision versus Southbridge Schools

Ken O'Brien

Many of the recent comments in regard to my article “Is Ely Moving On?” referenced the case between the Southbridge Education Association and Southbridge Public Schools involving a dismissed school teacher, Jonathan Jacobson who had not achieved “professional status”.

I have secured a copy of this decision which can be read in its entirety at the above link. The following are direct quotes from the final decision.

A demand for arbitration was filed by the Southbridge Education Association pursuant to the parties’ collective bargaining agreement and in accordance with the rules of the American Arbitration Association. The Southbridge Education Association (Association) and the Southbridge Public Schools (District) jointly selected Mary Ellen Shea to act as single neutral arbitrator in the matter.

Hearings were conducted on July 27 and September 24, 2011, at the District’s central offices in Southbridge, Massachusetts.      

I conclude that the issues before me are properly stated as follows:

Is the matter procedurally arbitrable?

If yes, is the matter substantively arbitrable?

If yes, did the School District violate the parties’ collective bargaining agreement in the manner in which it evaluated the Grievant, Jonathan Jacobson?

If so, what shall the remedy be?

Over a two or three week period in April 2010, a number of incidents related to Mr. Jacobson’s efforts to demonstrate how some school rules were not consistently enforced. He had taken it upon himself to monitor daily attendance and tardy records, question the inside suspension director about student discipline, and to remind other teachers about the rules. Things came to a head when Mr. Bishop called him into the office, chastised him, directed him to limit his monitoring of student discipline to the students in his own classes, and said, “I’m the Principal. I decide what goes on. I’m done. This meeting is over.” (p. 38)

The Summative Evaluation Report was the only reason given for not renewing Mr. Jacobson’s employment contract for the 2010-2011 school year: “The reason for this nonrenewal is performance based as demonstrated on your final evaluation.” (p. 53)

The District correctly argues that Mr. Bishop could have let Mr. Jacobson go for any reason. A principal has broad authority when deciding whether to renew the employment contract of a non-PTS teacher. In this case, Mr. Bishop was not required to establish cause, such as poor performance, in order to exercise his authority not to renew Mr. Jacobson. And the principal’s qualitative judgments about a teacher’s performance will rarely be disturbed by an arbitrator. The Principal’s broad authority, however, does not include making inaccurate, misleading, or false statements about a teacher’s performance.The parties’ negotiated teacher evaluation procedures require they be based on “observed, evaluated, and documented performance”. This does not include inaccuracies, misleading or misquoted statements, and it certainly does not include statements that are demonstrably false. (p.54)

Arbitrators generally do not disturb a Principal’s exercise of authority as it applies to non- PTS teacher renewal decision. The exceptions are cases where the evidence establishes harmful procedural errors. See United Educators of Pittsfield, Tammy Byrnie, May 11, 2011, and Education Association of Worcester, James Litton, May 13, 2012. The manner in which Mr. Jacobson was evaluated resulted in procedural errors, but the failure to provide an accurate and honest Summative Evaluation Report was the most egregious and harmful of the errors. The arbitrators in Pittsfield and Worcester reinstated non-PTS teachers whose evaluations were found to be procedurally flawed. Nothing less than reinstatement and a make whole remedy is appropriate under these circumstances.

The School District is hereby ordered to remove every copy of the May 10, 2010, Summative Evaluation Report from any of Mr. Jacobson’s records, and to immediately reinstate Jonathan Jacobson as a Southbridge teacher for one year, and to properly evaluate his performance during that year. The School District is further ordered to make Jonathan Jacobson whole for all lost wages and benefits he would have earned, less any interim earnings and/or income he would not have received but for the improper Summative Evaluation Report. (p. 55)

Again, the full text of the decision can be found HERE.


  1. BB making inaccurate, misleading or false evaluations about a teacher!!! Bye Bye BB

  2. page 38 makes you really wonder about just how badly these records are being fudged at the Highschool for appearances and state record rankings. This poor guy saw something wrong and tried to do something about it. He didn't or couldn't play by Bishop's established and unspoken rules and paid the price as a victim in this retaliatory action.

