Why The Superintendent Firing All the Teachers in One School Should Be Ashamed Of Themselves…and Maybe Have To Wear a Scarlet D for Douche

This whole “firing every teacher because we don’t have the balls to dig into the larger problem and this seems like the easiest thing to do” business is totally ruining my office supply buzz.

In fact, I just read through a bunch of articles and watched a series of interviews that were so maddening that I basically yelled all my points at Mr. Mimi (He is SUCH a trooper….spouses of teachers deserve medals.) for the last thirty minutes when all the man was doing was trying to make dinner for us so I could write this post.  (So maybe a medal and some prize money…)  Even Mini Mimi is kicking up a storm in solidarity for teachers as I think about this issue.  Go baby!

Holy crap, I don’t even know where to begin.  There are so many parts to this puzzle that are being conveniently ignored.  You all, in your infinite wisdom, have made some fantastic eomments about this issue on my Facebook fanpage.

I mean, how can these ass hats seriously fire all the teachers with a straight face and a clear conscience while conveniently ignoring the fact that the school is PLAGUED BY POVERTY.  I guess you can’t fire poverty, but you certainly shouldn’t IGNORE IT ALL TOGETHER IN A DESPERATE DISPLAY OF DEMONIZING AND FINGER POINTING.  I was watching an interview on CNN (the Anderson Cooper one…just scroll down) where this douche just dismissed poverty with a, “well, you can’t do anything about that.”


Cuz I know it’s a tough mountain to climb to, you know, end poverty, but to ME, saying that we “can’t really do anything about poverty” is just about as pathetic, sad and depressing as saying, “well, we can’t do anything about this school, so let’s just fire all the teachers Donald Trump style.” (Bad hair and power tie not necessarily included.)

And some of the biggest arguments in favor of firing the teachers make me want to poke my eyes out with hot pokers (or poke them with hot pokers after requiring them to try to DO WHAT WE DO EVERYDAY for just one day).  My mind is racing (and pregnant which translates to being unable to hold onto an intelligent thought for more than 2.5 seconds…just about the length of time before I need to pee again really), so let’s take this argument by argument, shall we?

There is a low rate of academic success among the students at this particular school.  (insert deep breathing here) Okay.  First of all, can we just give a shout out to the bullshit that is standardized testing being used as the only measurement of student achievement?  I mean, that’s a whole post in and of itself.  Second of all, what curriculums are being utilized? How much freedom to teachers actually  have to teach in ways they believe in?  Or are we telling them exactly how to do their jobs, providing them with sub-standard resources and then getting pissed when it doesn’t come out all rosy?

Call me crazy, but I have a sneaking suspicion that with five principals in six years that the whole school culture is not a walk in the park for teachers working there day after day and year after year.  Are the administrators who mandate the use of certain curricula getting fired?  Are they being held accountable to provide teachers with meaningful professional development?

And again – these kids are LIVING IN POVERTY.  These friends are probably coming to school hungry, dealing with ridiculous home lives, perhaps even working a job to try and help their families and we’re surprised when they don’t ace their math quiz?????   And I hate to hate on people who are already struggling, but what about their parents?  WHAT ABOUT THEIR ROLE IN THEIR CHILD’S EDUCATION?

It just seems to me that a lot of people (administrators, policy makers, parents, etc) want to put in their two freaking cents when it comes to telling us how to do our jobs but then want to take no responsibility whatsoever when shit hits the educational fan.  I’m just sayin….if you can’t take the heat, THEN LEAVE US ALONE AND LET US DO OUR JOBS!

Am I going to blindly stick up for every single one of those teachers?  I hate to say it, but the answer is no. I’m sure there are teachers in that building who suck. Just like there are workers in every job in every industry everywhere who are sub par weak links who everyone talks about but no one does anything about.  Now I know it’s hard to fire a teacher, and I don’t even want to get started on a debate about tenure (need to keep the old heart rate under 140 for my little friend here), but it IS possible.  There IS  a process to do that when a teacher demonstrates an inability to be effective in the classroom.  Where are the fingers pointing at the transient administration who failed to follow this explicit process?  I mean, I recently wrote about the teacher evaluation process in which numerous times I witnessed administrators never actually pay attention to my lesson and then write up a report on the wrong subject…

So we’re completely comfortable in ignoring the failure of this process and these individuals but have arbitrarily decided to pin 100% of the blame on teachers? 

Teachers are being unreasonable when they asked for more money for additional work.  I guess the school system wanted teachers to eat with the children (To increase instructional time?  Make the nauseous?  Increase aspirin consumption and therefore boost sales?), add minutes onto their insturctional day, spend time outside of school tutoring students and attend weekly 90 minute meeting.  Can you please show me another profession in which people are asked to work more hours, take on greater responsibility and take on some seriously ridiculous odds for no extra money?  It is also clear to me that the people suggesting this have never actually eaten in a school cafeteria.  And to them I say, “Friend, shit ain’t gettin’ done at lunch.  Those kids need a break!!!”

