LET’S TALK ABOUT GETTING RID OF BAD TEACHERS
Does any candidate for the BOE believe we have no bad teachers in the R-8 system, not a single one? PLEASE tell me you think that way if that is your position on judging teacher performance, the BAD performance by some teachers.
OK, after a lot of questions asked by me of a variety of sources, all private sources but some being public officials and others teachers, and candidate as well, I now understand how executives within our public school system CAN, if they chose to do so, get rid of dead wood, bad teachers in the R-8 system. Here is how it works and includes not only teachers but any other employees in R-8, including Principals and other “executive” positions.
First, let’s discuss “contracts”. “Executive” positions, principles and assistant principles for example, as well as ALL non-tenured teachers receive an annual contract to work in such positions. In other words they are offered a new job, under a contract, or a new contract each year, to work in their current position. Such contracts are administered by R-8, ultimately the Superintendent of Schools, assisted by his staff in all the details.
BUT, and this is important though subtle as well, when a contract is NOT renewed, the BOE must approve that action by a vote in closed session. No, individual contracts are usually not discussed, most of the time. Instead the Superintendent gives the BOE a number of contracts that WILL be renewed. The BOE must then do the math to recognize that not ALL contracts in fact will be renewed each year. So by acclamation and voting, the BOE tactically agrees each year NOT to renew some contracts, of principals, non-tenured teachers, etc. Some will have to go elsewhere to find a new job or take a demotion within R-8 to work in a lower capacity and probably lower pay as well.
And of course any member of the BOE can raise objections, on an individual level if they choose to do so. “Why are you not renewing the contract for ……” is a perfectly legal and proper question for any member of the BOE to ask and demand an answer ANYTIME someone suffers non-renewal of their contract. And for sure such arguments or pointed questions ARE asked in closed sessions of the BOE and a closed debate is held and the BOE as a body decides what to do in individual cases.
NOW, tenured teachers, whether serving as teachers or not have a continuing contract, almost a lifetime contract to CONTINUE TO TEACH (only) unless they are formally terminated as a teacher. So for example if a Principal is also a tenured teacher, he must receive a new contract each year to continue to serve as a Principal. But lacking such a contract he can choose to demand a position, back in the ranks if you will, as a teacher, a tenured teacher. And yep, the BOE must decide in such cases to NOT renew the contract of such a Principal, serving as a Principal for the next year, but also MUST allow him or her to teach the following year, unless they formally fire that individual as a tenured teacher.
Is that simple enough to understand the process required by law and regulation and how that process actually plays out with R-8, year in and year out, over the years.
Every year some people, serving as tenured teachers choose to resign or retire or go elsewhere to find a new teaching job for a variety of reasons, not publicly offered unless they alone choose to make such a decision public knowledge. Sometimes, not often, a Principal (or assistant principal) is NOT offered a new contract to continue to serve in that capacity. They can then either leave, retire or accept a new job as only a teacher.
That is exactly what seems to have played out in the Master’s case, a principal whose contract was NOT renewed in 2010 (I think that was the year) and instead choose to go back “down” and serve as a tenured teacher. That action was approved or agreed up by the BOE by the way, in closed session. And yes, though he is now sueing Angie Besendorfer, Masters continues to teach within the R-8 system, today.
That case may or may not be decided in a public trial OR it will die on the vine as a viable law suit OR be “settled out of court”, which won’t happen as this is a personal lawsuit against one individual who does not have the money to pay out of her own pocket to “settle”. We’ll have to see how that one turns out.
Now the Turner case was the very public turmoil when a tenured teacher decide to “fight the system” and demanded a public hearing before the BOE to protest the action taken against him and reclaim his job as a tenured teacher. I will not elaborate herein on that process as I have blogged and “columned in the Globe” extensively on my own views of how that process was a measure of success for R-8 and our public schools. R-8, painfully and publicly, in fact got rid of a “bad teacher” exercising extraordinarily poor judgment, in my OWN view. The painful and costly process succeed in that one incidence.
Now let’s talk about Debbie Fort and how she has played a role in that process, arguing against it, publicly and privately.
First, Debbie and your supporters, I only ask a question and do not make any accusation. Have you participated in the ongoing legal process surrounding the lawsuit by Masters, a former fellow Principal in R-8, against Ms. Besendorfer? IF you answer YES, then can you tell us exactly how you have so participated? OR, you can tell us the public that you have not in any way been officially involved in that lawsuit?