    Jacobson followed the rules and just didn't fit into .... " THE SOUTHBRIDGE STANDARD "

    Leave it to a good math teacher to notice irregularities in Attendance, tardy and disciplinary records.


  3. Is this an isolated incident, or is it merely the tip of the iceberg?

    1. Believe me its the tip of the iceburg!!


    2. Is other data coming out of SHS being played with?

  4. Someone was trying to make the school look better then it was, by graduating students that should not have for attendance. Trying for the job that went to Eric D. Ely.

    I wonder who fire Jacobson. Then cover up the attendance reports and falsifiable records to the state.

    Can you think of the person?

  5. Part 1

    I really love how people are experts on education just because they spent (maybe) 12 years sitting behind a desk. The is more to education, and the educational process, than what goes on in the classroom or for that matter inside the confines of a school building. And, that goes double for the whole teacher observation / evaluation process.

    The teacher observation / evaluation process is a negotiated process between the teacher's association and the school district. It is supposed to be an effective tool to inform both administrators and teachers of how to better serve our students. However, what has become is a bargaining chip in the teacher contract negotiations. . . [Teacher Associations Unions will always state that they are for bettering education, but when it comes down to contract negotiations it is always about $$$$$$, benefits, and protection. But this topic is more for another day.]

    A little about the process:

    1. Pre-Observation. Teacher meets with administrator prior to class to be observed. At this meeting, the teacher and administrator sit down and talk about what is supposed to happen in the class. They cover student objectives, methods of instruction, and any special considerations about the class to be observed.

    2. Class Observation. Administrator visits class and takes notes on what is actually going on in the classroom. In essence how the plan was put into action.

    3. Post Observation Meeting. Teacher and administrator review what went on in the classroom. The discuss what went well during the class and what address any deficiencies. During this discussion suggestions are made to help the teacher improve upon what they are doing in the classroom.

    4. The Evaluation. Depending on the professional status of the teacher, the summative evaluation is a compilation of either 2 or 4 observations over the year. The teacher and administrator sit down and talk about what was observed over the course of the year and plan strategies to address any short comings that were noted. At the end of this conference the administrator makes an judgement as to whether or not the teacher should be re-hired or if there needs to be remediation plan put in place (mainly applies to teachers with professional status.)

  6. Part 2

    This process, in most cases, is informative and helpful to both the teacher and the administrator. The teacher is informed on what s/he is doing right or what can be improved upon. For the administrator, they get to see what is actually going on in the classroom and have a chance to mentor teachers. The evaluation process is supposed to be a win - win process that informs and improves the educational process.

    With all that being said, decisions have to be made on the suitability of the given teacher to the goals and climate of the school. It was in this realm that Jacobson was let go. After reading the document provided I could find no fault in what was communicated in the summative evaluation.

    Contrary to popular belief Mr. Bishop did not manufacture evidence to "get" Mr. Jacobson. If fact, Mr. Jacobson was given all the space in the world to improve and to further integrate his practice with the goals of the school. Mr. Jacobson, was counseled to confine his activities to those he was responsible for with in his classroom.

    However, Mr. Jacobson refused to do that. Mr. Jacobson began to keep his own set of records on certain aspects of student disipline proceedures outside of his realm [his classroom] Some of the records he created and compiled may actually have violated student confidentiality. He was keeping records on students he did not have in class and was not privy to the students academic, disciplinary, or IEP records. He was informed, as noted in the record provided, to stop this practice. However, in direct opposition to his instructions from his boss, he continued.

    Mr. Jacobson's reluctance to follow the rule [this should have been easy because of his stated disability of being a "rules" guy is what caused him to be let go. He was a loose cannon. In closing, Mr. Jacobson's actions and refusal to follow the rules that were laid down for him, cost Mr. Jacobson his job. . . In the end, when your boss directs you to do something [legal] and you refuse, you are putting your employment at risk...

    1. TO: Anon 5:48 & 5:49,

      An impartial arbitrator disagreed with your opinion.

