Sunday, February 20, 2011

Teacher tenure

Considering the upcoming legislation regarding teacher tenure it seems good to remind folks of two older posts regarding my experience as a school board member in the summer of 2006 with this issue.

The first post "We Dismissed a Teacher" provides some details on what we all had to endure trying to dismiss a tenured teacher.

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.
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.

The second "Another Teacher Dismissal Hearing" provides more thoughts on the process, notes that my district seemed to have more than its share of these.
I suspect we need to do many more of these and I'm not sure any board can endure that many. It has been suggested that the law be amended to allow a separate board/committee to do this absolutely necessary work. Personally, I think the board needs to endure these. It's only when they get tired enough of this nonsense that they will find the backbone to hold the MNEA accountable for the quality of their advocacy of these members during negotiation times. It's that backbone that will demand that the director hire excellent teachers on the forefront.
Let me frame that comment by saying that during that time the BOE wholesale approved dozens of teachers for tenure. No information about their abilities or qualifications was offered. We were offered a list of names. They were approved without comment or question. No personnel records, citizen or parent or principal comments were provided.  Further, at that time, the BOE minutes weren't really public and so there was no opportunity for citizens to know who was on the list and thus have any opportunity to comment.

I firmly believe that we have excellent teachers. Those excellent teachers should be given a good bit of freedom to do what they do and should be paid well for their expertise and performance. I also firmly believe we have too much dead wood and any real professional organization would be encouraging the culling of that dead wood to increase the value of membership in that organization and thus the value of their members. The lives of these children are too valuable to continue to disallow real accountability via tenure.

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