Thursday, June 10, 2021

A response to "Miss Melissa's Story"

St. John's former preschool director/teacher has written a blog post chronicling her "story." You can read it here. Sadly, but not unexpectedly, she has some facts wrong. However, several things she wrote were quite surprising and truly illuminating as to what was going on in her mousy-headed mind.

Here is my response:



 That was very enlightening. Here are some things that I learned:

  • Over some considerable time, you became dissatisfied with the state and federal objectives and standards for early childhood education and, consequently, with your own teaching methods oriented towards meeting those objectives and standards.
  • By the Summer of 2020, you were already inclined not to return to the preschool, and by October 1 you had made up your mind to submit your resignation, which you did officially on December 8.
  • You were aware that you failed to treat your own child the same as other students in your class, giving preferential treatment to her and administering discipline differently and inconsistently.


The fact that you felt this way and had already determined to leave the church preschool before the 2020-2021 academic year even started explains a lot about your attitude and behavior throughout the school year.


First, let me correct you concerning something you stated that is simply false: The church (leaders) did NOT decide that they did not want a preschool anymore because it was a financial burden, nor did the church (leaders) want to close the preschool effective immediately in July 2020. That is flatly, plainly, and completely inaccurate and untrue. What is true is that the preschool had run a deficit six out of its ten years of existence, and a large and significant deficit the past two years. This matter simply and practically HAD to be addressed as, due to an aging congregation and other demographic changes, such losses were increasingly difficult for the church to absorb and could potentially put its operations and existence in peril if they were to continue.


Rather than close the preschool, the church (leaders) took action to determine how we might possibly keep the preschool going. In this respect we formed the Preschool Viability Assessment Committee to conduct this work. The purpose and goal of that committee was to see if there was a way – any way – that we could keep the preschool open that wouldn’t harm the church’s operations and viability. Inevitably, there was much talk about enrollment, tuition, grants, fundraisers, etc., for the problem was a financial one, and such are the metrics of finances. We had to determine what the real situation was so that we could plot a course to move forward. You took extreme exception to this work and discussion and seemed absolutely resistant and oppositional to any discussion of enlarging class size. When confronted with the problem of a $20,000 to $25,000 deficit, I will never forget the emotionless, blank expression you put forth, as if you couldn’t care less and simply expected the church to absorb any deficit. Of course, now that I know that you were inclined to leave before the school year even started, that makes more sense. So, you submitted your resignation in early December. That, combined with the financial situation, the short time window for hiring another Director and Teacher, and the general lack of human resources (volunteers) from the church to serve on the Preschool Board, effectively forced the congregation to close the preschool, at least for the forthcoming academic year. Ironically, as time went on, finances would become less of a concern – God works in mysterious ways – and I am confident that, had you stayed on, we would have continued the preschool for another year.


You stated that church leaders said to you:

“You never cared about the church.”

“It was never the church preschool, it was always Miss Melissa’s preschool.”

“You were asked to call the person back, now I’M TELLING YOU to call the person back.”

“It’s not all about YOU.”


I won’t deny any of those statements. They are all exactly true. Often the truth can hurt. You were never criticized for not loving the children, but your lack of love and concern for the church was self-evident. I already mentioned your blank, emotionless expression and response to the significant deficits the preschool was running at the potential peril of the church. You couldn’t care less, and you were resistant to help in any way to alleviate that deficit. Moreover, I overheard you making snide and derogatory comments about Preschool Board members and other church members, even preschool parents, and sometimes even preschool students. You have a wicked tongue that reflects a mean spirit. It is clear that you have no tolerance for authority, oversight, or criticism of any kind. One of the greatest problems was the all-but-non-existent relationship between the congregation and the preschool which you did precious little to alleviate, and what you did do you did grudgingly and with resentment. Most people in the congregation did not know who you were or what was going on in the preschool. Thus, you can understand that they would balk at a $25,000 deficit.


The church always had difficulty finding qualified people to serve on the Preschool Board. This is something churches of all kinds face with all kinds of boards, particularly boards that require special skills like finance, education policies, etc. I can fully understand why you might have felt like you had to take matters into your own hands to get things done, and, to be fair, you were permitted to do so by those in authority. Still, you were an employee of the church, working in a preschool that was owned and operated by the church. Though it may have felt like “Miss Melissa’s preschool” which you “developed from the very beginning, it was most certainly not. You had authority over you to which you were accountable, particularly the Preschool Board, yet you regularly balked at that authority, any criticism, and continued doing what you wanted to do with no regard for the church’s wishes, mission, or welfare.


As you admit in your own blog post, having your own daughter as a student was a challenge, and you did show her preferential treatment. You failed to discipline your daughter the way you did other students. For example, your daughter refuses to keep her shoes and socks on in class and in chapel. While this was tolerated for her, it was not for other students. That is, until the past few months when it seemed that you simply gave up altogether and permitted any student to remove socks and/or shoes, even in chapel. A key turning point in this matter came in the early Spring of 2020 when a preschool parent copied me on a string of email correspondence between said parent and yourself concerning precisely this matter. Your response to that parent was unprofessional, defensive, and even attacking and retributive. As you well know, that family finished the school year and planned to not return, whereas another family with the same concern pulled their children out of the preschool immediately. In relation to that matter, you also provoked a conflict with the public library’s children’s director who brought the disparity in your treatment and discipline of your daughter compared to the other students to your attention. Once again, your response was unprofessional, defensive, attacking, and retributive. Truthfully, it was the church’s failure that we did not terminate you right then and there for your unprofessional treatment of these concerned families and a respected public figure who were quite right in their concerns and criticisms. Once again, you had no concern for the church’s mission, reputation, or welfare. Likewise, there are numerous other cases demonstrating your unprofessionalism, lack of concern for the church, and blatant insubordination, all for which you should have been terminated. That was our failure, not to terminate you before things got worse.


Moreover, your lack of gratitude is revealing. Over the course of ten years, the church compensated you well for your work, increasing your salary over $31,000. Indeed, we even gave you an $1800 bonus in appreciation of the work you did providing online instruction after the preschool had to stop in-person classes due to COVID-19 in March, April, and May 2020. Even though you have now established that your intention to resign was determined in October 2020, you accepted that bonus and you permitted us to spend thousands more dollars and manpower to restore the preschool playground only to resign the very next day after the work was completed.


After your resignation, you hung up on me on a phone call that you initiated, and later you flipped off my wife in the church parking lot. You called the District President (Bishop) of our church body to inform him “what kind of church” he had. Thankfully, he knows precisely the kind of church he has, and he knows an entitled Millennial snowflake on the fringe of sanity when he encounters one. The two “confrontations” you had in your last week were nothing of the sort, but they were simply church members and PVAC members asking you a few legitimate questions. Once again, you have no respect for authority, criticism of any kind, or even to be questioned in any way. You felt “scared at work?” Scared of what? Questions? The truth? Someone asks you what you were doing with bags of crayons and markers and you call that harassment befitting calling the police? I wish that you would have. Then, just days ago you actually contacted a liaison in the church to report that one of those authorities drove by your home, nevermind that the road you live on is a highly trafficked path taken by hundreds every day to get from the highway to that part of a busy commercial area.


I am truly thankful that you wrote this blog post. You have cleared up a lot of mystery for me. Now it all makes much more sense. It’s crazy and delusional, but at least I know what’s going on. Yes, now you are free to teach the way you know best, with no authority to set standards for you, no questioning of you, and everyone can have their shoes and socks off. It will truly be “Melissa’s Preschool.” Good luck with that.


Rev. Jon M. Ellingworth
St. John Lutheran Church

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