Sweeney's Room

Power Struggle Erupts at Lincoln High School

Comments

1
I know many students have a fondness for the guy, but wow. He's being asked to move his room. He's even being given preferential treatment in the location of his new room. The argument on Lorimer's website that his current room is "already community space" is completely defied by his territorial effort to stake claim to it... clearly, if it's that big a deal for him to give up control over it, it's not community space, it's MR. SWEENEY'S space.

Teachers at many schools have to move rooms on a regular basis to adjust for the school's changing needs, or clean out their rooms annually to make a blank slate for summer programs. Basically, this guy has been spoiled by having the same room for so long, thinks he's entitled to it, and is having (or his wife is having on his behalf) a hissy-fit over something that is ultimately completely inconsequential. I don't approve of his behavior and think it sets a terrible example for his students. Where are the priorities, here? Where is the perspective?

The combination of the demonization of the principal as a power-tripping monster and the completely irrelevant (and, speaking as a minority, nauseatingly patronizing) playing of the race card makes it impossible to respect or take seriously what appears to be at its foundation merely an inappropriately public power struggle between a teacher who has become comfortably complacent with the status quo and a principal who wants to change it.
2
Any wonder why public school teachers get bad reputations? This article seems to illustrate the sheltered, entitled self-righteous knee-jerk liberalism that infects our public schools and academic institutions in general. And I like public school teachers, public schools and American academic institutions.
3
The website says, "If you were or are a student of Mr. Sweeney’s, if you are a colleague, friend, former guest speaker, parent of a Lincoln student, or just want to support teachers, please sign your name to this letter. If you are so moved, please include comments."

I am a colleague who wants to support teachers. Four or five days ago I attempted to post a message on the website as an alternative point of view, but the moderator has chosen not to post it.

It's too long to post here, but in essence it says I believe that the website perpetuates the very dysfunction it decries by making potentially libelous and unsupported claims about Ms. Chapman. For example, the tension that is blamed on Ms. Chapman existed long before her arrival at Lincoln. By taking the low road in response to a perceived injustice the site sullies the positive effect Mike has had on many students throughout the years.

The site also says, "[Mike] has moved students to occupy a larger, moral universe; one in which opinions and experience are valued and legitimate differences are respected."

Too bad the website with his name on it doesn't do the same.

-Jordan Gutlerner
4
The website says, "If you were or are a student of Mr. Sweeney’s, if you are a colleague, friend, former guest speaker, parent of a Lincoln student, or just want to support teachers, please sign your name to this letter. If you are so moved, please include comments."

I am a colleague who wants to support teachers. However, four or five days ago I attempted to post a message on the website as an alternative point of view, but the moderator has chosen not to post it.

It's too long to post here, but in essence I believe that the website perpetuates the very dysfunction it decries by making potentially libelous and unsupported claims about Ms. Chapman. For example, the tension that is blamed on Ms. Chapman existed long before her arrival at Lincoln. By taking the low road in response to a perceived injustice the site sullies the positive effect Mike has had on many students throughout the years.

The site also says, "[Mike] has moved students to occupy a larger, moral universe; one in which opinions and experience are valued and legitimate differences are respected."

Too bad the website with his name on it doesn't do the same.

-Jordan Gutlerner
5
Of all the quotes the writer could have chosen from the Web site that indicated support for Sweeney, why use a single line with a spelling error?

Consider this comment posted by a former counselor:

"I was a counselor at Lincoln H.S. for 20 years. The students spoke constantly about all they had learned from Mr. Sweeney, how fabulous he was as a teacher and person, and that they wanted desperately to be in any of the classes that he taught. I also want to say that I never had any parent or student criticize any aspect of Mike Sweeney. I know the Lincoln building and there are other rooms that would work just as well for the ISC/IB room. Both wings on the main floor have wonderfully bright and large classrooms. And why not use room 141 for the ISC/IB room. It is close to the front doors and that’s why we have signs in the hallway to tell visitors where the 'main office', 'attendance office' and now 'ISC/IB Center' will be. I DO NOT see the rational for making Mr. Sweeney move."

There are plenty of others that back up the reasons for the Web site and overall debate.

This article lacks balance.
6
Huge overreaction.
7
Jeez! This seems ridiculous. Teachers never get how this stuff looks to the general public. This Sweeney fellow sounds like he thinks he's in charge. Maybe he'll pick up his toys and go home.
8
The school wants to move this teacher who would in turn have to bump another teacher from *their* classroom as well to the portables. Instead of uprooting two teachers just have the new class in the portable classroom. Seems far less messy.
9
As the daughter of two teachers, I have heard this story every single year since I was born.

