Thursday, June 27, 2013

Challenge. (Lay-Offs Part II)

There are a number of hard-working laid-off educators and support staff to whom I want to offer my unqualified support.  I don't want the career educators in Lament. (Lay-Offs Part I) to get mixed up with the folks I'm talking about in this post. 

This process has been a real challenge to those in charge at the unified district for all of the obvious reasons.  But I hope that the powers that be have taken the opportunity to clean house in a meaningful way.  There are a number of people, on both sides of the house, that can appropriately be shown the door.  The real challenge is to know the difference between the people we should miss and the people we should not.

I encourage us to pay very close attention to has been selected to stay in administration, both at the school and Central Office level.  We haven't seen the list yet, and we can hope that we will actually get to see a list or a staff directory to let us know who has stayed and where.

If this fiscal climate requires that people be shown the door, it matters who stays.  Old political loyalties should not be taken into account, nor should ongoing alignments with School Board members.  How a person got their job in the first place should be.  I'm not sorry to see the back of anyone who got their job because of who they were sleeping with.  I'm not sorry to see the back of anyone who can't speak cogently about their work without dedicated staff (who actually do the work, and cover their boss's inability to do so) whispering in their ear.  I'm not sorry to see the back of low-performers who got their jobs because they are related to high-performers.  I'm not sorry to see the back of anyone who landed at Central Office because they were being disciplined, or had to be moved because of accusations of poor conduct at their old school.  These are people that probably should be shown the door anyway, and the merger is an opportunity.  These kinds of staffers are ammunition for reformers, and we shouldn't have needed the merger to usher them out. 

I'm looking for meritorious appointments of people who have earned their positions, and who deserve more money than we can afford to pay them.  I'm suspicious of leap-froggers who have such a learning curve that those that report to them have to train them in their job functions.  People have long memories around here, and they remember who got passed over when, and why.  Let's make sure we've limited the "why's" to meritorious and job performance reasons this time around.

Lay-offs have been a terrible by-product of this merger.  Even a couple of ill-considered appointments by the new brass disrespects those who are not asked to stay.  We've seen it happen before at transitions to new superintendents.  It took years for SCS to recover from the damage to morale wrought by a (not-the-most) recent superintendent's appointments.

We know it's a challenge, but it's important that this be done in a way that makes sense.  I'm aware of at least some decisions that make a lot of sense, but there's still time to fix any mistakes that have been made.  I know I'm not the only one looking forward to the new org charts and/or staff directories to see who has been invited to stay on in the unified district.

1 comment:

  1. I'm one of the educators who has been laid off from a central office position. The view from the inside is that the goal of this whole exercise was to encourage as much retirement as possible while keeping as many people in their current places. I certainly understand the desire to make as few changes in leadership as possible. We will be having a new superintendent within the next year and superintendents usually ask top leadership to reapply for their jobs while bringing in some of their own loyalists to take top spots. To have the district suffer major changes for several years in a row doesn't serve the interests of students. I take full responsibility for my departure. I made what I think is a principled decision not to reapply for my job. I just couldn't take orders about academics from a supervisor who has no academic credentials. My supervisor was returned to a high level position despite the fact that she doesn't have the minimum credentials listed on the job description. I did apply for other positions hoping that I would have an opportunity to move to another position but got very few interviews. One of the tragedies of the nationwide educational reform movement is that those who are most vociferous about what is needed to improve education have no education or experience themselves. Even the Teach for America activists have very little training and their experience with classrooms and kids is usually two years, often in elementary classrooms which are very different from middle and high school. When these types begin to pontificate about what is needed the word that jumps unbidden into my head is ingrate. There are people in this world who cared enough about children and education to devote years of their lives and thousands of their dollars just to get qualified to fill out the employment application. Their insights and perceptions are being totally ignored and they are being treated like ignoramuses by arrogant people who are completely clueless. The lay off hurts me less than it hurts many folks. I'm of an age where I can retire with both social security and Tennessee retirement and at least make enough to keep body and soul together. When I went to the transition meeting yesterday, there were about 50 of us learning about our options. I only saw one person who was under the age of 50 and most were not early 50's. I couldn't help but wonder if we didn't have an age discrimination suit. One of the things that is really painful is that those of us who can apply for our state pension are barred from severance pay. Well, actually we are not barred from it but we would have to sacrifice the district health supplement. If we were in a financial position to fully retire we wouldn't be trying to continue working. After years of loyal service to the children of this county, we are rewarded with a kick to the curb -- no sincere thanks, no financial help to make the transition. To add insult to injury, we all know that we are currently paying 3 superintendents -- only 1 of them is actually working. We also know that the district is spending a fortune on Teach for America and other dubious projects. But the district can't afford to throw a bone to those who have been loyal and dedicated. The ingrates should hang their head in shame.