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Sunday, May 5, 2013

Superintendent Vitti, millionaires or teachers,who is it going to be? (rough draft)

My mom, usually after I had messed up, would say Chris, one aww shit wipes out a thousand attaboys. Well friends Superintendent Vitti had more than a couple aww shits in his letter to the editor in the Times Union.

First he talked about the Champions for Education meeting that was attended by “School Board members, philanthropists, state representatives city officials and community leaders." Did you notice who wasn’t their, teachers that is who. The ones that do the work, the ones on the front line. No they weren't invited but even if they would have been they were to busy working, teaching our kids.

It’s more than that though. I take offense with them calling themselves Champions for Education. Do you know who the true champions are? The kindergarten teacher who takes a break from writing lessons plans to tuck her children into bed. The algebra teacher who leaves school and heads to the hospital where her daughter is getting a breathing treatment for her cystic fibrosis; the high school history teacher who organizes a winter coat drive for her kids lacking them and the job coach who drives 80 miles round trip on a Sunday to take his student who missed the bus to work.  They and the seven thousand other teachers who wake up every morning and despite trying circumstances and a system that often puts them in a position where success is hard to achieve, show up and do the best they can.  The people at the meeting aren’t champions they are rich guys attempting to ease their consciousness throwing nickels at the problem so they can pat each other on the backs and get their picture in the paper. 

Two of these so called Champions that shared the stage with Superintendent Vitti were Jeb Bush and Gary Chartrand leaders of the public school privatization movement. They were both for the parent trigger too, you know that divisive legislation that parents all across the state fought against. Jeb Bush at the meeting even said the states colleges of education should be blown up, his hatred of teachers reaching pathological heights. Neither of these two thinks teachers are professionals and I am beginning to think Vitti agrees with them.  

Later he wrote he wants to expand Teach for America. This insults me and if you are a teacher, the parent of a student or care about our schools it should insult you too! Teach for America’s business model is the exact opposite of what people in education call best practices. They take recent grads without education degrees and put them first through a six week access course and then into the toughest classrooms the city has to offer where they serve a two year commitment; after which 90 percent of them leave. It’s pretty crazy that we use them assuring an ever-revolving door of teachers since Duval County already has a hard time retaining teachers. Teach for America turns teaching from a profession into an extended summer job. It says anybody can do it and experience, training and education don’t matter.

Think about it, would you send your child to a doctor who didn't have a medical degree but who just got six weeks of training. Would you go to a lawyer without a law degree who just took a six week summer course? How about firemen or the police would you want them looking out for you with the same level of training and education that TFA teachers have? Yet for some reason Bush, Chartrand and Vitti want them in your kids classroom. We should only go to TFA as a last resort, not actively pursue them like we do.

Finally he says “research supports that teacher effectiveness serves as the single greatest predictor of a child’s academic success”, but he leaves off “in school”. First DUH! And second in one sentence he joined the ignore poverty crowd and let me tell you how wrong that is. Research says poverty is the number one factor for determining how a student does in school. Kids in poverty don’t do as well as those that don’t. You know what an effective teacher can’t control? If a student has had enough to eat, if they are to worried about violence in their neighborhood to get a good night sleep, if they have been abused or if their parents are actualy children hiding in the bodies of adults. Yet like Chartand and Bush would like, the super is now giving the public permission to blame teachers when they can’t overcome the dehibilitating effects of poverty or terrible parenting.   

Gee thanks for making my already difficult job that much harder.

I might come off as hard on the super but it is because I so desperately want him to succeed. It’s because he has literally been a breath of fresh air after Pratt-Dannals was let go. He and the board that rubber stamped everything he did were terrible and the damage they did to our school system and city will take years to overcome.

I am also hard on him because I know he is throwing his hat in with the wrong people. In my heart know that if Vitti is going to side with a bunch of millionaires in Ponte Vedra over the city’s teachers then we're never going to reach the potential we should and could. I know in my heart that if we would have supported and engaged teachers instead of demonized and marginalize them, then we would be doing a lot better than we are now.

So who is it going to be? The teachers who show up day in and day out, the ones on the front line who sacrifice so much for other peoples children or a bunch of millionaires that couldn't even be bothered to announce their help for our schools in Jacksonville preferring a country club that most of our parents, teachers and students wouldn’t be let into. Who is it going to be?  

Chris Guerrieri
School Teacher


  1. I'd like to make a suggestion. This article loses credibility regardless of the facts contained herein because of the palpable class warfare being waged here.

    There is nothing wrong about people belonging to country clubs wanting to make a difference in education. They are the ones that have the resources and connections that can bust through road blocks. It is also very offensive to impress that only teachers suffer through dealing with children with cystic fibrosis. Country club types are not exempt from those challenges and the size of their pocketbooks do not preclude them from acts of heroism.

    I believe that this article would be much better if it simply addressed the problem without having to reek of wealth envy. We can do a lot more good if we can all combine our strengths and make positive changes by putting our heads together.

  2. "This article loses credibility regardless of the facts contained herein"

    So you think facts lose credibility? And there is class warfare going on and the middle class is taking a beating....

  3. Also them wanting to help is not the problem, them wanting to dictate policy is...