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John Simkin

International School Toulouse - Injustice

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Richard Jones-Nerzic was sacked from his position at the Airbus funded International School of Toulouse on the 23rd December 2006. Richard is a founder member and administrator of this Education Forum.

The justification given was that he photocopied the dismissal letter of a colleague (Tanya Carlile), therefore allowing other members of staff to know the reasons for her dismissal. This was despite the fact that an internal investigation revealed that Tanya Carlile had given express permission for staff to know the content of her letter. The Board of Directors at the school (appointed by Airbus) made their decision to dismiss Richard Jones-Nerzic based on a presentation by the Principal, Mr Les Albiston. At no point has Richard Jones-Nerzic been allowed to defend himself to the Board. In addition, he was expressly denied the right to external union representation at his disciplinary hearing.

On the 22nd of December Richard Jones-Nerzic also received a court summons from the school challenging his union’s (SUNDEP) right to representation in the school and his right personally to be the representative of that union in the school. There is a long history behind this. In 2001 and despite much management opposition, staff with the support of SUNDEP, succeeded in setting up a legally recognised system of representation. In the elections of 2001, 2003 and 2005, six SUNDEP members were successfully elected to represent staff. With the dismissal of Richard Jones-Nerzic only one SUNDEP member remains as a staff representative. The other four, some members of this forum, were all previously dismissed: Pascal Barbeau, Juliette Taylor-Lallau, David Ardley and Sylvie Dukes. The grounds for these previous dismissals were generally ‘economic’ and it is understood that all four signed confidentiality clauses preventing them from talking about the reasons for their dismissal.

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An open letter to Mr Les Albiston (Principal of the International School of Toulouse) and Simon Benney (President of the Board of Directors), Robert McCartney, Jesus Morales, Kiran Rao and Juan Martinez (members of the Board of Directors, International School of Toulouse)

We are writing as members of the Comenius 2.1 E-Help Project which is made up of the following institutions:

• Centro de Apoyo al Profesorado - Alcorcón (Madrid) SPAIN

• IES Parque de Lisboa - Alcorcón (Madrid) SPAIN

• The International School of Toulouse - Colomiers FRANCE

• Historical Association - London UNITED KINGDOM

• Spartacus Educational - Worthing UNITED KINGDOM

• Dartford Technology College - Dartford UNITED KINGDOM

• University of East Anglia - Norwich, UNITED KINGDOM

• Fredrika Bremergymnasiet - Haninge SWEDEN

• Hvitfeldska Upper Secondary High School - Goteborg SWEDEN

• Sintermeertencollege - Heerlen, THE NETHERLANDS

For the past 3 years, these institutions have been involved in a joint project working with the IST, working in particular with Mr Jones-Nerzic and Mr Albiston, and we have spent several working visits at the IST. The aim of the project (European History E-learning Project) is to train teachers and teacher-trainers in teaching History in a multilingual European context using cutting-edge ICT in the classroom (www.e-Help.eu).

We learned recently that Mr Jones-Nerzic has been summarily dismissed from his post at the International School of Toulouse on the instruction of the Principal, Mr. Albiston.

There is no doubt that the dismissal of Mr Jones-Nerzic is a severely damaging setback to the E-Help project, and the circumstances surrounding his dismissal add to our concern that all is not well at IST. We understand that this concern is shared by many of the parents and pupils at IST.

Mr Jones-Nerzic has been the coordinator of the E-Help project and has had our complete confidence in terms of his efficiency, ability and integrity. It is not possible to spend so much time working with Mr Jones-Nerzic, and visiting the IST, without coming to the view that he is an outstanding teacher who is very highly respected by parents, colleagues and students alike. He is an international leader in the field of history teaching and ICT and there has not been the slightest indication that he sets anything other than the highest possible standards in terms of his teaching, his examination results, his ability to work with and be supportive of others, and in terms of his overall professionalism.

We were thus surprised and dismayed to hear of his dismissal. Attempts to elicit the reasons for his dismissal from Mr Albiston have proved unsuccessful. Such information as we do have creates at the very least a concern or suspicion that the dismissal may stem from a clash of personalities or a desire to ‘settle scores’ for past actions, rather than from actions of gross professional negligence which would normally be necessary to occasion the summary dismissal of an experienced and successful teacher.

Of course, part of our concern is for the well-being of our project, in which we have invested a great deal of time and energy. We had hopes that the project would prove to be outstandingly successful.

