Bored Board…or…when good men(and women) do nothing evil will prevail.

This weekend all the teachers in our union were alerted that job cuts would be on the school board agenda and enjoined us to attend the meeting, scheduled to begin at 7 pm, to present a united front. A familiar scenario I am sure in these tough times. Although the room was packed, SRO at some points, about half were parents. Many of them were familiar faces. I only saw one face from my school whose job is in danger.

Now I know we all have busy schedules and I am certain some teachers whose jobs are at risk have legitimate reasons for not attending, but I found it concerning  that more were not there.  In total about 10% of the teachers at  my site attended. I also found it concerning that two board members had absolutely NOTHING to say! One even got up and left the room several times…cell phone perhaps? (How much does this person really care about the students?) Finally at 10pm the topic we were all here for came up…the three board members who seemed to have voices (one seemed simply to be making talking points for  a future campaign run for higher office)…talked about hotlines for savings ideas, tie breaking mechanisms for firing, increasing class size, etc…all familiar territory. Nothing new was garnered, except  a proposal to make one of the ways the district would break a tie (2 people with the same amount of senioritiy) is how well the teachers incorporate technology in their rooms. Does this mean I will be getting that Smart Board I have been asking for? Why do I doubt this? Is it fair to decide someone’s fate on something not everyone in this district has equal access to? Who will be the determiner of effective use of technology integration? What is their experience with technology as  an effective instructional tool…hmmm… the digital divide expands  into teacher practice.

No one acknowledged the proverbial elephant in the room. Why is seniority the only inviolate indicator of keeping a teacher? Why are ineffective teachers going to be retained while those who have consistently demonstrated their effectiveness being let go? What would it take to revisit this age old tenet that allows for rubber rooms in NYC and teachers whose repeated missteps cost the district tens of thousands (probably more) in lawyers fees to fire? Tenure needs to be modified…not abandoned, but modified. The current economic crisis in schools underscores this. The economic crisis in my district is only further evidence that the tenure system is broken. Our students would be better served if the 5 teachers at my site whose jobs are most at risk are kept and 5 less effective teachers who shun any PD or research based approach are released. This is the elephant. Will we continue to ignore it and thereby feed it until it crushes the children and profession we so believe in?

I write this as I listen to a talking head on the morning news tell us how the stimulus package has saved jobs, especially those in education I wonder which disticts have benefited? I do not know of many…hmmm…I am reminded of the “Emperors New Clothes”

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