Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Shake-up in Seattle schools coming?

A group of parents are telling Seattle Schools "enough!" The circus in the Seattle central office has hampered the schools for years. Principals have been chosen for diversity and political reasons rather than to put in the leader who will focus on improving instruction. But even if the right leader is there they don't allow him/her to control the school.* And the financial mismanagement is legendary. But it's Ho Hum... We are so used to politics over quality. But this year's layoff of all the young, energetic, new teachers has energized people. The "seniority over capability" policy in the Seattle Education Association’s contract reads, under article XII, section A.5:
“The performance ratings (evaluation) of employees shall not be a factor in determining the order of layoff….”
It's there in print: how successful or how effective a teacher is, does not factor at all in the layoff decisions. Even Danny Westneat has to notice: Shake-up in schools coming soon | Seattle Times Newspaper:
Maybe it was brought on by lean times. Or maybe long-simmering angst about the state of Seattle schools is finally boiling over on its own. But the decision this month to lay off 165 of Seattle schools' newest teachers in a "last hired, first fired" manner has got some of liberal Seattle suddenly sounding more like a conservative red state. More than 600 school parents have signed an online petition, at, that calls out the teachers union for causing "great distress and upheaval" in the schools. At issue is the policy of choosing who gets laid off solely by seniority. "Wake up and see how union refusal to consider merit is damaging the profession and our kids," wrote one parent. "We want the best teachers, not the oldest, teaching our kids," wrote another. "Teacher unions are an anachronism," said another. The organizers of the petition are a group of parents called Community and Parents for Public Schools. They agree what they're doing is very un-Seattle. They're fed up with calcified bureaucracy. They see how schools in Chicago, Los Angeles and Washington, D.C., are being shaken up by market-oriented approaches. Such as charter schools. But in Seattle, no politician seems willing to question the system. So it is left to parents. "I am so not a Republican," laughed Andrew Kwatinetz, vice president of the group. He's an ex-Microsoftie with two kids in Seattle Public Schools. "I think what we are is extremely frustrated about policies that make little sense that are eroding the quality of the schools." The latest issue — the last-hired, first-fired seniority policy — has become a hot button because many schools are set to lose two or three of their youngest, most energetic teachers. "We're asking that they apply some judgment," Kwatinetz said. "The blanket way they do it now is kind of an insult to our intelligence as parents."
Kwatinetz is right on his last point; it's in line with what school administrators think of parents. It's not that they specifically want to protect younger teacher. They want to put effectiveness first. Their web site is SupportGreatTeachers! * Update: Putting the principal in charge is the first of Liv Finne's "Eight practical ways to reverse the decline of public schools" at Washington Policy Center

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