As you will be aware, the International School of Toulouse has been chosen to become the centre for the E-Help teacher-training course from the summer of 2008. It was hoped that hundreds of teachers would come to Toulouse from all over Europe. It was reasonable to expect that the course would bring significant prestige and publicity to the IST. We believe that the summary dismissal of the lead member of the project and the circumstances surrounding this action puts the enterprise in jeopardy. Our concern however, is not limited to the E-Help project itself; it embraces a concern for the colleague who we have worked with over the past 3 years, and for whom we have the highest regard, and a concern for the state of affairs at IST.

It is essential that we have an open and honest relationship with the IST personnel connected with the project if the E-Help project is to continue.

We urge you very strongly to consider the details of the circumstances surrounding the action taken against Mr Jones-Nerzic in a fair, open-minded and sympathetic way. Unless there are clear, compelling and irrefutable reasons which make any action other than dismissal unthinkable, we hope that some constructive way round the present situation may be found. At the very least, if the decision to dismiss Mr Jones-Nerzic is deemed by the Board to be final and irrevocable, we feel that a full and satisfactory explanation of the circumstances surrounding the dismissal needs to be provided if there is to be any hope of the project continuing

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I first met Richard Jones-Nerzic in 2001 when I was invited to run an in-service session with the staff of IST. While I was in the school I had the opportunity to observe Richard teaching. I can honestly say that Richard is the best history teacher I have ever seen. I was so impressed that I arranged for him to become a member of the European Virtual School, an initiative of the Swedish Department of Education.

In 2003 I joined with a group of European educationalists in developing a Comenius Project entitled the “European History E-Learning Project (E-HELP)”. It was decided that Richard was the best person to lead the project. As Comenius Project contracts are given to institutions rather than individuals, this meant that the International School of Toulouse, would have to be the lead organization. This was met with approval by Les Albiston and in 2004 Comenius approved our application.

Established in October, 2004, the overall aim of E-HELP is to encourage and improve the use of ICT and the Internet in history classrooms in Europe. Richard has done an excellent job as coordinator and the European authorities approved our first two years work. Les Albiston was fully aware of the success of the project as he attended most of our meetings held in France, Spain, Sweden and the Netherlands. We are currently working on the final task of organizing the E-HELP conference to be held next year.

I was deeply shocked when I heard from Richard that he was facing a disciplinary hearing at the IST. I phoned Les Albiston and tried to discuss this issue with him. However, it seemed that despite the evidence that had emerged since these false charges were made, he was determined to sack Richard. The news on 23rd December only confirmed my fears that Les was determined to carry out his plan of removing Richard from the staff of IST.

I am aware that heads of institutions often use their power to remove members of staff who ask awkward questions. They usually employ methods that are fairly subtle and little fuss is made about these decisions. That option was available to Les Albiston. However, he decided to create as much stress as possible to Richard by sacking him just a few days before Christmas.

Richard’s only crime was to question the dictatorial methods being employed by a head teacher who thinks he is running a school in Toulouse during the Vichy regime. This is not only an issue of Richard’s job. A fine school is being ruined by the actions of one man. It is no coincidence that Richard has been treated in this way. It is all part of his strategy to bully his staff into submission. Richard’s case is a warning to other staff members who might be tempted to resist his dictatorial rule.

It seems to be working. I suggest that parents, students and staff should pay a visit to the Toulouse Museum of Resistance to see what happens when the oppressed do not join forces in order to resist tyranny. I am reminded of a poem written by Martin Niemöller. He was a German pastor who originally supported the Nazi government. He turned a blind-eye to how the Nazis treated those who resisted their rule. Then, in a sermon in his church on Sunday 27th June 1937, he complained about the way the “secret police penetrated the closed church of Friedrich Werder and arrested at the altar eight members of the Council of Brethren."

As a result of this sermon he was arrested and imprisoned. He was sent to Dachau but because he was not a political opponent of Hitler and was not a member of those who were considered by the Nazis as sub-human, he was not put to death.

In 1946 he wrote this poem that says so much about the need to resist tyranny at the time it happens, not when it is political acceptable to do so.

First they came for the communists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a communist;

Then they came for the socialists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a socialist;

Then they came for the trade unionists, and I did not speak out - because I was not a trade unionist;

Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out - because I was not a Jew;

Then they came for me - and there was no one left to speak out for me.