GET OVER IT, SWITCH ROOMS. It's not where you teach, it's how and what.
10
Mike Sweeney is an extraordinary educator, one of the best teachers I have ever had. His classes and mentorship ensured that my public school experience at Lincoln was dynamic, challenging and superior. I loved learning and hanging out in Room 135, and I think that unless there is an insurmountable need to move him, he ought to be able to stay in the room in which he has been inspiring students for 26 years.

He is a master teacher by any measure, and deserves the respect due to anyone who demonstrates great merit over time. The problem with the principle's pronouncement that he would have to move classrooms is not that a teacher has to move classrooms. (According to Peyton Chapman's own post at www.sweeneysroom.com, it was not a "request;" it was handed down as a firm administrative decision.) The problem is that the way the administration approached the situation is a symptom of chronic devaluing and disrespect for teachers--which couldn't be less in the students' interest. Let's think about this logically. The need: a larger office for the International Studies/ International Baccalaureate programs. The administration's solution: relocate two teachers and completely move the contents of two classrooms and one office. Ummm...wouldn't it make more sense to involve fewer rooms in the room-switching tango? Put the office in whatever classroom is available, and let Sweeney keep his room. But maybe that's too logical and easily-accomplished. Without being privy to the administration's whole collection of motives, I certainly don't know why they made these nutty moves.

But anyway, what is the job of a school? Is it to make sure that all the offices are in the same hallway? As far as I know the work of a school is to educate students. This is what Mike Sweeney does, par excellence. This move by Chapman and her administration follows a string of maneuvers that have alienated and demoralized faculty and students at Lincoln, and in context it's easy to understand why the room change became a "line in the sand" issue. Far from being the story of an out-of-touch teacher, this dust-up comes across as the story of a relatively new administrator, threatened by a beloved teacher with much longer tenure than her own, who made a power play to assert her dominance.

Or, you know, maybe it was just a proposal that wasn't thoroughly vetted and was presented in a divisive and clumsy way. Either way, a good administrator--whose job description must include providing leadership and some kind of vision for the school--ought to recognize that there are multiple solutions to the problem of needing a bigger office for an important program. A good leader wouldn't need to alienate a great teacher in order to run a school.

It's too bad that this is playing out in a public forum, but here it is. There are so many of us who are deeply grateful for having had Mr. Sweeney as a teacher that the outpouring of support is likely to keep flooding towards Ms. Chapman's office. Here's hoping the players find their way to a decent and respectful rapprochement. Maybe if the weather cools off in Portland, this drama can cool off a bit too. Or maybe Obama can invite Sweeney and Chapman to the White House for beers, and they can work it out there...Because in the unlikely story that is Room 135, there has never been anything false about hope. Right?


11
One of the lessons here that nobody has talked about is that portable trailers are like a plague that has attacked nearly every public school in America.

I don't think Sweeney has been victim of racism. To say so seems like a major over-reaction, especially given his freakout about the 10 minute break loss last year during the snowstorm.

That said, it's no surprise when somebody fights to stay in a real building and doesn't want to be relegated to some mobile home outside the school.

There are way too many funding priorities the government has to deal with, from unemployment to deficits to crumbling bridges. But it really would be nice if we could lose all the horrible trailers parked at our public schools.
12
The article is "fundementally" (sic) flawed. The fact that the author selected a short, misspelled and generic quote to represent the position of Sweeney's supporters betrays a bias that verges on malice.

If he had given due attention to the matter the author would have seen that there are a number of salient issues underlying this room change.

School politics, for example: Ms. Chapman has been at Lincoln for two years, and in that time has alienated much of the staff with a heavy-handed management style. The last-minute and unilateral move of Sweeney to the portable gives it the appearance of a retributive sneak attack.

As PDXwahine writes above, "As the daughter of two teachers, I have heard this story every single year since I was born." That is exactly the point. This kind of thing--a clash between a hard-working veteran teacher and an new authoritative administrator--happens all over the school district. It happens, for that matter, in other professions as well. Some people call it "being a maverick." Others call it "alienation and bad management."

The district has been in slow decline since Measure 5, and as we grapple with how to improve it, we have to ask questions about how our schools are being managed, and how our teachers are being treated. What are administrators doing to create communities in which our kids can learn and grow?

