NYT's: A Retired Educator's Thoughts on California Judge's Tenure Ruling
|Teachers union (Photo credit: kevin dooley)|
I have lived on both sides of the fence. I was a classroom teacher that belonged to our union and my husband was a teacher turned a high school principal and a district personnel director. The question of tenure came up over and over during our careers. Ny husband found that walking the line between finding and keeping very good teachers while working to get rid of those that failed would drive most men/woman to drink. It was very frustrating. But it is also true that before tenure was initiated in Oregon, school boards and administrators abused their power to fire at will so they could hire better coaches or rid themselves of people that cost them too much of their budget. Abuse of power versus inability to replace bad teachers turned out to be a hotly contested argument.
Early in my husband's career he was working in Hermiston, Oregon when all of the teachers-coaches were fired in one fell swoop. A collection of men that saw themselves as powerful, gathered in the back of a local grocery store and decided that all of those coaches needed to just go away and they did. The school board colluded with the men and supported their decision. On a Monday morning an English teacher, art instructor, math teacher, etc., lost their jobs in the classroom because the baseball, basketball, football and track teams were not quite good enough. It was mid 1960s.
In this particular case the teachers sued the school district and supported those fired teacher for a year as the suit was resolved. They could not work during that year. It was difficult for the district teachers to make a sacrifice in their income but they felt strongly enough about the issue to give up what they must. We were young and had small children and trust me, that year was not easy for us.
The teachers won and now in the state of Oregon a coach's contract is separate from his teaching contract. In fact, today many coaches are not teachers at all.
There were school districts in the state of Oregon that simply got rid of anyone that was too experienced because they cost them more than they wanted to pay. They would pay a beginning teacher a lot but the pay scale did not go anywhere. Even with tenure, reaching a point in that school district where you could move up the pay scale even a little was very difficult. Before the teacher was awarded tenure they would be dismissed. The decisions made in cases like this were at times capricious and unfair.
We also saw cases after tenure became a law in the state where even mentally ill teachers were very hard to dismiss. In some cases it would take years. In the mean time students were in those teachers classrooms. I have been in a classroom as a substitute where the teacher was using the same material they created when they were a student teacher 15 year before. The students were disinterested and out of control. Plans of assistance and mentoring usually did not work because teachers are not made in college or in the principal's office...teaching is a talent or a gift. You cannot fix something that is not broken but is simply the wrong tool.
People shy away from education even when that is what they should be doing because it is a very hard job. Even though teachers are paid to work certain hours, I can assure you that most teachers work unpaid hours every day of the school year.
So you can see that it is not easy to find a way to be fair and reasonable. One would hope that the people in control of the educational system would be honorable. Taxpayers and money can make those people do some bad things. Very like companies that fire people just as they were getting ready to cash in their retirement, security for teachers would simply go away.
We don't want bad teachers that "deprived children of their constitutional right to an education". On the other hand we do not want public employees like educators to be left to hang in the wind. I have been there and trust me, it is not a happy place to be.
It is just a thought!