They keep pointing out the salaries of the teachers, saying that they make $72,000 a year, which judging by the facial expressions of the finger pointers, sounds ridiculous to them.  They make arguments such as “teachers are putting their salaries ahead of the needs of the kids.”

Um, I’m sorry, but did I miss the word VOLUNTEER somewhere in my job description?  Why do people think it okay to play the altruism card here?  Because if “good intentions” were the only requirement for this job, we’d all be screwed.  Maybe teachers should have demanded payment in sunshine and rainbows…there might be some of that to spare.

I’m going to stop there for now because blogs are supposed to be short and this is anything but short.  However, I am planning on continuing this discussion and would LOVE to hear what you all think.

Until then, my friends and loyal readers, get yourself a cocktail and pour a little out in honor of our peeps in Rhode Island.

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  • Today on Twitter when I posted the question, "Why are we shutting down "failing" schools and propping up failing banks?" I had over twenty retweets.

    It's an issue that has struck a nerve with us.

    We are supposed to face the down side of accountability and then never experience the positive side.

    February 27, 2010 at 3:20 am
  • What IS this all about? Why don't they look at the feeder schools? Kids learn to read in elementary not high school… shouldn't there be some more reading help there?

    And that's the mildest of responses.

    February 27, 2010 at 3:20 am
  • I'm AMAZED how the people who attack these teachers have, in most cases, never been in the classroom…

    …while the people who defend them have. It's really that simple and while it's sort of amazing, it shouldn't be too surprising.

    Again, why are our education policymakers not in the classroom themselves?

    Thanks for the post.

    February 27, 2010 at 3:20 am
  • Who, in their right mind, would want to work at that school now? Do the esteemed members of the board of education expect quality educators to hasten to their doors excited at the prospect of working for incompetent, short-sighted, ignorant, scapegoat-seekers? I would wish them luck, but I wouldn't really mean it.

    February 27, 2010 at 4:21 am
  • 5 administrators in 6 years? Nobody notices a serious lack of leadership? It's a hard enough job any old day, but throw in serious high stakes testing and failure to make AYP, and now we are more worried about the test than the learning. And thanks for your point about the teachers who shouldn't be in the classroom. There are ways to work with teachers who can't manage, but frankly, it means the administrator has to be on it from Day One, documenting, documenting, documenting. Our contract has language about a Plan of Improvement, but in the 32 years I've been at my school, that has only been used ONE TIME – and I teach next door to a person who would greatly benefit from additional support, specific tasks to improve, and timelines in which to demonstrate improvement. Don't get me started….
    Thanks again, Mrs. Mimi – keep that heart rate under control, or Mini Mimi will let you know when to be calm!

    February 27, 2010 at 4:21 am
  • So, uh, YEAH! Let's hear it for merit pay!! All in favor, say AYE! More like AYE, AYE, AYE…….

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • When I first read about this mass firing the first questions that came to my mind were:
    1)How many times had the teachers come to admin asking for help and support for the classrooms?
    2)How many times had admin rejected pleas from teachers to improve discipline or overall climate?
    3)How many times had the school reached out to the parents only to find complete apathy?

    The school did not get to this low point only on the actions of the teachers.

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • 1. Where was the union in this whole drama?
    2. I worry about the teachers who are being fired. I don't think that many of them (outside of the 50% that perhaps are re-hired) will be getting a job next year. I feel awful for them.

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • OK, so I write a blog read many teacher blogs and we all seem to be writing about the same things!

    So why aren't we more organized and more empowered?

    Why hasn't our society embraced the realities of being a public school teacher? Why are so many fellow teachers and our unions shooting us in the foot?

    Even as lowly teachers, we are tax payers and deserve better product. Why aren't communities ever scrutinizing the behaviors and decisions of the administrators running schools?

    I feel another blog post coming on.
    I sure enjoy yours.


    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • Amen sister! I read some comments following an article on this mass firing and they were ludicrous to say the least. People assuming that teachers are lazy and not working hard enough yet enjoying 70-80,000 a year and tons of time off. Yes, we have more time off than the average professional, yet teachers spend much of that time preparing, planning, getting ready, and thinking about how to reach their students (all things we don't have time to do during our scheduled hours!)…I am shocked at the misunderstanding of our profession!

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • You're right on, Mimi. Just google poverty and "school achievement" and you'll get almost 300,000 hits. My guess is that 90% or more of them are about how all the "gaps" in education are based, when you get right down to it, on the "economy gap."

    With the highest instance of childhood poverty in the industrialized world, our politicians don't want to accept responsibility so they don't "see" the correlation. If they did, then they would have to admit to their constituents that "we're not really #1" something that the average voter doesn't want to hear.

    Here's a video…50 seconds long, which says it all. It focuses on the differences between black America and white America, but it could just have easily been about "fed" America and "hungry" America.

