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Monday, June 30, 2014

Superintendent Vitti's unwavering faith in Teach for America creates mistrust among veteran teachers.

By Greg Sampson

I enjoyed listening to the interview Dr. Vitti gave on WJCT this morning via the First Coast Connect program (9 to 10 AM). The establishment of single gender classes and schools is an important topic that we need to hear more about. 

But first, I want to talk about a comment Dr. Vitti made that revealed he has had a nerve struck in regard to TFA, Teaching For America, that brings new teachers to our schools, most often to the schools that struggle the most. 

He said, “We have to get over this idea that there are union teachers and Teach for America teachers, they’re all teachers, and they all serve our children, we will have—initially, we do have a lot of teachers who are surplused, our enrollment is declining as I have been talking about for some time due to charter enrollment, and this process happens every year …  then what happens is—based on the contract which we have to follow—more veteran teachers are placed in those open positions throughout the county, and then we hire new teachers . Some of the new teachers that we hire were Teach for America teachers that work in our hard-to-staff, traditionally lower-performing schools because unfortunately we don’t have a line of teachers ready and waiting to teach in our hard-to-staff schools. So at the end of the year, I do believe we will arrive at a point where all of our surplused [teachers] are placed and we’ll have to hire some new teachers, usually again in our hard-to-staff schools, mainly in science and math on the secondary level.” 

He was asked via a listener email if TFA teachers would receive priority in placement from the surplus pool. I have edited his response to remove the ums and pauses. The ellipsis omits his challenge of the number of surplus teachers reported as 700. (You can listen to the entire half-hour here:

Understand that, despite the superintendent’s effort to downplay it, the number of teachers surplused this year is unprecedented. Understand further that the process of teacher movement and new appointments has become very disorganized. Very few understand what process the district is following, HR does not communicate eligibility for screened posts (Test Chair, Dean, etc.) as it promises, no one has been told if they are eligible for a transfer, and everyone is shaking their heads saying, “I’ve never seen it this bad.” 

The process has become a massive free-for-all as teachers take initiative to contact principals about openings and scramble to find a position. Some principals made some commitments and had to retract them as HR canceled the transaction because the surplus pool has to be dealt with first. 

If I could say something to Dr. Vitti, it would be this: you have created mistrust between yourself and teachers on many issues. We are tired of your surveys without end that seem designed to yield the answers you want, rather than giving us a chance to share what is on our minds. Give us an open comment box on a survey—let us tell you what we want you to know—then read, ponder, and respond. 

Back to TFA: there is clearly mistrust between career teachers, new teachers who came with education degrees, and even alternate certification teachers and DCPS on this issue. The overall question is whether TFA recruits are a privileged class of teachers or are we treated the same? Specifically, we want to know:

1.       There was a heavy surplus of teachers this Spring. Were TFA teachers protected from surplus or, as some of the most inexperienced teachers, were they surplused according to seniority like everyone else?
2.       If TFA teachers are in the surplus pool, will they be placed first? Or will DCPS proceed strictly according to seniority?
3.       If a RIF (reduction in force) takes place, are TFA teachers subject to RIF? Or will teachers with more seniority be RIFFed to preserve a place for them?
4.       DCPS has entered into a contract to increase the number of TFA teachers it will accept a minimum of 100 teachers for the next three years.  If DCPS does not have 100 positions available, will DCPS tell TFA sorry, we can’t take them, or will it RIF existing teachers to make room?
5.       Even if DCPS doesn’t RIF existing teachers, will TFA applicants be hired before applicants with a four-year degree from an accredited teaching college?

Clear answers to these questions would put many concerns, and yes suspicions, to rest.


  1. These are questions that Dr. Vitti should answer to eliminate speculation among current teachers. He should also make sure that parents and the public are fully aware of what/who 'TFA' teachers are. ^0^ Thanks for writing this article,

  2. I could not have said the above better myself. Vitti most clearly favors TFA above veteran teachers, as praiseworthy sentiments are regularly conveyed to TFA as if they are angelic messengers sent to save the world.
    Most of the TFA I have worked with will readily acknowledge the ridiculous construct that is TFA.

  3. When I was surplussed once many years ago I was assigned to a school, not given a chance to pick & choose. It was definitely not a school someone would have chosen, but I stayed 5 years.
    The only person I've known personally who signed up for TFA did it to have her student loans forgiven, not because she wanted to "save the children".