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John Simkin

International School Toulouse - Injustice

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I haven't heard any new developments from the IST in a while; is it this silence that you are referring to?

The students and staff at the IST have been rather quiet about this issue over the last few weeks. After the initial shock at the dismissal, it would appear that the storm has settled as it were, and things have returned back to normal. As much as I hate to admit it, this seems to be human nature. Students have realised that they can get on adequately without Mr. Jones-Nerzic. Mr. Tarr is also a very skilled History teacher, and in this way I believe the sentiments are that seeing as they'll get through their exams with respectable marks anyway, there is not point in trying to reinstate Mr. Jones.

I personally don't believe the t-shirt demonstration did anything to change the minds or make aware the administration. If anything, they can see now that students aren't bothered to chase up and issue which the t-shirts they were wearing implied they were adamant about. This silence, among students, teachers and parents alike, I feel, sends a message to the management that Mr. Jones and Mrs. Carlyle aren't as important to them as they had been led to believe. And I very much doubt that students would step up again in protest. These are my observations from the IST at the moment, although some may see the situation differently.

Among my wishes for the outcome of this situation, I would like to see the veil of secrecy lifted from the administration, with the truth revealing to the public the 'heroes' or 'villains' that they will eventually turn out to be.

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Henri, I really have to disagree with you here. I don't know to how many students you talk to about this issue, but for me, and from what I see, the silence is helplessness. The students tried, but they burnt themselves out too quickly, and with nobody to lead them, take them by the hand and show them what to do they sit there, feeling helpless.

The students that I talk to reguarly about this issue want Mr. Jones back, but yes they are being defeatists. They don't know what to do, they're afraid of getting into trouble, they want to get on with their education but want to make a difference. For some of us, including me and you Henri, only have a few more months at the IST, and want to make sure that we get out as clean as possible. (Yet individuals like you and me probably dirtied ourselves slightly in the administrations eyes. I've heard that I'm now "one to watch out for"...)

So Henri, tell us where to go, and if the student body trusts you enough to follow you, they will.

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I agree with Adrian. What you're saying makes perfect sense, Henri, and the point that the other teachers are competent and that the students will probably, if they work hard, get good results anyway is valid. But I really hope that the students find a way to show the school that, even if it is subtle, they have not forgotten the way that their voices and opinions were so callously dismissed. Which they were. No, ok, it's not as important as world peace, third world hunger or the threat of nuclear war. But it is important -important in the day to day lives of teachers and students, and ultimately instrumental in the type of school that the IST becomes. Or not, as the case may be.

What happened to the student meetings? Try the t-shirt thing again. It isn't over until Mr Albiston stands up for himself anyway. There's still the court case at the end of this month, too remember, which could throw up some more issues and possibly shed some much-needed light on the issue.

Please try to figure out a way to show what you so ardently believed just a few short weeks ago.

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...... As a fellow principal, I suppose I shouldn't be taken aback by this type of behaviour as I know that the job can bring out the worst in people ......

Indeed it can. I have seen quite a few originally "human" beings transformed into something less worthy by the impact of absolute power.

I have long been of the view that if any teacher shows any desire whatsoever to be a headteacher then he or she should be as a matter of course be precluded from even a shortlist.

If a sitting Head or Principal starts to believe that they are Napoleon then only instant dismissal or extended leave punctuated by really quite violent electro-therapy should be considered

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hey everyone,

I just really wanted to write my support of Mr Jones and Tanya on the forum, I know I'm a bit delayed since the topic has now moved on.

So, I miss IST today, the place it was for me, but unfortunately I don't think it is providing as much comfort to current students as I experienced there. I'm at university now so IST seems far away, but on my wall I have framed a poster of Picasso's Guernica and looking at it reminds me of the History classroom and, of course, Mr Jones. It's a tragic painting really, filled with desperation and very little hope - except for that small, strange flower at the bottom of the painting. There's always a little hope in life, no matter what. I come from Zimbabwe, therefore I understand the concept of continuing even when hope seems to be diminishing. We have a saying in Zimbabwe, when there's no fuel or no bread or no money, we say that 'we'll make a plan,' and that's what we do. That's what you'll do Mr. Jones and you too, Tanya. I just want to say that even if you don't manage to go back to IST, there will be other opportunities for you elsewhere - in my experience, life tends to work out in some way or another.

Before I went to IST I didn't want to imagine what it would be like because I find that expectation can often leave to disappointment. However, even if I had conjured up an image of IST, I would not have been disappointed. Certainly not with people like Tanya and Mr Jones.

