Newtown Lives

Surprisingly, the UFT and CSA unions won the arbitration case against the DOE for violating union contracts in excessing, or letting go, all teachers, administrators, and staff from 24 low performing schools that were slated to close and reopen anew in September while giving those individuals the opportunity to interview and get rehired for those new positions. The last time the city tried this stunt a year or two ago in closing 19 schools, a state judge shot them down as well for not consulting the immediate communities and for not having a placement plan and analyzing the affects of moving the existing students to other surrounding schools. That’s why this time around each school had a community open forum, and the plan was to immediately reopen in September so that the students would have somewhere to go. I suppose the city believed this was sufficient enough to accomplish what it wanted to in light of its previous defeat, which was really to remove bad teachers out of the classroom and make them into substitutes. And I believe that’s where the violation occurs because then what is the point of teacher evaluations and such, and it’s unfair for good teachers to be pooled in all this as well. It is difficult to remove bad teachers based on poor academic performance, but that is the DOE’s fault for making it so easy to obtain tenure, which means that a teacher has a right to due process and simply cannot be fired on the spot. It’s a poor system, and the mayor wanted to break the union in the process, but closing schools and firing every single teacher is not the way to do this, and that’s why the DOE lost this round. The mayor and schools chancellor have vowed to appeal, so perhaps this gives us just one more year, or at least six months, to live before another onslaught of detrimental educational policy reform, but a win is a win. The two state that this is a sad thing for our students, and to a certain extent I see their point, but I think the answer may lie more in teacher evaluation reform and not school closure.

Many people say that the past six months of stress were a waste of time and quite pointless, but I must say that to me it seemed like a six month long professional development session in which I learned much about my career and who I am. Yes, on an emotional level the fact, at the time, that I was going to lose my job not based on my own merit was frustrating and upsetting, but I prayed to the Lord that He’d give me the patience, calm, and foresight to not worry about the future and simply focus on the students that were still under my care, and I can firmly say that that is what happened as many of my students did very well this year. So in light of that, I didn’t really think about what was happening until only a few weeks ago after classes were finished and regents exams were occurring. This happened to also be in line with my scheduled interview in June in reapplying and trying to get rehired into the new school that was to replace Newtown. Because the hiring process was extensive, it forced me to construct a teaching portfolio and to reflect on my entire career, which in turn helped me to solidify who I am as a teacher, which as a result has given me greater confidence and faith in the Lord that what I have accomplished and what I continue to do is by His grace and for his glory, which is so relieving and freeing. So although the DOE meant for this process to tear me down, I have come out more assured as a teacher and more thankful as a follower of Christ.

*I wrote this about two weeks ago, and earlier this week the city lost round 2 in which a state judge sided with the arbitrator and ordered that the city must reinstate staff at all turnaround schools. I’m not sure how else the DOE can fight this any further within the public court system.

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