Thursday, July 06, 2006

We dismissed a teacher

At about 2:00 a.m. this morning the Metro Nashville School Board dismissed a tenured teacher by a vote of 6 to 1. The teacher was charged by the administration in March of this year with incompetence, insubordination, neglect of duties and conduct unbecoming a member of the teaching profession--all as outlined in TCA 49-5-501. The BOE members upheld each of those charges and finally voted that dismissal was appropriate.

Dr. Mebenin Awipi abstained on the conduct unbecoming charge and voted no on the insubordination charge but did vote to dismiss.

Mr. Ed Kendall abstained on the neglect of duty charge and no on all the others including the vote to dismiss. He even moved that we dismiss the charges which failed for lack of a second.

The other BOE members voting yes on all charges and for the dismissal were: myself, George Blue, Pam Garrett, Kathy Nevill, and Marsha Warden.

It was an unpleasant task for everyone. It involved the lives of children, parents, co-workers, attorneys, union representatives, administrators, and eventually 7 members of the BOE and their staff. We heard nearly 30 39 hours of testimony that went long into the nights and reviewed a two inch stack of exhibits dating from October of 2002 involving two different principals in two different schools and several other education professionals that had interacted with this teacher.

For my part I found it impossible to review some of the lengthier exhibits and give proper attention to testimony at the same time and so at the end of the first session asked to take the stack of exhibits home. This request broke tradition but was allowed and I discovered that one page of a letter from the teacher had been left out. It was provided the next evening. It turned out to not be vital but, for the teacher's sake, I believe a complete record is important.

The teacher was given extreme latitude in presenting their testimony. Often their comments went far afield and frequently included unsubstantiated charges and conclusions about the conduct of others and those were rarely challenged. I'm convinced that they had every opportunity to have their full say in their defense.

What I would love to have had available and what wasn't provided by the teacher, were the Value Added scores for the classes. THAT, in my opinion, would have been a clear demonstration of their teaching effectiveness. But it wasn't offered. However, the testimony and exhibits showed a clear pattern of behavior that could not continue even with the best Value Added scores.

Kudos to the board, the staff and those tireless court reporters, they all acted with serious concern for the rights of the teacher while keeping the welfare of the children foremost in their minds.

All in all it shouldn't take four years, some 30 hours times 15 immediate participants, who knows how much other time and money in trying to handle the situation over four years' time and then preparing the case in order to remove a teacher. We've got to be able to more efficiently learn which employees just don't fit the job and encourage them on to better career paths.

I do hope this teacher finds a better path for their talents and skills that turns this very difficult time into the beginning of a much better season of their life.


newton dominey said...

i understand your point, but i disagree. i mean, what's the point of being tenured if you can just get the boot any ol' time?

i think 4 years is a bit much, but to complain about the process without offering solutions as to how to fix it pretty much gets us nowhere.

how would you recommend it be done differently?

Anonymous said...

Newt, I disagree with your comment. Tenure should protect a teacher from being randomly dismissed, but shouldnt protect incompetence or misconduct. I agree with Kay when she says the process to remove a teacher should be fair, but efficient.

How about this for a proposal - If charges are made against a teacher, the principal, the next level of school management, and a union representative should investigate the charges within a reasonable time (30 days? 60 days?). The results of their investigation could then be reported to the Board with appropriate representation for the teacher present to rebut the findings. The Board could then review and deliberate until the next meeting, at which time a vote could be taken.

Im sure there are plenty of holes in that idea, so feel free to suggest or comment. But at least it is a star.

Anonymous said...

Being dismissed by the Board of Ed in this manner doesn't seem like you can be dismissed "any ol time." This is in fact, the point of tenure, that there is a process of review and that the teacher has an opportunity to make his or her case.

I hope this action and the post by Mrs. Brooks serve as a correction to those who claim that tenured teachers cannot be dismissed. Obviously they can, but it is important that due process be a part of that dismissal. And that's really what tenure is, a guarantee of due process before the BOE, not a law that makes it impossible to fire bad teachers.

Thank you, Mrs. Brooks for taking this bold but necessary action and for communicating it to the public. I disagree with you on many educational issues, but you have set a great standard for public communication that should be followed by other elected officials.

Eric Holcombe said...

"what's the point of being tenured if you can just get the boot any ol' time"

What's the point of an educational system if the students aren't educated? The public school system doesn't exist to serve the union employee. How many students are still being affected by the four years of alleged incompetence? Say three block-schedule classes of 20 students for four years. That's 240, assuming none of them repeated any courses with this teacher. The teacher's work is now spread among two schools. Now that those 240 students are behind, the rest of the class they are now in suffers to keep all students from being "left behind". Standards degrade to ensure this and eventually everyone is behind - but their scores look good. Of course, this frustrates the teachers who inherit the students that get socially promoted - but that's the price of tenure.

Anonymous said...

we have moved 3 times (3 states) because of my husbands job. even though we hate moving our son to another school, we move because it is usually a promotion and it is better for our family. that being said, this is by far the very worst school district i have ever seen. if we get the chance we will move again, so our kids do not have to remain in this school district. the pta is a joke, most of the money is spent on luncheons. why not save the $500 dollars and have a potluck in someones back yard if you really want to help the school so badly. the teachers aren't given helpers or supplies, so the parents have to provide them with markers, paper and other supplies, where is my tax money going? and, by the way, tennessee has the highest tax i have ever seen and i have never before seen sales tax of food. i have talked to my friends in other states and they are shocked by the things i tell them. and i think they should be able to be fired at anytime if they are not performing their job to benefit the schools, which, obviously, they are not. and the super intendent should really be booted.