It doesn’t help our relationship with the Superintendent when the Superintendent’s staff puts out an inflammatory” and misleading “ notice to the school community, especially when the subject concerns negotiations or when it insults our hardworking staff. This happened again yesterday in BPS This Week when the school department’s lead story praised a WBUR report as ‘terrific’ even though the WBUR report referred to our teacher excess pools as the ‘dance of the lemons.’ Here’s what WBUR said:
“You see there’s this phenomena that’s happening in Boston Public Schools and it’s called the Dance of the Lemons. Essentially it’s moving bad teachers around to different schools instead of firing them.”
Here’s the story behind the story. The BTU and the school department have reached a tentative agreement on teacher assignments and teacher movement from one school to another, so it’s curious that the Superintendent and her staff would choose this particular issue to highlight this week. Why raise an issue that’s been settled? Especially with what our teachers have gone through this week: the teacher excess pools were finally run after a six-week delay. Hundreds of teachers from closed schools and relocated SPED programs suffered through hours of humiliation for a lack of vacancies. And these hardworking people without a position through no fault of their own are called lemons!
Secondly, BPS This Week took on the issue of performance evaluation and the alleged difficulty principals have in dismissing teachers. The Superintendent was amply quoted: the contract book is too thick, the rules for dismissal too arduous and time-consuming, and so on and so forth. We have heard these excuses before. It’s nonsense. But first let’s set the record straight on the BTU and our contract.
The Boston Teachers Union does not condone bad schools or ‘bad’ teachers. We do not condone mediocrity. We do not condone moving around ‘bad’ teachers. We think it’s a harmful practice. What’s more, it gives all of us a undeserved, bad name. Teachers who need improvement ought to be identified, helped, and given the resources and the training they need to be successful. Teachers who need help ought to be given a thoughtful prescription. If, after good faith coaching and adequate time for improvement, a teacher cannot or will not improve, the teacher ought to be counseled into a new career. We have said that before and we have said it repeatedly: give us the tools we need to succeed and hold us accountable. We welcome the responsibility.
Now here’s where we differ with the school department central office, and we have a bone to pick with their scapegoating us for their own inadequacies.
We don’t like, nor do we appreciate, the school department’s continually blaming us for bad teachers or bad teaching. Nor do we appreciate the school department’s blaming the BTU contract for obstructing what department administrators get paid to do.
Lastly, We have privately cautioned the school department to get its own house in order before publicly chastising the BTU. Our caution to them has had little effect.
You see the school department has many of its own skeletons:
Like the 14 principals who have been moved for cause in the last two to three years only to land on their feet in another school.
Like the two displaced administrators who were given ‘make-work’ positions in schools.
Or the administrator who was kept on for four long years while the school was run into the ground and dozens of hard-working effective teachers left.
There are actually many, many more examples. We’re mentioning only the principals.
We are tired, frankly, of listening to the school department whine about the difficulty of dismissing ‘bad’ teachers. If our teachers got the same break as some of these passed-around and often-recycled administrators, well, then maybe the school department would really have something to complain about.