Wednesday, August 08, 2007

Laying Middletown Teachers Off O.K. with "Daily News"

"Good teacher lost as result of bad policy" shouts the editorial headline. In other words, as long as seniority doesn't play a factor, fire all the teachers that you want.
Witness the "Daily News" editorial on the "pink slipping" of Middletown teachers. The focus was outrage that the "Middletown Teacher of the Year" was included. While it could have mourned the loss of all fourteen staffers who have not yet been recalled and the many circumstances resulting in this, instead the outrage centered on seniority.
This seniority issue presents itself in the editorial as contract policy mysteriously foisted upon the schools (and the public). This abominable policy is totally responsible for the loss of this one teacher.
The School Committee's reasons to resort to lay-offs is barely mentioned. Yet this group negotiated the contract with seniority in it. Good teachers were indeed laid off because of the big, bad Union. Reminds me of the Linda Ronstadt song, "Poor, poor, pitiful me."
The last factor to actually figure in staff layoffs is seniority. How else would you choose? I'd like to know. Specifically and not in glittering generalities. We've been talking about this for 20-30 years & still haven't figured it out.
Why get to the heart of a matter when jumping on the bandwagon sounds & looks so much better. Teachers' union bashing is in & has been for a while. We love teachers individually, but these people sure get stupid when they band together. Sure, Projo is unionized but we don't want no stinkin' union here! Ooops, I digress.
The "Teacher of the Year" designation deserves discussion also. The idea behind it was to bring positive attention to all teachers. The idea was to have teachers designate one of their own to represent them yearly. One year it's a high school teacher, then an elementary teacher. Age, gender, experience, area of specialization, etc. play a part in the selection of a representative teacher.
When this "Teacher of the Year" received a lay-off notice this year, the point wasn't that she's special & should be excluded. Rather, she represents ALL the laid off staff. They ALL deserve some attention, consideration, & explanation.
It might be useful here to discuss exactly why seniority is in teachers' contracts & how it got there. Before seniority was policy, staffing could be decided for many reasons, especially political, relationships (nepotism), & payoffs. Hence, civil service laws for state/federal workers & seniority for teachers. Without seniority, what then is used in final decision making? During my tenure, I've seen at least 7 different "evaluation" instruments used, all of them, without exception, lousy. The only noticeable change that time brought to these (and school committees helped develop them) was length.
So what makes a good teacher exactly? You can't tell me definitively , no one can. That's why computers haven't replaced teachers despite predictions of such. One size does not fit all. You can't even tell me how people learn. Otherwise we'd do a lot better in the education realm than we currently do. So, how would you fairly choose who stays & who goes?
Ah, but that's not the point, is it? The point is that you don't like Unions. They demand decent wages, good health care, and retirement benefits for starters. We'd all be better off with more union members. What working person doesn't want someone who will stand up for them and work in their best interests?
Faced with rising costs, who would School Committees continue to employ without seniority - a "Teacher of the Year" or newer & cheaper version ? It's not just quality that school systems are interested in. It's cheap. And who can blame them? The facts of restrained spending town limits, caps, declining populations of some schools, loss of Little Compton students, etc., was totally ignored.
So if you've got a better way to choose who stays & who goes, I'd sure like to hear it. Or even better, how we can prevent these jobs and even more next year from being lost. Now THAT would be a community service. .
BTW, The "Teacher of the Year" may yet return. Her name is still on the schedule... The rest just don't matter.
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