    2. Not only did she disagree, she did it in especially damning terms that she said were unusual. Are there other cases like this that we haven't heard about yet?

    3. Anonymous Part 1 and Part 2,

      BLAH, BLAH, BLAH! IMPARTIAL arbitrator gave ruling. Your're obviously one of B.B.'s pet teachers!

    4. Mr. Bishop has lost all credibility, confidence and trust. How can he remain in this important position. This dark cloud thats hanging over SHS will hang over the new SHS.It may be time for him to retire.

  7. To Anon Part 2: So the part where BB lied you skipped? Or the part where he misquoted the Math director and inserted her words about one topic onto something else entirely you skipped also? I'm thinking you must be a friend of BB, perhaps someone close to him from his band days?

  8. The decision was based on "procedural" flaw. This decision said that there were "misstatements ... " but does not provide evidence (of facts) concerning anything else. It is nice that you provide this file, but whoever gave it to you also seems to have an ulterior motive. Using a metaphor from an old Wendy's commercial . . . I see the bun, the lettuce, tomato, and special sauce, but you are lacking the beef.

    1. A "procedural" flaw that amounted to deception, misstatements and distortion of fact. That's the same kind of "procedural" flaw that resulted in thousands of American lives lost in Iraq.

    2. Ulterior motive? Like wanting the truth to be known?

    3. Come on, J.J. Who are you quoting? Lawyer, perhaps?

  9. You are incorrect. They were not misstatements. They were inaccurate, mis-leading, mis-quoted and demonstrably false! Read it again.

  10. So where is Mr. Jacobson now? Has he been reinstated? If so, where? If not, then how much did it cost the taxpayers to "make Jonathan Jacobson whole for all lost wages and benefits he would have earned, less any interim earnings and/or income he would not have received..."? Or is this another Executive Session secret?

  11. Executive Meeting Minutes??? What are those??? Since JJ has been Chair, how many of them have we seen? He believes in "out of sight, out of mind".

  12. We can not afford to have this Lawrence Welk show repeated at the new high school.

    Can you "VISION" it now.

    and this is the part of the show that we count the drop out rate and the growing school choice kids.

    A1a, and a 2a

    It is not Mr Jacobson that should be fired!

  13. Edu-ma-cated outside SouthbridgeApril 6, 2012 at 12:21 PM

    Let's be honest here: Bishop might be a nice person (I have no clue), but he's not a qualified principal or superintendent. No qualifications, and a major eff up. Does this silly little town NEVER learn?

  14. I is nice to know that Bishop is not qualified... Do you even know what the qualifications are?

    1. BB must be held accountable now! JJ will be held accountable on election day!!

    2. Well, once, when I was at band camp--let's put it this way:

      I know what it's not. It's not someone that runs pottery class. It's not someone who teachers art (no offense to either profession).

      It's certainly not John Philip Sousa.

      Just because David Lee Roth is a great musician doesn't mean he should have a radio show (in case you don't know, that happened, and it failed miserably).

      I realize that in Southbridge we hire unqualified people (Town Manager, Police Chief, previous Fire Chief), after worldwide searches that wind up, with the exception of the latter, of people who live usually in Sturbridge and feed off the trough in our town.

      To Bishop's credit, as far as I know, he lives in Southbridge. But he also lies and distorts facts, in addition to bullying (another qualification for Police Chief and Town Manager), but that doesn't qualify him.

      In fact, I've just figured out what does qualify someone:

      Experience in Educational Adminstration, with an education in that field.

      What, the gym teacher wasn't available?