Of course, many of you have already written about Mr Jones' competency as a History teacher and there is no denying it - he is passionate for his subject and a great believer in getting his students to put themselves in the shoes of those whom they are studying about - don't we all remember the fun we had pretending to be Wilson, Clemenceau or Churchill in the re-enactment of the Treaty of Versailles? There was a poster one one of his cupboards - 'Imagination is more important than knowledge, ' (Albert Einstein), which I was always quite jealous of! However, looking back, I think that this was just one way in which Mr Jones inspired us all - History is all about putting yourself in another place and time and sometimes trying not only to make judgements with retrospect, but trying to make a judgement as if we were back then. It's so much fun, everyone needs a change of perspective once in a while, and this is what Mr Jones helped us have. Look at how many of Mr. Jones' students go on to study History - I am, and in my class of 8 at least 2 others are studying History. He's an influential teacher because of his passion, his ways of teaching inspire people.

Aside from being a competent teacher, he is a really approachable person. Doing the IB is not a stress free experience and normally I think I'm a pretty calm person, but a couple of times in the final year of IB I took some of my stress out on Mr. Jones - snapping at him. Anyway, he was always very nice about it, making me relax slightly and going to the extent to apologize, as if it was his fault - of course it wasn't. That really meant something to me, being a teacher is not only about the subject you are teaching but also about the people you are teaching. If you want to be a successful teacher it's not enough to know your subject and be able to teach it well, you have to be able to communicate with and understand your students. We're all different and teachers need to be able to understand where each and every one of their students is coming from - Mr. Jones did. I remember wanting to do my extended essay on Mahatma Gandhi and Mr Jones not being entirely convinced, but he accepted that for me it was important and he let me do - as a result I got a B, not an A, but I did what I wanted to do. To teach successfully you have to respect your students and leave them a bit of space to make their own decisions - he did.

The reason we've all written testimonies for Mr. Jones, the reason we all (nearly all!) bought Guernica posters in Madrid, the reason we'll all remember ATBQ (Answer the bloody question!) is because of the profound and positive influence he had over us, and because WE CARE! We care about him because he cared about us, a real necessity in order to be a good teacher.

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The Current Issue at the IST

Well, its not gone totally quiet. Here is an example of a lesson.

Teacher: Could you run down to the staff room to ask a teacher to photocopy this?

Student: Oh no, I wouldn't want to endanger their careers.

Some students have resorted to low attacks on teachers who probably didn't have much to do with the situation to try and take out their frustrations.

What Albiston has done to the students and staff in his desperation for things to quiet down is he has inadvertently created barriers between the students and teachers. The new "teaching couple" at the school, the Harvey's (Art and Sport/History, the students have taken into account that he is more of a sports teacher than a history teacher and this is still a hot topic among students as many question his ability.) will probably face prejudice just because Mr. Harvey is taking over Mr. Jones' younger student classes. Fortunatly for Mr. Harvey he is teaching the younger classes, had he been teaching my year he would have probably never gotten anything done, most students would have reverted to commenting upon his teaching and implying that they dislike him very much and wanted Mr. Jones back.

Now don't get me wrong, I have no problems with Mr. Harvey and I understand his position is a difficult one. I'm hope he's an alright teacher as the school hired him. I'm just pointing out the unfortunate fact that the children will make connections and from now on, the comments will be made and the barriers will be built up higher and higher.

How much trust is there at the school?

Not much.

How much can you learn in an environment like that?

Not much.

Edited by Adrian Abbott

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To all current students, teachers and parents I can only offer one piece of advice - do not give up!

It is clear that delay tactics are being employed in a hope that the whole situation will blow over, and the worst thing any of you could do is allow this to happen. Continue to meet up and discuss amongst yourselves as teachers may be told one thing, parents another and the board something different. Do not let interest die out. Keep up the pressure. Keep organising student meetings, parent meetings, Friends meetings, teacher meetings, board meetings etc. Stand up to authority and do not be affraid of bully tactics, as they may be used to scare students/parents with threats of suspension/expulsion, or to encourage teachers to stay quiet due to a fear of losing their jobs. It is no longer solely about Mr Jones and Tanya - do not allow any more injustices to be carried out. What you need is a collective, not just individuals, to confront the situation and apply pressure from all angles.

Whether you're a parent, teacher or student, do not back down. Giving up would be the worst thing you could possibly do.

Good luck and best regards,

Robin

Edited by Robin Webb

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To all current students, teachers and parents I can only offer one piece of advice - do not give up!

It is clear that delay tactics are being employed in a hope that the whole situation will blow over, and the worst thing any of you could do is allow this to happen. Continue to meet up and discuss amongst yourselves as teachers may be told one thing, parents another and the board something different. Do not let interest die out. Keep up the pressure. Keep organising student meetings, parent meetings, Friends meetings, teacher meetings, board meetings etc. Stand up to authority and do not be affraid of bully tactics, as they may be used to scare students/parents with threats of suspension/expulsion, or to encourage teachers to stay quiet due to a fear of losing their jobs. It is no longer solely about Mr Jones and Tanya - do not allow any more injustices to be carried out. What you need is a collective, not just individuals, to confront the situation and apply pressure from all angles.

