I get it. Being a teacher is stressful. So it’s not overly surprising that principals will try to work out ways for the teachers in their schools to blow off a little steam. However, one principal in Maryland is in hot water over what she put together for her teachers.
A principal and her elementary school are under investigation after Montgomery County schools confirmed she set up a “smash space” designed for teachers to relieve stress by using baseball bats on a broken rocking chair.
In a letter to parents, Kensington Parkwood Elementary School Principal Barbara Leiss apologized for setting up the space on school grounds. Leiss’ letter indicates the space was set up on March 8.
“I got the idea after reading some business articles that discussed companies providing items to be smashed as a way to reduce stress,” Leiss wrote. “This was a lapse in judgment.”
The Montgomery County school system has gone on record as stating they do not condone such a space.
It’s not difficult to see why parents are upset, either.
While some businesses may make use of smashing things to reduce stress, most of those employees then go back to their desks to work with things like numbers and ideas, not people’s kids. Additionally, what if a student had witnessed the behavior?
Leiss’ letter to parents indicates that she felt that possibility wasn’t likely.
Approximately one month ago, on March 8th, a rocking chair became broken beyond repair and was brought to our outdoor trash room for bulk pick up. This space was outside of the schoolbuilding, on the loading dock, out of sight and sound of students.
I absolutely regret my decision to provide staff with an opportunity to “smash” the rocking chair. This decision was not in response to any teacher comment or behavior, rather a misguided attempt by me to provide staff with an outlet. I got the idea after reading some business articles that discussed companies providing items to be smashed as a way to reduce stress. This was a lapse in judgement and I recognize the concerns this may have raised. Our staff is committed to modeling for students and one another productive and appropriate ways for handling stress. I recognize that while well-intended, this scenario is counter to what we teach students and has no place in a school.
Please know that I am committed to Kensington Parkwood, to our families, and to our students. Please accept my sincerest apologies and know that I will do all I can to regain your trust.
However, it’s also important to note that kids often know far more of what goes on with teachers than a school’s faculty knows. Kids often figure out things you’d prefer they didn’t, which means you don’t smash things with a baseball bat just because you’re sure it won’t be seen.
This isn’t the first time Leiss has been embroiled in controversy, either.
Earlier this year, a parent filed a complaint accusing Leiss of a conflict of interest by taking on co-workers as clients for her second job as a real estate agent.
The complaint mailed last week asserts that 10-year Principal Barbara Liess created a potential conflict of interest by taking on fellow Montgomery County Public Schools employees as clients in her second job as a real estate agent.
“I just found that to be quite troubling,” said former parent-teacher association president Anthony Bonetti, who filed the complaint and whose fifth-grade daughter attends the school.
Bonetti also called for an investigation by the school system into whether Liess, a former agent for Weichert in Bethesda, closed on property sales during school days or otherwise let her second job interfere with her role as principal.
Parents first became concerned when it appeared that Leiss was distracted by her real estate work while working to educate Montgomery County’s children.
Leiss has allegedly given up her real estate license, but the two incidents together suggest a serious lapse in judgment at the very least, despite her rather significant time as an educator.