Wayland teacher rep, School Committee member offer contrasting statements


On Dec. 14, Wayland School Committee held a meeting. During this meeting, acting science department head and wellness teacher John Berry gave a public comment, and School Committee member Jess Polizzotti shared student statements and a combined parent statement about mistreatment and bullying of a teacher by another teacher.

Emily Roberge and Sophia Oppenheim

On Wednesday Dec. 14, WHS acting science department head and wellness teacher John Berry addressed the resignation of chemistry and forensics teacher Kristin Cowell at a Wayland School Committee meeting. After 12 years in the district, Cowell’s final day of teaching at WHS was on Friday, Dec. 16.

Berry spoke on behalf of the Wayland Teachers Association (WTA), as he serves as one of the WTA’s building representatives for the high school. The WTA is the local teachers’ union affiliated with the Massachusetts Teachers Association. In the first public comment period, Berry cited concerns regarding Cowell’s resignation.

“The most recent resignation happened this past week,” Berry said. “[Kristin Cowell] from Wayland High School is leaving this Friday to teach in another district. This is one example of many teachers who have left or stepped down from leadership roles citing issues with leadership. This should have never come to pass.”

During the 2021-2022 school year, WHS science department head Kenneth Rideout and math department head Barbara Coughlin stepped down from their leadership positions. At the end of the 2021-2022 school year, WHS math teacher Eric Wolven left WHS for another district.

Berry also addressed the influence of Easy’s leadership on WPS teachers.

“[Superintendent Dr. Omar Easy’s] impact on our teachers has been profound,” Berry said. “We have found far too many well respected, established and excellent teachers leave the district as a direct result to his approach of leadership.”

Berry concluded his public comment by voicing the WTA’s concerns following a recent increase in teachers leaving the district.

“The WTA is disappointed that our district has eroded to the point where our teachers need to leave their forever jobs in order to escape the conditions under which we are currently working,” Berry said. “Our teachers and building administrators are the backbone of our school system, and we need to give weight to their words and concerns and support them in any way we can.”

Following Berry’s public comment, Wayland town resident Kim Reichelt spoke about the need to embrace change within the district.

“I’d like you to have in mind that part of being a great district is being able to embrace change,” Reichelt said. “You don’t get better by just doing what you have always been doing. Sometimes new ideas will come from Finland, Sweden, California or sometimes they will come from Everett, sometimes even within Wayland. If every time we try something new, you are met with resistance, then you cannot try new things. If we are resistant [to changes], then we cannot do better.”

All School Committee members were present, as were Dr. Easy, Assistant Superintendent Parry Graham and WPS principals.

Once public commentary concluded, School Committee member Jess Polizzotti shared a combined parent statement and three student statements about mistreatment and bullying of a teacher by another teacher. The students and parents wished to remain anonymous, so they asked Polizzotti to read the statements at a School Committee meeting.

“We are reaching out to you to request that you look into inappropriate targeting and mistreatment of a teacher by senior teachers at Wayland High School,” the anonymous parent group said. “Many of our kids have been scared and nervous to come forward with this information for fear of being targeted or reprimanded with lower grades as a result, so we come to you in confidence.”

The statement continues, stating that their children had encountered a certain teacher at the high school being targeted by other teachers. The students experienced yelling and reprimanding by the teacher in front of them.

“It has created an emotionally unhealthy environment for all of our children and an unacceptable, hostile work environment for the teacher targeted,” the parents said.

The students’ statements elaborated on the situations they had encountered with the teacher. The majority of their statements highlighted their positive relationship with their teacher and how they felt comfortable and supported by them.

“It made me worried when I found out that this teacher was having a hard time because of the pressure to live up to the expectations of everyone, both students and teachers,” an anonymous student said.

Another student’s statement shared multiple instances where they had encountered this teacher being bullied, as well as recalling some of their friends’ experiences as well.

“I have personally witnessed repeated instances of other members of this department rudely reprimanding the other teacher in front of students,” the anonymous student said.