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Sunday, May 15, 2011

A lack of appreciation for Jacksonville's teachers

Teacher Appreciation Week

It was teacher appreciation week two weeks ago but don’t worry if you missed it because so to did the Duval County School District as they carried out a metaphorical St. Valentines day massacre and hundreds of teachers lost their job. There perhaps isn’t a bigger joke in Duval County than teacher appreciation week as the district stopped appreciating and caring about its teachers years ago. Now all teachers are is fodder to be blamed and cogs to be replaced.

If you are a parent you should read that again. Hundreds of teachers lost their jobs. Many of them were great teachers who you want in front of your sons and daughters. Now some were surplussed which means if there are openings in the future they will be the first chosen but in record numbers teachers were non-reappointed which means they can’t work in the district for a year and is like a black mark on ones personal record; a potential albatross around their neck. Most of these were good men and women who were summarily dismissed without reason; their only apparent drawback was they were new or returning to teaching.

Did you know that teachers in their first three years (and presumably teachers hired after July first) don’t have to be given a reason as to why they are fired? Many of the teachers that were let go or are about to be let go because this is far from over also received satisfactory evaluations one week and pink slips the next and very few were given any help to improve. What you think if you are fired you should at least be told why? Well welcome to education 2011, where up is down, black is white, the only consensus is things aren’t how they should be and bureaucrats make up rules that seem to help none.

How is a teacher to progress if they aren’t given any feedback or little direction or think they are doing at least a satisfactory job only to be blindsided by a pink slip? How are teachers going to improve, and contrary to what those that hate public education would have you believe new teachers rarely hit the ground running, because sometimes great teachers take years to become that way. How are teachers going to develop if they aren’t given the opportunity?

Duval County and it’s hard to believe this wasn’t a mandate from 1701 Prudential Drive, has just ensured a cycle of first year teachers to be replaced by new first tear teachers year after year. This is what they have set up for many of our children, a never-ending assembly line of novice teachers. Is that what you want? Experienced teachers who can are retiring in droves and before this only about half of new teachers made it five years anyways. This is sure to make that already abysmal number dip and do so dramatically.

I get it, budgets are tough and it is unfortunate people are going to lose their jobs but instead of knee capping teacher’s careers as they begin by non reappointing them there is the less devastating surplus and rift method. You know the one the district used to employ to get rid of teachers it could no longer afford back when teachers were appreciated and a valuable member of the team, not as kids have become, tic marks on a spread sheet or pawns on a chess board to be disposed of.

The county must be feeling pretty confident it can get rid of anyone when they have so many applicants but like usual they are short sited and have myopic vision. Does nobody remember how just a few years ago we were scouring the business world and foreign countries for teachers because we couldn’t hire enough? That’s right, we were advertising in Canada and India, come to Florida be a teacher.

A school secretary told me the other day how one of my colleagues was hired. The principal said if he had a degree and a pulse they were in, heck for all I know that is how I and dozens of others were hired too. Things will turn around with the economy and what will the district do then when at that point they won’t be able find enough teachers to staff our classrooms? So what do we do as a district, we kneecap new teachers just as they are starting out, some appreciation huh. Furthermore our reputation as a school district is already bad enough and I literally know dozens of teachers who fled to Clay and St. Johns counties at the first opportunity. This hurts morale and erodes confidence that our leaders have a clue as to what they are doing. This is another example of the lack of appreciation that really have.

Finally the district hasn’t announced whether they are going to allow second and third year teachers eligible for professional contracts to get on them like some other counties around the state, who actually appreciate their teachers, are doing. If these teachers who have proved themselves after years of service aren’t allowed to have professional contracts then they will basically become at will employees to be fired at the end of the school year for practically any reason, not the district will be compelled to give them one.

This is Duval County my friends, push the kids through without the skills they need, don’t discipline or inspire a work ethic either. Then replace the teachers while the same old administration slides merrily along with whatever five bodies with a pulse that the citizens elect to the school board’s tacit approval. Now there is a bad joke for you.

Duval County appreciating its teachers is a joke, a joke none of us should find funny.

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