I would also ask the same question of any CURRENT members of the BOE as to their “official” participation, in depositions, testimony, etc. in the Master’s case. Anyone of you current BOE members, running for re-election of not, care to tell us publicly if you have so participated? Might I also be so bold as to ask Debbie and other BOE members HOW you participated, which side do you support in that lawsuit. Certainly I have no access to such depositions or private testimony, nor do I or anyone else that was NOT in attendance at the closed BOE session where non-renewal of Master’s contract MUST have been discussed, have any direct knowledge of that situation.
I have no idea the “privacy rights” anyone may have to answer such questions. I certainly do not, as well, “demand an answer” as I have no legal basis to make such a demand, yet. I also have no idea if I can find WHO exactly HAS been deposed, testified, officially injected individual views, etc. on the Master’s case as it proceeds forward.
But someday, if the case goes to trial, we will all know who says what about others and how they acted or voted, will we not. If the case does not go to trial, well we can all just argue over rumor and innuendo as well.
Now I have explained, at some length how teachers and administrators can be moved out of the system within R-8. So the next question is how often does such happen, questionable performance is privately challenged, executives make a decision to no longer employee someone in their current positions and ultimately some employees move on in their life without public furor.
My sense is that such matters happen routinely in any public education system. People that fail to perform poorly as judged by senior executives are “moved out” of a given public school system. That happens frequently in the military, certainly in private companies and even in the halls of government bureaucracies from time to time. And such SHOULD be happening, when people fail to perform to acceptable levels or standards, fairly, consistently and with compassion as well. Any “system” MUST be able to get rid of “dead wood”.
The actual number of such changes in personnel due to perceived poor performance is NOT a public figure and thus I have no idea how many people within R-8 have been so “treated” in the past few years. But some have been demoted or moved out of R-8, for sure. Is ONE too many to have been subjected to such a process? Any BOE candidate care to offer an answer to that question? How many is too many is another question to be asked as well of all candidates.
I will tell you MY view on the matter. Any sane government (or private) system MUST be able to hire and fire employees based on rational and responsible decision-making. In my view, R-8 is doing so at about the right level of such control over who, exactly should be allowed to continue to teach or serve in other responsible positions within our public and local schools. I think the Superintendent ( and his administrative staff) is on the right track and for sure the current BOE has general knowledge of what he is doing and how he is doing it and has not yet thrown up any real challenges to his actions as the Superintendent of Schools.
Cut to the chase folks and THAT process and actions by Dr. Huff is the REAL basis of Debbie Fort’s decision to run for BOE. No doubt in my mind that underlays her incentive to gain a position on the BOE, to oppose how Dr. Huff and the current BOE decides who to “hire and fire” to use a vague term.
Which leads to my next point or question. Why exactly, did Debbie Fort decide to end a 33 year career in public education and retire, move from Webb City, her residence for about 19 years I am told, and then run for a seat on the BOE? It is only an unanswered question asked with specificity, not any accusation of any sort.
But I will refer to my last blog about how to “treat” marginal performance in a variety of ways. ONE way, a good one is DO NOT promote marginal employees as viewed by people in paid executive positions to make such difficult decisions.
I can only personalize a guess as to Debbie’s decision to retire from public school employment within R-8. If I had worked hard for 33 years doing the best I could to succeed AND advance in my profession, I might well “retire” while young enough to move to other challenges in my career, in a different job entirely. Actually I did exactly that, “retired from the Navy” after only working in that profession for 23 years. One could say I “Peter principled out” or became disenchanted with the profession itself. In my case it was the latter situation. When I reached the DC level of military decision making I did not like what I saw and lived within and decided to move on with my life seeking greener pastures.
But I did NOT turn around and run for national public office to criticize the Navy, the Pentagon or anyone else. Nope, I just, in the last 6 years, have publicly written some challenges to that system within the military, like them or not.
I do not believe Debbie was “fired”, nor do I believe she was threatened with a termination of her contract to continue to serve as a Principal within R-8. But it is possible that she felt a promotion to a higher level of authority within R-8 was deserved, failed to be so promoted and thus we now see her running for office, challenging the leadership in R-8 and the current BOE because of such circumstances.
Again, that is not an accusation, nor do I have any “inside information” on such a situation. I can only guess at what I might have done had I been in Debbie’s shoes. None of us will ever know the truth on that matter, unless Debbie chooses to speak publicly about how she MIGHT have been “mistreated” (or not).
You as voters must decide on such points based on many factors, some guesses, some rumor and innuendo (I have heard “Debbie Fort was Fired” and consider it totally false) and other ways to try to find out the “truth” in a “personnel matter”.