Heather Wolpert-Gawron

Make an Offer They Can’t Refuse

By on June 2, 2008

The Washington Post reported that the Washington Teachers’ Union is “proposing a three year contract…that would eliminate seniority.”  This would allow administrators to retain newer but more effective teachers while relocating more veteran teachers to positions seemingly more suitable for the needs of the district as a whole.               .  

Now, while I would be totally devastated if I had to uproot and move my middle school life into another school in the district, the fact is that the union needs to have some flexibility here in giving administrators a modicum of power over their staff positions, even those with tenure.

I understand that principals come and go and teachers’ positions should not be threatened by the whims of the newest flavor of the year, but the fact is that with some paper trails and evidence in place, a principal should be able to require a teacher to relocate within their own district.

Don’t grumble.  I can hear you from here.  Some of you may be arguing that passing an ineffective teacher onto another school is sort of like relocating the Rev. McCreepy to another parish.  But I don’t think it’s as simple as that.  

Some teachers are great teachers for certain grade levels.  I, for one, would not be a great 2nd grade teacher.  I am in awe of primary teachers and the skills necessary to reach out with rigor and creativity to a 7 year-old.  Some teachers are meant for high school and putting them in a middle school setting might be like bringing in a cannon to nail in a tack.  

Also, firing a teacher who has committed no indiscretion other than unchecked mediocrity is a punishment that doesn’t fit the crime.   Transferring that teacher to give them another opportunity is, however, defendable.   

But principals are, at times, tied by teacher contracts in making these important requests.  

Earlier in my career, I recall that a teacher at my school was evaluated.  She was a veteran but, frankly, one of the negative influences on our staff.  She sat in the faculty room and produced gossip and anger like the smokestack of a Dickensian factory.  She was in the department influencing an element of our PI standard and, according to test scores, had not produced the improvement of her colleagues.  Our principal sensed these contributions to our staff’s misery, checked out the teacher’s test scores, and posed a solution: move to an opening currently available at a lower level.  Perhaps her content knowledge would be best served at a simpler level.  Perhaps a little rolling of her dice might awaken her enthusiasm again.

But the teacher said, “No” and remained in her position as an ineffective teacher and smog-producing lecturer.

So my question to you is: with proper evidence in place, should not a principal be allowed to relocate teachers who are not functioning?  Is this not a compromise to a possible lay-off?  Should the union really be protecting these teachers when other teachers are affected by the inadequacies of certain colleagues?

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