Whether you're a parent, teacher or student, do not back down. Giving up would be the worst thing you could possibly do.

Good luck and best regards,

Robin

Very sensible advice. If you do not give up you will win. The important point is that this story is in the public domain. I have asked my journalist friends to hold back the reporting of this story in the press in the hope that it can be dealt with behind the scenes. It is important for all concerned that too much harm is done to the long-term reputation of the IST. For example, I gave an interview last Friday to a friend who writes for a national Sunday newspaper. I asked him to hold back on the story fpr a little while longer. I believe that the "powers that be" will soon realise that the situation has got out of hand and regime change is necessary.

Airbus is currently very concerned about its public image. It will not help if this story appears in the national press. Les Albiston will argue that the international media will not be interested in this story. It of course all depends on the angle the journalist takes. For example, the role that technology has played in this campaign to obtain justice, will make a very good story. The TES and the educational supplement of the Guardian (published every Tuesday) is likely to be interested in the way that British teachers are treated in International Schools based in France. As the dispute involves a school owned by Airbus, the American media will also be very interested in this story.

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SOMETHING IS TERRIBLY WRONG AT IST

SILENCE… Not one word from the board of IST!

I have tried to seek some kind of communication with IST these past weeks. So far I have not succeeded. What started as a sacking of Richard Jones-Nerzic is now also affecting his colleagues and friends all over Europe. Why and how?

Richard was up to his unfortunate dismissal the coordinator of E-Help, a successful European Comenius project (under his very professional leadership). As the coordinating institution IST received the grant from Brussels and they should then have distributed the money to the different European institutions that participates in this project (9 institutions from Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and the Netherlands!). So far no member institution has received any money for the period October 2005 – September 2006 (it should have been paid before the end of 2006).

The members in E-Help has expressed their concern about Richards’s dismissal and asked for some kind of explanation. They have also asked for the future plans of E-Help and their shares of the grant. So far – no answer!

Is this a collective punishment due to the fact that we show concern about Richard and his family? I personally don’t understand how IST can afford to loose Richard on such poor grounds as one copied paper (since I still have not received any explanation this is the only formal accusation I heard about) but I understand even less about the way to treat our mutual project. 9 different institutions in Europe have invested money and time in this project. Many invited scholars and experts have participated in the different meetings and many of them are now working side by side as associates with the members of E-Help. This project involves hundreds of people. Should they also be punished?

The obvious support for Richard and all the witness of his ability not only as a teacher but also as a trustworthy individual, a project member and in our case a coordinator and friend shows that something is wrong – terribly wrong. The attitude towards the members and associates of E-Help confirms that picture. All of these people deserve an answer from IST. Richard and his family deserves much more!

I published the above comment on my blog a few days ago. Yesterday one of our colleagues received a short message from IST but it lacked any real answers. One of the statements in this message was that the members of E-Help was not willing to continue the project. That is wrong!!! During this turmoil we have expressed our sincere concern about the dismissal of Richard, our coordinator, but at the same time we have planned for the continuation of this project. IST is the coordinating institution and they need to explain their ideas about a continuation. We have asked IST what plans they have for the E-Help future but we have not received any answers yet. 9 member institutions and many associate institutions and many more individuals are waiting to hear from IST. We need to continue our project - but we also need answers about the dismissal of Richard Jones-Nerzic. With the one copied paper as the only evidence I think that his dismissal is a big terrible mistake. This has cost him and his family lots of pain. They deserve to be treated better!

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AN ANSWER(?) FROM IST...

As I wrote above one of the members of E-Help received a short email from IST. It was short and had no real answers except that the financial deals would be taken care of. The more serious part was some hint on legal actions and a comment that the members of E-Help were not willing to continue with the project.

That is not the will of the members of E-Help. Ten members from nine (ten if IST continue) different institutions and four (five if IST continue) different countries want to continue and develop E-Help. This project has been the best project I ever participated in. From scratch it has developed a very well visited Forum, a website and most of all it has developed a big group of active associates all over Europe. The associates has not only presented some of their work but they have also actively participated in the further development of this project. I have never experienced anything like that and I have not heard about any projects that can show the same kind of response from leading experts within the field. I think it's unique!

The work that has been done within the member group has been based on an extreme form of cooperation. When we have had different opinions in important matters it has always been resolved in a constructive way and from there we have been able to continue the work. This is not only a positive work climate - it's also unique to see ten individuals with such different backgrounds cooperate so well. It has been a smooth lean working machine... That's why I found the comment in the letter from IST so disturbing.

Is this the collective punishment I mentioned before?