    3. I guess you did not know, Bill Bishop's Vice Principal was a gym teacher.

  15. Mr.Bishop,
    Stop this insanity.Do your friends a favor and retire.Here is why you should go.You fired a man,a human being I might ad,because he questioned the discipline policy.He saw things that other teachers see,but do not have the balls to utter a single word about. But he did. How dare he!Did he not know what other teachers know? That he would pay the ultimate price?
    Yes, you could have fired Mr. Jacobson for any reason;he was not tenured.But you chose to let him know that it was because of you, and no one else, that he was fired.You changed Mr. Leaches and the math coordinators positive evaluations into your own negative spin just to show him that it was YOU,and no one else. A principal should be above reproach. You have shown that you are not.You have cost the town two years of back wages and I am sure lawyer's fees.You have allowed poeple's reputations to be raked over the coals.You have done damage to the school that may not be able to be repaired.Can you imagine what will happen when the newspapers and Mr Marketti get a hold of this? And the will. Stop your poeple from going after Mr. Ely. You are not worth the price the school will have to ultimately pay to save your rear end. You have finally got caught doing what you do constantly. Harass,bully,intimidate,put up your four fingers.Retire, and do the ailing high school a favor.

  16. Thank you, Ken, for posting this.

  17. After this BS Mr. Bishop better not be named the principal at the new shs.How can teachers trust him!What they should do is take a vote of no confidence agaist him. Then maybe the fab 4 will get the message!

  18. What a bunch of crap! "Mr. Jacobson was counseled to confine his activities to those he was responsible for in his classroom" because he was on to something huge. Anyone checked IPASS lately for falsification of attendance records and grades?
    This man makes a supreme effort to connect with and do right by his students, attends professional groups with teaching colleagues at Clark University...what's wrong with this picture? Oh yeah, he would have been better off down at Mario's kissing some Bishop-Lazo-Jovan butt. I sincerely hope that DESE is investigating the whole sordid lot of them (I hear they are) before the new school opens.
    SEA, please don't back down from this bullying... get your state union reps down here supporting you and fighting this so that the great, qualified, professional teachers and administrators can continue to do their jobs and EDUCATE the children of Southbridge.
    Lastly, Anon Part I and II, some of do have some expertise in education, much more than YOU do.

    1. Thank god this is finally happening. The children & parents in this town need to know exactly what is happening! The children deserve better!

    2. Again, where's the beef....

      1. Violation of Attendance Policies . . . Studets who are in attendance trouble for losing credit or for graduation purposes go to their doctor's office and get a note excusing their absences. Or, they get involved in an after-school credit recovery class. Is it wrong to give a kid a chance to move on with their lives?

      2. Changing Grades. Where is the evidence of this. If Mr. Bishop would change a teacher's grade for a course the teacher in question would raise so much stink that it would be well known. Again, no beef.

      3. Mr. Bishop is a Bully... Well, you've got me there. No, wait a minute, again, there is no beef in this sandwich either. Just because you don't like someone whose commitment to bettering our schools and doing the best for our students doesn't mean he is a bully. For the myopic, especially those who are out for the man it is easy (because they want to) to confuse passion and commitment for bullying.

      In closing, the high school has been improving steadily over the past few years. In the building, there have been fewer problems with discipline, the students are more engaged, and MCAS scores have been rising. Now, does that mean that there have not, and will not be setbacks and bumps in the road . . . No, but we are progressing forward.

      Personal Note. I know that there are those who are only out to crucify Bishop and members of the School Committee. Especially, if you are running for elected office [which I think is the case in some instances]. It is nice to sling mud at people when you can remain Anonymous... It is much harder to do the right thing . . . Campaign on your own merits and philosophy. That would be to hard, it is easier smear other people with your mud in the hopes of getting elected. Come to the table, bring your ideas for solving some of the underlying problems in the school system, and then put in the time and work to solve those problems.... If you are not willing to roll up your sleeves and get your hands dirty and sweaty with something other than mud then you are just a malcontent and nothing will satisfy your hunger for creating chaos....

    3. JJ if this is you... stop with the "I know everything and you know nothing" attitude. All you are doing is trying to deflect the truth. Why defend a sinking ship?

    4. Dear ANONYMOUS Again, where's the Beef,
      Those are some pretty hefty accusations that you are throwing around ANONYMOUSLY in your personal note, one might even call it mudslinging! Maybe if you live in a glass house you shouldn't throw stones (or baseless accusations for which the only evidence you have are your thoughts). Just an observation!

      And before you go "all conspiracy theorist" on us this is my first ever post on this sight.