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I first met Richard Jones Nerzic in 2003 when I was invited to take part in the preliminary meeting for the Comenius Project John refers to in his post. In the subsequent three years I have had the pleasure and privilege in taking part in the successful Comenius Project he has led and coordinated with great efficiency and professionalism. Membership of this group has taken me to Toulouse and the IST on 3 different occasions.

On each visit to IST I have been hugely impressed by the esteem Richard is held in by colleagues and students. I have never had the slightest doubt that Richard is a hardworking, successful and committed professional. It was also very clear that the departments he led were amongst the most successful in the school.

It strikes me as disturbing and perverse that any institution should wish to summarily dismiss one of its greatest assets. More so given that Richard and Les Albiston (who has also attended several Comenius meetings) appeared to have a successful and constructive professional relationship.

Something has gone very wrong indeed when a committed and dedicated professional can be sacked just before Christmas for "photocopying a letter" about the questionable dismissal of a colleague.

I am deeply concerned about what is happening at the IST. Here is a school which ought to be about as close to paradise as you can get in the education profession - beautifully designed buildings, fantastic ICT equipment, vibrant young professional teachers, and best of all interesting and intelligent pupils who have a genuine hunger to learn. All this is being placed at grave great risk .

A first step to salvaging this sorry mess should be to reinstate Richard Jones Nerzic. I would from there recommend that the administration of school begin to listen to and consult with both the students of their school, (who are articulate and intelligent), and, just as importantly, establish a professional dialogue with the professional associations of the staff's choosing.

Let us see a return to sanity soon please

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First off let me introduce myself, my name is Adrian Abbott, a sixteen year old student at the International School of Toulouse. Since I was twelve years old I have been taught by Richard Jones-Nerzic and I can honestly say the lessons he taught will extend beyond the history class room and accompany me for the rest of my life.

His enthusiasm for his subject was always transferred to his students, and his classes were always some of the most productive in the school. Ask any of his students and you will get the same reply. He is the best teacher that they have ever had. We respected him because he respected us and we all hold him in the highest regard.

The advice he gave for examinations was to say the least, excellent, beyond compare. He has been there to help and guide me for my entire secondary education thus far. After his dismissal the path to my GCSE examinations then seemed a rocky road, scary and hazardous.

The school has not given us any answers to why he was dismissed. The students are asking questions, the parents are asking questions and the management appears to be dancing around our inquiries. Maybe they are intentionally avoiding our appeals for information or maybe they really can’t for “legal reasons”, but we don’t know anything for the moment and we wished we did.

The treatment that Mr. Jones-Nerzic and his family received is deplorable and I hope that everything will be worked out as soon as possible. To be honest I’m still shocked about the whole situation.

I believe that the International School of Toulouse is a brilliant school, but with the recent events and the student body unhappy at the school, unfortunatly I can only see a negative backlash in the future.

I do not understand his dismissal at all. It seems like it hasn’t been thought out. I know that I am not the only student unhappy about this situation, and I wish that they would reinstate him.

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As a student of the IST, I must say with all honesty that the dismissal of Mr. Jones-Nerzic did not surprise me at it should have. It follows a pattern of other professional educators being dismissed or leaving the school due to the opaqueness of the administration. Mr. Jones-Nerzic is a teacher who speaks his mind in the most honest and respectable of fashion, and who, in this particular case, went up against an authority who he believed to have unduly dismissed another member of staff with what was universally seen as a very minor offence.

I myself have been a student of Mr. Jones-Nerzic for the past four and a half years, and not once have I ever doubted his capability as a teacher. When I came into the school in year nine with a borderline interest in History, I became enthralled in this lessons and methods of teaching. His inspiration within the History classroom inspired me do improve, and from a subject that I once viewed as merely mediocre with Mr. Jones's supervision I was soon excelling past all other subjects. His style of teaching is one that not just encourages students to learn the content, but the much wider implications outside of the specified subject, and the most effective way to process that knowledge. His dedication to his students has been unwavering. I have very specific memories of his revision sessions for History IGCSE once a week, giving up his free time after school, and even spent one day during the Holidays preparing us for the upcoming exams, the only teacher in the school to prepare his/her students in this way.

The direction that he points his students in for IB History is also commendable. His help to students with coursework such as the Extended Essay and the Internal Assessment has been invaluable to all students. He has given up many a lunch break talking to me about problems I have with these assignments, provided me with useful material, and spends hours on the Student Education Forum communication with his students about issues with their work.

