Saturday, May 14, 2011
John White's First Act in New Orleans: Fire 250 veteran teachers
I've been telling you for years that bloodless John White is a vampire who only comes out at night - really, I've never seen him in the daylight - just look at that picture. Oh, and he's another Teach for America grad and a Broad Academy grad. Yes, TFA and Broad ride the point of ed deform.
From: "Hill, Lance" <email@example.com>
Louisiana contracts with Teach For America to bring in approximately 300 teachers to New Orleans every year, so regardless of the qualifications of the current veteran teacher corp, the state has to annually fire several hundred veteran teachers to make way for novice temporary teachers. Some veteran teachers gain jobs back in the other state-run schools—largely replacing TFA teachers who leave the state-run schools to teach in charter schools.
The layoffs are done under the pretext of closing down schools, but with a commitment of hiring 300 TFA teachers, the veteran teachers would have to be fired even if not a single school closed. Of the 250 teachers slated to be “surplused,” the state will fire 87 under a new teacher evaluation program based on classroom evaluation by principals.
Recovery School District will use teacher evaluations in deciding layoffs
Published: Thursday, May 12, 2011, 8:15 PM Updated: Thursday, May 12, 2011, 8:16 PM
By Andrew Vanacore, The Times-Picayune
Almost 250 teachers will lose their jobs this summer at New Orleans schools run by the state's Recovery School District in what's become an annual occurrence as officials close down underperforming schools and convert others into charters.
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The Times-PicayuneRecovery School District Superintendent John White
But this year layoffs will be different, and likely controversial.
For the first time, the district will use teacher evaluations to decide which instructors have the chance to apply for another job at the RSD. And layoffs will not be limited to teachers at the eight schools that are closing; any teacher scoring low enough on state evaluations will be let go as well.
The moves come as the first concrete indication that John White, who officially took charge of the RSD this week, will continue charging ahead with the reforms set in motion by his predecessor, Paul Vallas, and the outgoing state superintendent, Paul Pastorek.
Under Vallas, who left the district last month after a four-year tenure, the RSD shuttered underperforming schools and converted nearly three-quarters of those remaining into charters, which are public schools that are managed by independent nonprofit groups.
The step of linking teacher performance to job security has become a point of bitter feuds across the country between reformers and unions representing teachers.
But White, a veteran of the reform drive that has played out in New York City during the past decade, says the decision to hold onto the best possible teachers is an obvious one.
"We should never waver from our commitment to ensure we have the best teachers in every classroom," said White, who outlined the district's plans in an interview Thursday. "And given that we have an evaluation system that tells us that, it's our responsibility to use that system."
Rated on 5-level scale
Larry Carter, president of the United Teachers of New Orleans, said he hasn't been given the details of how layoffs will play out this year and declined to comment about how the union will respond.
Although many teachers in RSD schools are represented by the union, the district is not bound by the type of collective bargaining agreement that governs staff reductions at most districts around the country.
A total of 87 teachers who scored either a 1 or a 2 on the state's five-level scale will be laid off, regardless of seniority or tenure, White said. The evaluations, conducted for the first time this year, were based on more than 2,500 classroom observations by principals, he said.
Another 159 teachers who work at closing schools and who scored a 3, 4 or 5 on their evaluations will be given the first shot at other RSD jobs before the application period is opened up to others. The district hasn't determined how many slots will be open.
Overall, that will bring the district's corps of teachers down from about 700 to 450.
Last year, the district had 219 surplus teachers after closings and charter conversions. Of those, 137 found a new job with the RSD, 22 resigned or retired, and two were fired for poor performance. The rest left the district on their own.
This year, principals at the remaining 15 schools under RSD management will have a say in the hiring, but White said school leaders will have strict guidelines, and evaluation scores will determine which teachers have the best chance of winning a place.
Upheaval in the top brass
All of these changes will play out in an uncertain atmosphere for the district. Pastorek surprised many by resigning Tuesday, just weeks after choosing White to lead the RSD. And Gov. Bobby Jindal quickly recommended White to serve as the top administrator for both the RSD and the whole state while a permanent successor is found.
Jindal's backing could move White closer to taking over Pastorek's job on a permanent basis, although he would still need eight of 11 votes on the state board of education to serve even temporarily.
Privately, even school leaders in New Orleans who have supported Pastorek's reforms were puzzled by the timing of his departure, suggesting it would give an opening to reform opponents who see White's quick move up the chain of command as a fait accompli.
On Thursday, White said Pastorek had not discussed his imminent departure before offering the job.
Whatever role White ends up settling into, his first move as head of the RSD will certainly draw criticism from opponents of the reform movement that he plans to push forward.
The Louisiana Association of Educators, one of the two big state teachers unions, does not represent any instructors in the RSD, but it has been a vehement critic of the district and Pastorek.
Michael Walker-Jones, the group's executive director, argues the RSD should be supporting its teachers with professional development courses and other steps rather than closing schools or converting them into charters. He calls the shuttering of schools that have been under RSD management for years now "an admission of failure."
Rather than a problem with the schools' teachers, it "sounds like a problem of oversight and curriculum and management," he said.
But to White and other reformers, it should not be the role of a district's central office to run schools. That's a job they feel is best left up to individual principals.
News conference Friday
On Thursday, White went further than he has in the past in discussing his vision for the future of the Recovery School District. He plans to spend the next hundred days gathering input from students, parents and educators.
White made it clear that schools still under the direct supervision of the district are likely to be converted into charters unless they show clear signs of improvement. Those schools have been lagging behind most of the city's charters at improving student test grades.
"It's fair to say that if any of those schools really turns around and starts down the road of progress, then we have every reason to want to keep that progress going," White said.
White plans to lay out more details about his next steps and announce a key appointment at a news conference Friday.