    The Disparity Gap

    "When Congress passes No Child Left Unfed, No Child Without Health Care and No Child Left Homeless, then we can talk seriously about No Child Left Behind." — Susan Ohanian

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • Until we face the bloat in "middle management" we will never reform education. I think administration needs to be the volunteer- appointed position. We take business leaders from the community and have them serve the public schools 20 hours a week, no salary, and see how that flies.
    Yeah. What I thought. I am one of the fortunate ones who works and knows amazing administrators, but for every one of those, it seems to be inverse for the ones who are actually earning their six figure salaries. Just like for every 20 awesome teachers, there's one yucky one, for every awesome administrator, there's 20 not so great, and please our back tax money, thank you very much. Or, perhaps I'm just being hyperbolic, (as usual). Did the RI administrators state what THEY were going to give up? Just curious.

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • Nicely done! This does open a number of issues about what we use as a formative assessment of schools and their Programs and management. Leadership and development of teachers and attitudes are` what will affect a school's success. Successful teachers will feed into successful students. Unsuccessful Superintendents and a parade of principals do not provide the leadership needed for a successful Staff.They can replace the entire staff and then continue the bad leadership to lead the new group again into oblivion.

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • Unfortunately, I live in a state that hasn't got a teachers union so they canjust fire people whenevery they want. I mean, I'm sure there are tenured folks and I'm sure it's harder to fire them, but it just seems that we are just rag dolls that can be tossed out if your principal doesn't like the way you dress. Which is exactly like my last tyrant of a principal. Ugh, I shutter to think about working for her again. I still have nightmares ALL the time.

    On another note, that whole part about how dare they demand a higher pay check is utterly ridiculous. I agree, there is no other profession that would ever put up with that nonsense. Just because we're teachers doesn't mean we are freakin' saints! We still need to make a good living! I am so poor all the time. My state has one of the lowest salary scales for teachers in the nation. I started at about 31,000 and I take home less than 1,000 each paycheck. I spend a good portion of that money on my students just so they can do cool experiments and fun lessons.

    What is the education world coming to!?

    February 28, 2010 at 1:16 am
  • Sneaker Teacher – we do work as much as other professions, just we get in our hours in 40 weeks a year, not 50. Don't sell yourself short by saying we get more time off than others do, because we do just as much, if not more, actual work!

    Re: poverty: My district has done a lot with Ruby Payne. But there comes a point when you say, "Okay, you've explained to me how poverty works and the effects it has on our students, but what are we going to do about it?" I agree with Stu – it would make people too uncomfortable to admit it so they ignore it.

    Usually they fire the coach because they can't fire the whole team, but I guess this time they fired the teachers because they can't fire the students. Is Rhode Island a union state? Being in New England, I would think yes, but seeing as how this happened, I would think no. If they are, it will be interesting to see if they grieve the firings.

    February 28, 2010 at 6:27 pm
  • "Shut down, fire everyone, reopen" is one of the turnaround models they are playing with.

    We should do our best to stop them. And if they succeed in Central Falls, we should do our best to stop them in the next place.

    Because this is a warm up. They will keep doing this to teachers and kids until we stop them.


    March 1, 2010 at 3:53 am
  • I teach tenth graders currently. When I read the line to a couple of them where the superintendent said the teachers absolutely refused to work without being paid, their comment was, "Duh!"

    This is a totally outrageous situation. Made more outrageous to me by Arne Duncan basically giving this his blessing.

    March 1, 2010 at 7:10 pm
  • Another problem is that this kind of thing puts pressure on other schools to produce results by whatever means possible. I worked under a principal who for four years twisted the school's schedule and curriculum for the sole purpose of generating higher test scores – but left a beaten and demoralized staff in her wake. We weren't teaching any better, thew kids weren't learning any better, we just looked better on paper, that's all.

    And of course we've all heard the stories of teachers and administrators who are willing to fake the results.

    March 2, 2010 at 12:20 pm
  • The only good that could come of this is when everyone- Arne Duncan, the community, and the country- sees the lack of impact this strategy will have. Maybe they need to see the lack of results to realize this doesn't work.

    72,000 is pretty good- but that doesn't mean teachers haven't been doing their jobs. Like someone else commented, who's looking at the schools that feed into this one? Students don't usually start having reading problems in high school.

    I'd be curious to see what the students say about the school. I want them to do a survey of both current students, former graduates, and former students that dropped out. What do they say is working? What do they think of the teachers? What do they think of the administration? Why did they drop out (or consider it, even if they didn't)? What do they suggest the school to do differently?

    I bet it would be enlightening.

    March 7, 2010 at 8:57 pm
  • Food for thought: in his State of the Union address, President Obama blasted poverty in education, saying kids shouldn't get short changed just because of where they live. Yet after this Rhode Island fiasco, he "deliberately made no reference to the fact that high rates of poverty are the surest indicators of low test score results, and that teachers in Central Falls — the poorest city in Rhode Island, like their counterparts in Detroit, Baltimore and other impoverished cities — are already going beyond the call of duty to help children while being forced to teach in overcrowded and chronically under-funded classrooms." (Washington Post) Why the turn-around??

    March 9, 2010 at 12:13 pm
  • Has anyone ever heard of spouses of teachers organizing (legally or unofficially) to influence school boards?

    March 10, 2010 at 4:08 pm

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