Responding to the ridicule of teachers and the teaching profession by politicians and self proclaimed "experts"!
"Where is Albert Shanker now that we need him?" - Walt Sautter

Sunday, November 27, 2011

Tenure - An Educational Football

Several years ago, tenure for school superintendents was revoked in New Jersey. It was replaced with limited contracts, usually about five years in length. Additionally, last year superintendent’s salaries statewide were capped at $175,000. Also, there has been much talk of hiring persons with no educational credentials but with “managerial experience” to fill the role of superintendent.
As a result, the elimination of tenure has forced many superintendents to become even more obliging handmaidens of any BOE member or local politician who may potentially influence the granting of a future contract. The days of superintendents acting on their own moral and educational principles are rapidly fading or in many cases have faded.
Additionally, many experienced superintendents have retired in New Jersey and headed for adjacent states seeking better paying positions (while simultaneously collecting New Jersey pensions).
The reason I am writing about these developments arises from two recently published news stories.
The first was written today on the Star Ledger editor page by the superintendent of Perth Amboy Public Schools. It is entitled – “Superintendent Laments the Toll Tenure Takes”.
In the piece, Superintendent Janine Walker Caffery tells of how tenure protects poor teachers who have committed a wide variety of inappropriate acts. She goes on to cite the cost of removing a tenured teacher to be $100,000 and three years. Of course, she prefaces these statements by giving the obligatory “most New Jersey teachers are honest, hardworking people of great integrity”.
(I think she and many others feel that a few hollow accolades will suffice for a reduction in salaries, rescinding of worker rights, loss of job security and lack of respect)
I have questions about Superintendent Caffery’s statements and motives.
Firstly, does her lament of tenure arise from her no longer having it or from sincere concern about poor teaching? (If she is really concerned about poor teaching maybe she should address the teaching that goes on – or doesn’t go on – in many college classes )
Secondly, could an article such as this further her standing with those holding her next contract in hand?
Thirdly, should firing a person from a long held position be easy in any circumstance?
Fourthly, why does it cost $100,000 to advance tenure charges against a teacher? Where does all that money go? Possibly to lawyer’s fees?
Why not address the outrageous legal fees paid by Boards of Education every year and not just those for tenure cases? Maybe spending for legal services by local Boards should have been capped along with superintendent’s salaries?
Now let’s address the second article which prompted me to write this diatribe.
Nine members of the Wayne Hills Football team were arrested for assaulting two Wayne Valley students and leaving one of them unconscious.
Initially, no disciplinary action was taken by Wayne’s superintendent and the players were not suspended from the championship game that was to be played on the following weekend. After an outcry from the public, the superintendent then announced that they would be suspended. Finally, after a BOE meeting was attended by the team and their parents the players were reinstated and allowed to play. (The superintendent did more flip flopping than Mitt Romney and John Kerry combined).
Why all the back and forth? I think it is obvious that here again the superintendent felt compelled to act in behalf of the interests which would serve him best. The superintendent is an interim and maybe he would like a full time contract? Even if he weren’t an interim, the lack of tenure I am sure would have influenced his decision(s) just as it did now.
If superintendents without job security can be pressed to act in any way desired by one or a group of influential people, how do you think a lowly teacher would be forced to act without the protection of tenure? (Many are even now with tenure by threats of transfer, increment withholding, etc.)
Would all the children of BOE members suddenly become scholars? Would the children of local politicians become much brighter? Would discipline measures regarding the children of “connected” people become lax or maybe non-existent ?
What do you think?

PS
Now I read that the Wayne Hills BOE decision is that they do not play? It appears that educational decisions depend not on principle but upon which way the wind is blowing and how strongly! What a surprise!

1 comment:

  1. I commend the Wayne BOE for going against the Superintendents suggestion of allowing the nine players to continue playing. Shame on the Super- intendent for bowing to the wishes of Coach Olsen and many of the football frenzied parents. If the Wayne residents don't like the BOE's decision, they can be recalled or voted out of office. The rest of NJ will be watching the next board of education elections.
    Jack Parish

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What do you think?