Mr. Jones-Nerzic is one of the most pro-active and dedicated teachers at the IST. If he does not continue to work there, numerous History students will not receive his unique teaching style, and will have missed out on a fantastic opportunity to not only learn about the world that has been, but the world they live in today.

It was a mistake to dismiss such a great teacher. It would be a far greater mistake, after the huge reaction to the situation, not to reinstate him.

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Does anyone know any details about Mr Jones' court case? I heard it has been adjourned, but I have also heard that some other decisions were made on Monday (the original date of the case.) What should concerned ex-pupils such as myself do now to assist this issue?

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Does anyone know any details about Mr Jones' court case? I heard it has been adjourned, but I have also heard that some other decisions were made on Monday (the original date of the case.) What should concerned ex-pupils such as myself do now to assist this issue?

The IST asked for a delay at the court hearing on Monday and refused a date offered for later this month. His next hearing is the 26th of February.

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I can only agree with John Simkin's and Andy Walker's opinion about Richard Jones-Nerzic. I have been several years collaborating with him in several projects (Virtual School, E-Help) and I have visited several times IST in Toulouse.

Richard Jones-Nerzic always seemed to me a very capable and enthusiastic history teacher, who is in the cutting-edge in Europe of using ICT in teaching history. He has played the role of EHELP coordinator in a very professional way. And I can assure that it is not an easy task to coordinate such a complicated project.

On top of that, he has always been a person who you can put your trust in.

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I would also like to add my support for Richard, whose passion and expertise in the teaching of history is inspiring. Since working with Richard over the last few years, my own teaching has been enhanced significantly by the sharing of good practice and the use of fantastic materials that he has developed on the IST History website. Every year I teach my GCSE pupils using the Reichstag Fire Roleplay that Richard developed and it is one of my favourite activities. I use the IST students, that were videoed as a model for my own pupils and we also produce a short film based on the role play. Richard is widely recognised as one of the leading exponents of using digital video in the classroom and I am indebted to him for changing my own practice in this direction. It seems to me a traversty that one of the most valued teachers in the school has been released.

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Hello everyone posting on this forum. Mr Simkin, thank you for allowing me to join.

As you suggested, here is a copy of what I wrote on the Student Education Forum - it is my original post attesting to Mr Jones-Nerzic's abilities as a teacher. I agree with everything everyone has written on this thread. It has been edited a bit because it had some comments in it (to other students) that are not necessary for this particular forum.

--------------------------

Copy of post of 6th January 2007 from the Student Education Forum

The whole thing is just plain ridiculous. Mr Jones is the best teacher I have ever had, he was dedicated, worked hard for students who worked hard, helped whenever help was needed, was available over and above when he needed to be, and actually cared about his students and what happened to them.

Mr Jones did whatever he could to help students learn, understand and enjoy History, not to mention teach them the critical skills needed to respond to exam questions. He encouraged students to think critically and philosophically, and in my experience the skills Mr Jones taught over a period of time could be used in all subjects and in all aspects of writing, studying and education. He was rightly intolerant of people who saw lessons (particularly close to exam time) as an opportunity to chat, and he always encouraged you to speak up in class, to think through the topic, to encourage discussion and create enthusiasm for History. Mr Jones was critical when he needed to be and gave praise when it was due.

To dismiss such a competent teacher is, pure and simply, complete madness. I am almost tempted to say that if the school doesn't want Mr Jones then it is emphatically their loss and another school's gain. (EDIT)

I am currently at Cambridge University, and was one of only 9, out of 36 applicants, admitted to the college to read History this year. This is, I say without any hesistation, entirely due to Mr Jones. He was by no means the only person to support and help me get into this competitive University, but he was the driving force behind my knowledge, my determination and my understanding of the subject. Mr Jones' teaching and guidance allowed me to feel reasonably confident in an interview where I had to discuss History with professors who have been studying the subject since before I was born, and the first essay I wrote in my first term was, I say without showing off or boasting, only termed anywhere near 'good', due to what I had learned with Mr Jones.

His own determination and obvious passion for the subject showed me that this could be more than just a stuffy academic subject and this enthusiasm spread through my other IB subjects and is still with me now. History is difficult, but Mr Jones helps more than could be expected. He did everything he could, within the evident time restrictions and given the fact that his is obviously and rightly not a 24 hour-a-day job. Mr Jones was available on this forum throughout the time when IGCSE and IB coursework was to be worked on, this is also true regarding Extended Essays - I wrote mine, as did many students, entirely during the summer holidays and Mr Jones was there every time I had a question. I don't know of many teachers who would take the initiative not only to set up such an interactive forum but also to be there at obscure moments to check it.

