Another tangent … tenure

Although I had intended to make my next post about public employee unions, Ron Bancroft’s Opinion at the Portland Press Herald this morning has created another diversion.  Here’s what I wrote there in response:

It is simply bad policy to determine whether a teacher is good or not based on your own remembrances of what one looked, behaved and sounded like. Not every teacher will be good for every student and vice versa. It’s a long road out there and kids need to learn how to cope with someone of whom they are not fond.

I had my own Mrs. Sherman and I learned a lot from her. Did everyone in my class think she was great? Of course not. My daughter had a teacher who demanded so much from her Honors class that they asked for her the next year! My son’s class “hated” (as teenagers are wont to do) her. Different year; different kids; maybe even a different teacher since it was several years later.

Also, it appears from your column that you are unaware of Maine law on so-called tenure. Please take a look at 20-A MRSA 13201 and you’ll discover that the only protection teachers here have is “just cause” for dismissal and non-renewal of contract IF it has been bargained into the local collective bargaining agreement.

Furthermore, under the provisions of 20-A MRSA 13202, a teacher does not get to keep her/his job if s/he can be shown to be “unfit to teach or unprofitable to the school”.

Administrators have the responsibility (sooner or later in the process) to prove to an arbitrator that the teacher is unfit/unprofitable or that they had other just cause to dismiss/non-renew. There’s a lot of case law about what this all means, but the upshot is: administrators are in charge. If they fail to do evaluations, or do poor ones, or can be shown to have targeted a teacher, they can lose the case. The law allows firing a teacher, but it has to be done correctly.

Although I understand his point that firing bad teachers would help improve education in a very general sense, his solution – getting rid of so-called “tenure” – is excessive.  The harm to individuals would far outweigh whatever minimal good might come from eliminating the handful of “bad” teachers that exists in Maine’s schools.

Compare his Opinion to another article in the same paper, Parent complaint preceded criminal probe of teacher in Jackman. The teacher there won the prestigious Milken Award only a few years ago, exactly the sort of honor Mr. Bancroft would look for in a “good” teacher.  He was well-liked and well-evaluated.  Does any of that count if he is indeed guilty of creating and possessing child pornography? Of course not.

So the reverse is also true: a teacher who is not a student favorite, or who has not won awards, or does not receive the best evaluations is not necessarily a bad teacher.  Individuals deserve to be treated as such, not spurned as a group by denying legal and contractual protections by eliminating so-called tenure.



Filed under Collective Bargaining

8 responses to “Another tangent … tenure

  1. Arguments are made that there is no way to prove that a teacher is doing a poor job and that is where the waters are the murkiest. I’ve heard , and read comments from many prinicpals that the system makes it time consuming and costly to “find cause.”. Therefore they often don’t even try. Although I would suggest that they need to try harder, and go through the process. It appears that enough barriers have been put in place to disuade most from even trying. How we change this without abolishing tenure? I haven’t a clue. So i say, ABOLISH TENURE.

    • Your logic escapes me.

      Please give us some thoughts on how to make the situation better for everyone, not worse for teachers who would – under your proposal to abolish so-called tenure – be subject to the whims of principals, superintendents and school boards/committees who are already, as you admit, not doing their part of the job.

  2. Here’s the deal.

    A teacher has tenure. This assumes that a contract will be automatically renewed, and without incident, a teacher has a job for life.

    Say it’s decided that a teacher’s contract is not renewed. If your a contractor or just about anyone else you look for other employment.

    But if your a teacher you get a lawyer. As far as a teacher is concerned if they showed up everyday and had never been accused of any atrocity, the school board and the superintendent have no right to not renew their contract. Thereby costing the municipality thousands of dollars which could certainly be put TO BETTER USE. Defending their right to do what is done everyday by just about every other facet of our country. By your name I can only assume your an educator. Soooo, of course you would perceive this as just.

    You need to understand that I think a good teacher should be paid more. A good teacher can change the world. I understand your reasoning for defending a perk few in our society receive. If I were you I would too.

    However , the idea that unless a teacher has an affair with a student, being just about the only way to remove them IS JUST SILLY AND WRONG. A teacher’s job is difficult to judge but it can be done. It’s subjective, I get that. But I’m not impressed. Your not so deep that you deserve some special dispensation saying “oh your not a teacher, you couldn’t ;possibly understand..

    The rest of us have to live in the real world and abide by REAL WORLD RULES. Until the teacher’s union chooses to do the same, the respect for the profession will always be tempered with a question of whom really comes first.

    • Maineiacle:
      There are many positions in this country – and many, many more across the world – in which due process is accorded an employee. Even when not legally required, any good employer will take time to make sure an employee is treated fairly. The fact that you (as an employee) have been badly treated or (as an employer) would treat an employee poorly is not a reason to abolish so-called tenure for teachers.

      • No one is suggesting a teacher not be given the same due process. That isn’t what this is about. It’s all about litigation. You can’t justify it so you haven’t even bothered to try..
        Two points.

        1. Nope never been treated poorly by an employer. Have represented myself just fine through the years. Thank you for your concern.
        2.the idea of teachers being graded on this esoteric, vague notion isn’t good enough. DO YOU HAVE ANY SOLUTIONS? Or are you just another teacher that will defend what they have without any facts to back them up.

      • By the way, the fact that would would even suggest that just because an employer doesn’t want unions in the house they are treating the employee poorly is offensive and certainly shows that your appreciative of the SPECIAL treatment you receive due to the unions.

        Let me point out as well that barely ten percent of employed people in our country work for a union so you do not speak for a majority of anything. Contrary to what the few thousand that gather round saying they are half a million.would have all believe.

      • Maineiacle:

        If you prefer to keep thinking that unions are the bain of the education world, please feel free to do so. I am not a teacher, just a retired union rep, so my interest is theoretical only. Yours is clearly more personal.

      • In other words you have no solutions

        You refuse to acknowledge my statements.. You refuse to acknowledge that there is a problem with the way the system is run and yet,,,,, You have no defense whatsoever. Is that what we want to teach our children? Sounds more like an addict, or a spoiled child , “I want it, give it to me now.”

        In an ideal world everyone would be wealthy. But it’s not an ideal world. I came from a privileged childhood. I have been homeless several times in my life. I suffer from mental illness and I am certainly very liberal on social issues. The problems are many in our society. Corruption in government is one of the main issues we deal with. Until we make changes such as term limits I will never have any confidence that most politicians are looking out for anyone other then themselves. TRUMPKA among those i consider politicians.

        By the way, if your interest is so limited then why did you POST a BLOG? Just not as interesting this month?

        Don’t worry, you always have Boeing to complain about. That horrible company that the people of S.Carolina seem to like just fine.

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