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Note to Beacon Board of Education: Get Parents Input Online

Recently I received a call from Superintendent Aefsky concerning my petition regarding the possible re-hiring of a teacher at Sargent Elementary School.

She informed me that if a teacher is let go because of budget cuts, that the school was legally obligated to re-offer the position (for up to seven years) should it once again become available.

"Well," I said, " supposing this laid-off teacher was incompetent? Are we still required to offer the job?"

"Yes." was the response. "So what are we parents to do about this?" I asked, "since we are forced by law to re-hire incompetent teachers?"

Her reply to me was that it was only my "opinion" that the teacher was incompetent.

"No, it is not just my opinion," I countered, " that petition was signed by many parents and many more would have signed were it not for the fact that it was done in the middle of the summer when most people are away."

"Well," she said, "the teacher had been evaluated several times and was found to be effective."

Incredulous, I asked "And how was she evaluated?" but was informed that this was confidential. "I just wanted to inform you of the legalities." she said, and that was pretty much all she had to say.

It wasn't exactly the kind of support I was hoping for, but I have learned over time that the administration is very good at protecting their own....like the trolls who run the bank in Harry Potter.

Anyway, this got me thinking. There is something wrong with a teacher evaluation process where the parents have little or no input. This needs to be addressed. I know you can attend Board of Education meetings or like myself, start writing, calling and banging on doors, but there has to be a better more effective way for parents to inform our elected Board members. How can we expect them to do a good job without our input?

So, why not do it via the web? Put a confidential "Teacher Performance Survey" online, so the school administration cannot mess with it, and all parents have to do is to add their thoughts/ideas from time to time. This would be a good direct way for parents to express their pleasure/dissatisfaction with a teacher's performance and how it has positively/negatively affected their child's education. This info. would be accessed ONLY by Board of Education members and I think would be extremely helpful in determining who gets tenure and who doesn't.

With our tax dollars increasingly stretched it becomes critically important that the BOE find new ways to receive input from parents in our district. Since the teacher evaluation process is obviously flawed, web access like this will help the Board of Ed. to become a better watch-dog for all of us, especially our kids.

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Comment by Ben Royce on October 4, 2010 at 11:26am
I may make enemies for saying this publicly, but I don't care, the issue is too important:

The greatest enemy of our children's education in this country is the American Federation of Teachers. They care more about the rights of incompetent teachers than the quality of our children's education.

The issue is a very simple one: accountability. If you are not accountable for the quality of the work you do, some may do quality work, but those who do awful work are not removed, and they accumulate. Until such time that our political leaders follow their conscience more than the massive donations the American Federation of Teachers pays to both the Republicans and the Democrats, then our children are doomed.

The concept of tenure must go away. If you are a quality teacher and have been teaching for one year, you deserve a raise. If you are a poor teacher, and you've been teaching 20 years, you deserve to be fired. What kind of insanity is that? Its called accountability. You are not exempt from the concept of accountability, especially where our children's education is concerned. And teachers ARE exempt from the concept of accountability under the current status quo of tenure. Therefore, the current status quo must be destroyed.

The amount of money being spent on education is not the issue. We can pay 10x more or 10x less, it does not matter: if that money is not linked to results, if there is no accountability for the performance of teachers in the classroom, then our children will continue to receive a poor education.

Well actually, the issue IS money: the American Federation of Teachers is the largest donor to national Democratic causes and state Republican causes. This is blood money: protect their members from the expectations of the parents of the children they are supposed to teach and look the other way on the kinds of questions Mary Fris asks. We have a system that maximizes salaries and protections for teachers, and that alone. That's where your tax dollars via teacher's salaries via American Federation of Teachers membership via political donations really goes. Your taxes are being spent in this way to protect people who are supposed to be teaching your children, from being punished for not teaching your children!

In a perfect world, we would have an American Federation of Students and Parents, and it would have more power than the American Federation of Teachers, for the obvious reason that THEY WORK FOR US. Or at least they are supposed to, we pay their salaries. And we demand results, and we aren't getting it. The politicians are paid off by the American Federation of Teachers to look the other way while the American Federation of Teachers writes rules that further teacher's protections and does not advance our children's minds.

Simply put, this is a crime, it is a travesty, and it is a more important issue facing this country than the economy, crime, drugs and a number of other issues, combined. Because without a quality education, our children's future, and the future of this country, is doomed. In fact, without a quality of education, we will have a weak economy, more crime, and more drugs. Education really is the apex issue. The power of the American Federation of Teachers must be reined in, and its members who are incompetent must be fired.

We, the parents, must make this happen by making a big enough stink that the donations our politicians receive from the American Federation of Teachers is less important to them than our wrath. Politicians, these are your marching orders: new rules- no more tenure. You get rid of tenure, politicians, or you will be fired. Politicians, you are not important. Teachers, you are not important. Our children, they is important.

And we elect you, dear politicians, and we pay you, dear teachers, and we want our children to have a bright future, capisce? Don't for a moment think parental anger is going away at the lame status quo some of you have bought into, selling your conscience and betraying our children's future with your lame rules meant to protect you and not our children.
Comment by john fasulo on October 4, 2010 at 5:00am
TENURE.. it's an explosive word and a system that will be hard to chip away at.. After many years of paying little attention to the local school system, when our daughter started school, we had to pay attention and get involved. Being an older parent, I remember the Beacon Schools of another era. It was an era when, for example, the Principal of South Ave School, Miss Dooley had a paddle and used it often on the backsides of children. Kindergarten helped shape my attitude towards school. The teacher, Ms Hayden, was a fossil from another age. Actually most of the teachers I had at South Ave were Devas and in need of being herded out to pasture. Fast forward 50 years or so. Our daughter is now in the fourth Grade at Sargent school. Quality education? Hardly. Only until last year did I see some hope. This year I see more hope, a teacher who assigns weekend home work to," help with the laundry or help prepare dinner" has a unique way of instilling curiosity. This may, I think, be the exception to the rule. We are in an economic downturn and belts need to tighten. Tenure has to be re -thought as does the six digit salary of a superintendent and the need for asst supers. We have some unique opportunities for there to be more involvement from parents. Over the past 10 or 15 years, there has developed in this community a core of writers, artists, photographers, editors, galleries and craftspeople who have a lot to contribute and should be plugged into the curriculum and used extensively to add to the positive enrichment of the districts children. Personally, I've found the schools (at least Sargent school) relatively unresponsive to most approaches and suggestions. One example was my willingness to set up a trip to NYC to specifically go to NBC where I once worked and get an inside look at the box they all like to glue there eyes to. They could have seen the network news room, SNL set, local news and the local news studio with Robotic cameras. The cost.. NBC zero $$, The train at a group or school rate..not a lot; and if there needed to be a "scholarship" for kids whose parents couldn't afford the train, it could be set up. "Nope"... I was told, "doesn't fit the curriculum" OK.. then tell me this.... How does a teacher justify bringing her particular choice of lifestyle into a classroom of elementary school kids? Art class isn't the place for sociology 101.
Mary Fris is a concerned and willing parent. There are a lot of us out here whose talents could be tapped... for free. Use this untapped resource, or continue on the road of mediocrity.

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