Mr Jones is known for having a strong personality - he is forceful and gets to the point. Mr Jones may not be everyone's best friend, but that is not why he was employed. I have always found Mr Jones fair and perfectly fine to work with, but it is true that he does not take nonsense from people and he does not allow students to mess about or waste his time. Some people may see this as elitism or rudeness. It is absolutely nothing of the sort. It is simply a passion for the subject, a will to cut to the chase and spend all possible moments working constructively.

He is a teacher who tries to teach creatively, using technology, video etc. and more often than not this is a useful learning experience, even if it is not directly counted for the final exam grade. Mr Jones is realistic, he marks fairly. He is tough and is a perfectionist - both of which are admirable and necessary qualities in a world where exam grades are so important and standards are high. These are also qualities which are necessary if one wants to pursue further education - in my experience the skills Mr Jones taught me, through his constant striving for higher standards, his desire for the best possible work and for every student who puts the work in to acheive their highest potential, have carried me through to the first steps of where I am now and gave me the best possible academic start to my higher education, and it is with no exaggeration that I say these skills are useful in life aswell.

Mr Jones taught me from Year 7 to Year 13 and I can say without any hesitation that he is the best, most inspiring, most hard-working, most caring and most dedicated teacher I have ever had. As a teacher, he set me up for the challenges at University and showed me the satisfaction that hard work can bring. My final years at IST were, so far, among some of the academically toughest and most challenging of my life, especially when I had set myself such high goals, but I can safely say that the reason I set my goals high in the first place is due in part to Mr Jones, and he is the main reason for my academic success.

The school will be a poorer place if it continues to steam ahead with this madness - which seems to have no grounding in anything credible. (EDIT)

The school must be fairly confident of their reasoning to have pursued the matter this far but its lack of communication is making it look like a pathetic petulant child who refuses to discuss or reason, and only makes those who oppose it seem to own the higher ground.

Mr Jones is a good teacher, who gets results. He motivates students and creates enjoyment and passion for his subject. The results he acheives are tangible and credible. (EDIT)

I encourage all students of the IST who believe that Mr Jones should not have been dismissed to do everything they can to show the school that the decision they have made is terrible and misguided. (EDIT)

Good luck to everyone.

----

You can see the original post at http://studenteducationforum.ipbhost.com/i...p?showtopic=570 , as well as many other students' views.

Thank you for reading.

Hannah

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I met Richard in 2001 when I was invited to Virtual School. At the time I knew very little about ICT and had no experience of webwork (I had not been invited as an "ICT expert" but as a history teacher who wanted to use ICT...). Not to long after this we held a great meeting at IST in Toulouse and Richard started to teach me the very basics of ICT. With other words - he became my teacher! He very patiently took this slow Swede through the first obstacles of making your own homepage and explained how to continue...

It's always been great working with Richard. He is a fantastic pedagog, an extremely devoted teacher, hard working and very skilled. Everybody talks about his cutting edge skills in ICT. To that I would also like to add his willingness of sharing this knowledge. As the coordinator of our group in e-help he has showed that he also has great leading abilities. Our group has done very well under his lead so my chock was huge when I found out about the sacking. It does not make any sense...

Richard is a trustworthy person - fair, open and very easy to communicate with so my understanding of what happened is non-existent. It must be some kind of misunderstanding and I hope that IST will reinstate Richard as soon as possible. He is vital in our project and he is as important as a teacher at IST.

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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I've been working for several years now with Richard Jones-Nerzic. First in Virtual School History Department, over the last couple of years in the E-Help project. This project was initiated in a meeting in Madrid whit Les Albiston, his principal in IST present. It was decided that IST would apply for a Comenius 2.1 grant. Richard Jones-Nerzic was to become the chairman of the project. A inspiring chairman. In the project we were looking forward to have a test-run of the course the members were going to present in Norwich this Spring.

The dismissal of Richard Jones-Nerzic puts the project into jeopardy.

I hope the board of directors will overturn the dismissal, looking at the achievements of Richard, not only for E-Help, but for the whole of ISTas well.

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Neither Tanya Carlile nor Richard Jones Nerzic have ever received any sanction, verbal or written whilst employed at the IST. This is the first disciplinary procedure for both of them.

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