Is this IST's way of trying to deal with anybody that questioned the sacking of Richard Jones-Nerzic?

One of the basic rights in the Western World is the right to form an opinion, especially when we believe something is not right. I have used that right when I started a blog about this affair and since I have not received any answers or explanations I still believe that the board of IST has been mislead in the case of sacking Richard.

The letter that now mentions the possibility of legal actions and the wrong interpretation of the members willingness of continue with the project (would it not be easier to ask the members what they want to do?) is very serious. IST is the coordinating institution and therefore they need to explain their ideas about a continuation. Several of us members have asked IST what plans they have for the E-Help future but we have not received any straight answers yet (just this hint about us not want to continue with the project). Nine member institutions, many associate institutions and many more individuals are waiting to hear from IST. We need to continue our project as soon as possible. Meetings are scheduled and we are just now in the process of creating a course for interested teachers all over Europe... but we also need answers about the dismissal of Richard Jones-Nerzic. This affair has cost him and his family lots of pain. They deserve to be treated better!

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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Hello

Does anyone know when the court case is going ahead? It is so disheartening to see the forum so quiet like this. I didn't have anything more useful to say so I haven't been saying anything, but when NOBODY has anything to say....it's quite worrying, that's all.

I wonder when the court case is and if it will shed any light on how this situation is going to be resolved?

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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.

I have been informed that Les Albiston plans to sue me for defamation because of the above remarks. It will be interesting to see if Airbus will want to become associated with legal action like this. If it does, its commercial rivals will have some fun with it.

It is true that in France one cannot compare head teachers today with those in Vichy France? If so, France itself has not changed since Nazi occupation. Luckily for the UK we were never occupied by the Nazis and our citizens are still allowed to openly express their opinions. That includes teachers in schools. That is why the dismissal of Richard and Tanya would never have taken place in the UK. We have yet to see if such things can take place in France.

This threat is just an example of how Les Albiston tries to intimidate his opponents. This might work with his employees but his legal stormtroopers do not have same sense of threat when you are living in unoccupied UK.

By the way, Les Albiston is a member of this forum and is completely free to defend himself by publishing a rebuttal of comments that members have made about the dismissal of Richard and Tanya. I have nothing to fear from open debate, but is that true of Les Albiston?

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Hannah and all of you that wish that this affair would go faster...

To not answer any questions and just delay all communication is a very old method when you want some crisis to calm down (or die out). It's unfortunately fairly efficient; The involved people - students, parents, friends and other supporters of Richard loose some of the early strength and engagement + a few might start to think that there is some serious hidden motives for the dismissal. Personally I have no reason to not trust Richard but I would like to hear the other side of the story. The problem is that I never get to because IST does not say anything. I have asked several times what it is that caused this dismissal. I don't get any answer. I have asked the colleagues of Richard at IST to find out by asking for an independent investigation where both sides of this conflict will be represented - no answer. All this makes me not only disappointed but it also makes me sad. I thought we all worked great together. I was impressed with IST and I thought Les Albiston was a good person both to talk with as well as work with. What then happened just struck me like a lightning out of a blue sky - I still don't understand how this could happen...

I'm naive enough to still wish for some positive reply from IST. If this is all based on rumors, loose speculations without substance, some ambitous person(s) going to far and other human errors which I still believe is the case (nobody has showed me any other evidence...) I think it would be good of the leadership of IST to say - "We made a mistake - we were misinformed and therefore we would like to try to heal the big wounds that this affair has caused..."

Reading about an eventual court case against members of the E-Help project this now seems a bit farfetched but our hope is the last thing we do give up!

My biggest concern is Richard and his family. I can't imagine the pain and problems they have gone through in an affair that's based on a copied paper (once again - I have not seen any evidence that points in any other direction). Therefore it's so important to continue to support them in all the ways possible. Demand an investigation - parents, students, and most of all colleagues on IST. Several of you must have been close friends to Richard and appreciated him as a colleague - you are the ones that has the biggest opportunity to get an answer. Ask for an independent investigation now. Show that Richard and his family made a difference!

Edited by Anders MacGregor-Thunell

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I have been informed that Les Albiston plans to sue me for defamation.

I believe that such a course of action would be quite irrational. All you have done in the face of deafening silence from IST is express forcibly the opinions many of us share about what has happened to Richard Jones Nerzic.

Moreover as you rightly point out, in this case there is a clear right of reply which has not been thus far taken up.

We also have a very clear policy here relating to these sort of matters http://educationforum.ipbhost.com/index.php?act=boardrules

Thus far I do not believe that anyone has complained to any of the administrators. It is not reasonable for us to discern complaints via telepathy.

However perhaps the E-Help group (whose forum this is) should be thinking about how to respond to any misguided legal threat? Perhaps we should instruct a lawyer and bill E-Help for his or her services?

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