WINDSOR LOCKS – This is School Superintendent Shawn Parkhurst’s handling of an incident involving high school science teacher Nile Rozie on a professional development day on November 2 – Parkhurst saw Rozie coloring on a block -notes during a session and took action against him – who promoted an official union last week to call on the Education Council to conduct an independent investigation into the matter.
Details of the incident involving Parkhurst and Rozie were provided by school officials following a Freedom of Information Act request for documents by the Journal Inquirer.
When Brian Deming, president of the Windsor Locks Teachers Association, asked the school board at its Thursday meeting to investigate the case, he did not recite the details of the incident aloud or include the name from the teacher, but both were provided in documents obtained by the JI.
The statements provided to JI come from Parkhurst, high school principal Rebecca Bissonnette, four anonymous teachers who attended the professional development session and union representative Matt Sigall, who was called to the main office after the incident.
The statements deal with what happened on November 2 when Parkhurst asked Rozie to put her coloring away and connect to the appropriate page for the professional development presentation.
According to Parkhurst’s statement, about 30 to 45 minutes after the start of the November 2 presentation, he noticed that Rozie was sitting “with her head down, hooded and coloring with crayons on a clipboard.”
Parkhurst said he noticed Rozie’s Chromebook had a Brazil flag in full screen. After asking Bissonnette if this was what Rozie should have done and hearing from her that it wasn’t, he said he patted Rozie on her shoulder and needed some help. ‘engage in professional development, to connect and tidy up his coloring.
According to Parkhurst, Rozie initially refused and continued coloring, so he said that he and Bissonnette – she was also in the room and he called her – would meet him in the main office.
“He continued to color and slowly started to put his stack of colored pencils away,” Parkhurst said of Rozie. “I then ordered (Bissonnette) to call union representation and, since Nil was not moving, I told him to get up and start moving.”
Two of the four unsigned statements from the teachers indicate that Rozie was coloring during the development presentation, but they do not indicate how long it took him to put away the coloring materials.
The teacher’s third statement indicates that Rozie put the map of Brazil away when Parkhurst asked Bissonnette to come to where Rozie was sitting. The fourth teacher states that when this teacher returned from the bathroom and asked Rozie what he had done after hearing Parkhurst direct him to the desk, Rozie said, “I am coloring.”
Deming, in his presentation to the school board last Thursday, pointed out that the teachers’ statements contradicted Parkhurst’s interpretation of what happened that day. But it is not clear from parts of the teachers’ statements provided to the MOC by school officials what exactly was contradictory.
As Parkhurst, Bissonnette and Rozie made their way to the office, Parkhurst, in his statement, said he must have asked Rozie twice to put on his face mask, to which he said Rozie did not respond. . Once in the office boardroom, Parkhurst said he told Rozie that if he didn’t put on his face mask properly, he would ask him to leave for the day.
Bissonnette’s statement also states that Parkhurst had to ask Rozie “at least twice” to stand up and properly wear his face mask while the three made their way to the main office.
“Mr. Parkhurst also said that if he were to ask him to fix his mask again, he would send him home,” his statement read.
Bissonnette said Parkhurst asked her if Rozie should color a map of Brazil during the professional development presentation, to which she replied “absolutely not.”
In his statement Sigall, the union representative, said he arrived at the office and listened to Parkhurst’s interpretation of what had happened. He then asked to speak with Rozie privately and said the teacher told him he was “on task” with the materials provided during professional development.
Sigall’s statement also states that Rozie told him he had a map on his computer, which he sometimes scribbles on, but put it away when Parkhurst asked.
“I understood that he was doodling and that Nile had complied with the initial request, but that there was nothing to say for Nile at this point,” Sigall wrote.
He said Parkhurst said Rozie would immediately be sent home on paid administrative leave and notify human resources director Sheri Lee to initiate an investigation.
Attempts to reach Rozie in high school this morning failed.
At last Thursday’s school board meeting, Deming said teachers were concerned about the incident and wanted an independent investigation into it. He also said Parkhurst had “strong physical contact” with Rozie, a charge he said confirmed by at least one witness.
The statements of teachers, Bissonnette and Sigall do not mention any violent physical contact. Parkhurst mentioned in his statement that he patted Rozie on the shoulder before asking him to put the dyes away.
Deming also told the school board that teachers reported incidents with similar trends as early as October 21 and that Parkhurst’s behavior over the past year should be investigated. He did not provide any details.
Lee said in an email this week that she had no documentation of complaints made about Parkhurst.