School Woes

I know you don’t usually see posts about school during the summer, but then, these are not normal times for my child’s school. The school she attends is in one of the highest rated school districts in this state, and has consistently achieved high scores within that district. It’s a GOOD school. Which makes what happened even more bizarre and shocking.

The district reassigned all personnel to other schools, and is bringing in a new Principal and all new teachers. Did you catch that? ALL personnel. Which means they also reassigned the secretaries, the lunch folks, maintenance, and I don’t even know what else.

The district also refuses to tell anyone WHY, other than “tensions” which couldn’t be resolved, citing privacy issues.

Once again, I find myself in a quandary. My mother was a GS15, i.e. a government employee of the highest rank. She dealt with hiring, firing (yes, you can get a government employee, provided you have enough documentation…think years worth), base closings, veterans benefits and privileges in the GS hiring process, and union negotiations. So I’ve heard more than my fair share of stories concerning all these areas. As an employee, I’ve also been through a half-dozen or so corporate buy-outs, friendly and not so friendly. I’m well versed in government and corporate speak. I’ve seen both sides.

Here’s what happened. On the final day of school, a Thursday, less than 30 minutes after the kids were released, the teachers were notified of a mandatory meeting, in which they were informed that the district was having everyone in the school reapply for their jobs. Anyone who didn’t get rehired would be placed with a different school. About an hour after that, the district emailed all of the parents, informing them of the decision. The email said that there had been on-going tension at the school, and all attempts at rectifying the situation, including a last-ditch effort at mediation, had failed. Therefore, the joint decision between the Teacher’s Union and the District School Board was to have every last person (again, teachers, staff, maintenance, etc) reinterview for their jobs.

Cue the panic and confusion.

The School Superintendent held an open meeting to discuss the decision. She again stated that all personnel would have to reapply for their positions. She said that there were a few people that were not supporting the direction, spirit, and technology of the school. There had been many attempts to get everyone on board, but that a few individuals simply were not supportive. There had even been a last attempt at mediation, but it also failed. She could not name names, or even discuss it, due to privacy issues.

Then less than 48 hours later, the Superintendent said that all personnel would be transferred, and all new personnel would be brought in. She said that they were interviewing for exceptional, quality teachers to staff our school. Hiring would be done by June 30th, i.e. less than 3 weeks. Then she went on vacation.

As you can expect, there has been much confusion, anger, and tears. After much discussions between the Teacher’s Union, the District School Board, and the parents, this is what I understood.

The problem started when they started bringing in new technology to back up the implementation of Common Core. Apparently there were a few teachers who objected, and refused to use the technology (Luddites, in Silicon Valley. Who knew?) Things were escalated. Near the end of the year, the district called for an all-hands type meeting, at which the final attempt at mediation occurred. I remember that day. Without announcement, all teachers and staff were gone one day. They had all substitute teachers for the classes, and had district office staff handing the school office.) So the district made the decision to release all teachers/staff from their positions, and have them reapply, thus weeding out the people who weren’t getting with the program. Noone was fired. They still had jobs in the district school system. They would get reassigned to other schools if they didn’t get placed back into our school.

Now, I understand the reasoning behind not making the announcement till after school let out that last day. I understand that it was to keep the teachers focused on the school and end-of-year requirements, and stressing out the kids. It would have been a disaster at the school if they had announced it earlier. Never-the-less. The timing was like dropping a bomb. It sent everyone reeling. But at least the parents knew that the really good teachers would be coming back. We just didn’t know who WOULDN’T be coming back.

That’s when the Teacher’s Union and the District engaged in a little brinksmanship.

The Union, whose job it is to protect and back the TEACHERS (not the kids), determined that any teacher who was reassigned would automatically have a mark against them. Everyone would KNOW that if a teacher was reassigned, it was because they were one of the problem people. The parents would know. And their new school would know. So the Union position became an either/or. Either everyone remains in place, and we try again to fix the problems, whatever they were, or everyone gets reassigned, so that no teachers were singled out.

Now, I understand the Union’s reasoning. If only a few teachers were reassigned, then they would be viewed with suspicion anywhere they went. This was all over the local news. Every school in the district knew that these teachers were forced to reapply for their positions. If the new teacher at your school came from our school, it MUST be because they were one of the problem people who didn’t get rehired. The Union said no. If you’re getting rid of a few, you get rid of them all, so that all teachers are handled the same, and no one teacher gets automatically marked as trouble. I understand that.

The district said ok, fine. Then they all get reassigned.

So now it will be an entirely new school. The old teachers have been ripped out, forced into new schools. Parents have to “reimagine” the type of school we want. The kids, current and previous students, are devastated that they won’t see familiar teacher’s faces at school. There’s huge amounts of debate among the parents. One camp is trying to get the teachers reinstated. One camp wants to go ahead and move forward. There’s one group that’s demanding more transparency from the School Board. One group is sticking their fingers in their ears, and going la-la-la-la.

Personally, I’m to the point where I’m sick of talking about it. While retaining the teachers would keep the good ones around, it would also keep the luddites. Yes, there needs to be more transparency. Over half the parents were completely unaware there was a problem, let alone that it had progressed to this point. Yes, it will be difficult to start up with an entirely new team. No, we don’t know if the district will even listen to what kind of school the parents want. Yes, it’s awful to lose all continuity in the school.

But you see, I was a military BRAT. I went to four different schools, six if you count transitioning from elementary to middle-school, then to high school. I know the anxiety of having to walk into a school with an ENTIRELY new set of staff/teachers.

And I know kids are resilient. They’ll make it through. Regardless.