I have more to write but I've already spent more time on this post than Matt Davis spent on his snarky little article.
13
We wonder why kids are messed up and Principals have no power to administer anything. Well here is your reason. Messed up teachers like this that cry racism, sexism, transgenderism, handicapism, etc. when they don't get their way. Its a job and you have a boss. Just because you are a public employee doesn't give you the power of God though public employees always believe they have it. In this time of economic crisis be glad you have a good paying job on the backs of the people who are not working to pay that salary and class room for you.
14
Matt Davis has fulfilled his mission as a Mercury writer in crafting a controversy-stirring distortion of the above issue. LHS '01 is correct, however, that his article lacks balance. A look at the sweeneysroom site offers a more accurate picture of what's going on here, and others ought to visit and carefully read ALL the comments (Mr. Gutlerner's does appear, in fact) before arriving at an opinion on this matter.
15
I support the principal's principled actions. It is her job to optimize facility use and she has done so. It could not have been easy to take on a locally powerful teacher with an exaggerated sense of personal entitlement. The fact that he is an ethnic minority required even greater courage on her part. Since Mr. Sweeney is recognized as a gifted writer and speaker, I wonder why his spouse became involved and why students were solicited to become involved. Similar actions by the principal, had they occurred, would have likely brought a critical response.
16
hey marvinlee. sweeney's a white guy! also, the wife is just a front so he doesn't get in trouble.
17
I'm a teacher now and I've had to switch rooms several times in the nine years I've been teaching. Let me tell you people, it sucks! I know we teachers are asked to do it all the time, and you know what? It sucks!! Maybe it's time for administrators to get their crap together and stop making teachers switch rooms so much!!! Mike Sweeney was/is a phenomenal educator. My guess is that most of the people who side against him in this issue never had him as a teacher. If you had, if you were a student in room 135, you would understand. Let the man stay!
18
The teacher sounds like an over-aged kid.
Suck it up Buddy; you have a boss.
You are easily replaced, too.
Don't kid yourself.
19
It's always easier to criticize from the outside looking in.

Having had Sweeney as a teacher, I'm willing to give him the benefit of the doubt and say that this would not have been an issue if the principal had even tried to work with him.

She may be his boss, but the flip side of that is that she ought to have the personnel skills to avoid these kinds of conflicts. This conflict may reflect poorly on Sweeney to those who do not know him. But before you prejudge ask yourself why so many of those who do know him are so willing to go to bat for him.
20
As a Lincoln parent and active volunteer, I have had the opportunity to work alongside Peyton for the past 3 years, reading this article saddens me. I have noticed that Peyton cares enormously about the staff and she has agonized over decisions that she has had to make that she knows will not be popular. She also goes out of her way to help the minorities at Lincoln; so much so that at times I have thought the minorities got too much special treatment. For Mr. Sweeney and his wife to infer that Peyton is anything resembling a racist is a joke. I can tell you that Peyton loves the staff at Lincoln, she talks fondly about the teachers, but it is obvious that she walks on eggshells around a few of the teachers, we have all seen it. When a few of these teachers do not get their way they act out. Saying that some of the staff members have a sense of entitlement is an understatement, Mr. Sweeney’s actions proved just that. Mr. Sweeney, I know the kids love you, thank you for being such a great teacher, but people are losing their jobs and they are losing their homes, you are being asked to move to a different classroom. Please think about the entire school instead of just yourself and have some perspective. Your students could not care less what classroom they are in. My son’s favorite class this year was in a dark basement next to the janitor’s room. It was the teacher who made the class, not the four walls. I’m disgusted that you would choose to turn this into a racial issue, shame on you and shame on your wife!
No signature, I don’t want my son to pay for my comments!
21
Peyton Chapman is the best thing to happen to Lincoln High in years. I had Sweeney and whatever you may think about his teaching it does not give him the right to throw an adolescent tantrum or hide behind his wife's skirts while running a libelous web site. Shame on you.
22
Someone tired to take away his red stapler.
23
WOW! With so many more real issues involving education I find it laughable that this of all things would become such a debate.....suck it up, pack it up and move it down the hall!
24
If you never had a class from Mr. Sweeney then your opinion is irrelevant. I have a Ph.D. and 2 master's degrees, which I say not to brag but to let you know that I've taken a LOT of classes from a LOT of teachers. Mr. Sweeney was by far the best of the bunch - we need more people like him in our public schools and any administrator who fails to understand the importance of a certain classroom for a teacher who is an institution in his own right clearly doesn't understand teaching.
25
You removed my pro-Sweeney comment? Really? I thought the sister paper of the Stranger was better than that . . .