    5. Yet you post anonymously as you complain about anonymous posts? Hypocritical.

  19. If you want to vote on whether BB should stay or go vote at the top right hand corner of this story!!

  20. So BB has six votes ? I didn't know he had that many friends?

  21. First I would like to state the Jonathon Jacobson is a friend of mine. He is one of the most honest and dedicated people I know. His student improved greatly under his instruction.
    One of the things that have been stated is misleading. It was his responsibility’s to pay attention to tardiness and attendance. Jonathon couched several different sports. It is school policy that if a student was failing to attendance requirement they are not able to participate in extracurricular actively. It is the couches job to enforce this policy.
    Two emails are sent to every teacher in the school, one in the morning, and one at end of the school day.
    The first email state who was absent from homeroom; the second states who was tarty and who was absent for the day. Jonathon made a spreadsheet to help fulfill his duty as couch and enforce the stated school policy.

  22. Looks like someone got a hold of multiple computers today or figured out how to manipulate the votes of the "Should He Stay or Should He Go" poll before tonight's school committee meeting. Clever.

    Anyone who reads the Jacobson decision in its entirety cannot possibly stand by the actions of the high school principal in this instance.

    Does anyone find it curious that the high school principal did not participate in either of the arbitrator's hearings on this matter??? Had he done so, the principal would have had an opportunity to explain himself or defend his report ON THE RECORD. So it must be true that either he did not want to testify or he was instructed not to testify.

    It would appear the school district agreed to go to arbitration because they did not think the case was "procedurally" or "substantively" arbitrable. In other words, they were banking on the fact the case would be dismissed or decided due to a technicality.

    WRONG is WRONG, no matter how you look at it. This decision came down 8 weeks ago!!!!!!!!!!! The Superintendent should immediately suspend the principal pending further investigation into the matter. The School Committee would be wise to support such an investigation, which will either serve to reveal the TRUE facts of the case or publicly exonerate the principal. How are we supposed to get excited about a new high school under this cloud???

  23. Prediction: The high school principal will retire soon, citing to poor health. That will take the focus off this case, off the School Committee and their attempt to sweep this one under the rug.

  24. I wish your prediction comes to fruition. Unfortunately I don't see BB a "Take one for the Gipper" type of guy.

  25. I find it very suspicious that a comment on this blog that stated facts about the teacher in question's classroom procedures was deleted, yet comments about BB's personal and private health issues are allowed to stay. Isn't one of the main topics found on this blog fairness?

    1. The remarks about Mr. Bishop’s health were posed as a question or stated as an opinion (prediction).
      The remarks about Mr. Jacobson were stated as fact, facts that might be actionable, without substantiation.
      I am not an attorney, but I do have to guard against libel actions, especially on anonymous posts.
      If you can document the allegations made against Mr. Jacobson, then I will post them.

    2. Also, I am appalled by the number of posts I have had to delete for this very reason, from both sides.
      Apparently the label of anonymity has seemed to convey to some the freedom to be irresponsible.
      I take ownership of my posts and I am therefore responsible for their content.
      Sadly, too many others lack the integrity to abide by this ethic.
      That's why I decided that I had to moderate comments when I re-started this blog.

    3. Ken I want to thank you for doing this blog. It gives us an opportunity to keep up or at the very least of the going on of local and at times national issues. I know what you do is very difficult and I for one appreciate what you do especially for the fact that you do take the time to moderate comments to prevent possible issues for not just you but us as a blogger. I also thank you for allowing us to blog and hide our identity I for one know first hand how some people would react if they knew who I am. As I have told others in Southbridge that your true friends will turn on you and attack you when things aren't in their favor. Its a shame that happens. I have and will disagree with you on issues it makes good dialog but I respect what you say and the respect you give. I hope that you continue doing this blog and thank you

  26. no matter the vote count it is clear that the public does not hold Mr Bishop in high regard. They do not fawn at his every move like the Flab 4 does. That the image for this blog would be better if the gavel was above his head insert instead of below it.
    Maxwell Silver Hammer does the band know that number?

  27. Mr. Jacobson is the BEST!!!


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