REDUCTIONS IN SCHOOL STAFF and PERFORMANCE COUNSELING
CAN LEAD TO WORKPLACE VIOLENCE
Dec 13, 2011
A Springfield Mass. High School of Commerce math teacher of nine years, Willie Vega (44 yrs old), was accused of and arrested for punching the female Vice Principal in the face after he received a bad evaluation. Police said Vega became “enraged with his evaluation,” stabbed it with a pen and crumpled it up before he punched the 41-year-old female vice principal. The vice principal tried to flee her office but police said Vega blocked the door. The vice principal then grabbed her portable school radio and called for help, police said. Vega’s punch caused the vice principal’s left eye to swell up,
Vega will be summoned to Springfield District Court on Jan 25th on assault and battery and kidnapping charges, Springfield Police Sgt. Delaney said. Vega, was placed on administrative leave with pay while an internal review was conducted. The accused teacher Mr. Vega refused to answer questions at a school disciplinary hearing about the alleged assault. His decision to remain silent was based on advice from a teacher’s union lawyer, according to Timothy T. Collins, president of the Springfield Education Association. The internal review resulted in the termination of Mr. Vega's employment as a teacher according to Springfield Public Schools spokeswoman Azell Cavaan.
School officials were “shocked” and “shaken” by the allegations and are “cooperating fully” with police. the school Principal Charles Grandson IV said yesterday the school made counselors available to students and faculty. “All of us are reaching out to and supporting the administrator involved and making sure that that person is taken care of mentally and physically,” Grandson told the media. “She is getting better and school officials are working to make sure she has the support she needs.” The accused teacher said he has a meeting scheduled with two lawyers today as he faces assault and kidnapping charges. “I can only say I’m going to defend myself fully and use every resource I have to defend myself,” Willie Vega, told the media, declining to comment further. He was released on personal recognizance. The accused teacher must obey a no-contact order with the victim, and also has to obey the school’s trespass order.
Points for Consideration:
- As an employee, no one likes to be told their professional performance or behavior is substandard, but accountability is critical for any organization to function effectively.
- As a supervisor, few are comfortable with face to face (F2F) performance evaluation counseling if it is negative in nature.
- A supervisor must prepare the performance counseling properly, especially a negative counseling. Things to consider:
- The environment: where is this taking place, observers in the room, physical setting, etc.
- Rehearsing and war-gaming the employee response: how might the employee respond, factoring in the dignity of the teacher, rebuttal scenarios, control of the meeting.
- Personal safety: if it is anticipated that the employee will react emotionally; having another administrator, security, or even the School Resource Officer (SRO) standing by in a "low profile" manner can be a prudent measure.
- Personal and professional maturity of the employee receiving negative performance counseling AND the experience level of the administrator providing the negative performance feedback are factors to consider.
- Strongly recommend the Administrator's supervisor rehearse and role-play a variety of counseling scenario outcomes.
- If you anticipate the employee's response might get emotionally heated or even violent, you must rehearse the responses for this with the key personnel that could be involved.
Remember, having to do more with less or reducing staff in tough budget times can cause great emotional and psychological stress causing unprofessional behavior and even violence at times. Educational leaders and administrators must prepare for this potential through realistic planning for the worst case scenario.