I will protect your pensions. Nothing about your pension is going to change when I am governor. - Chris Christie, "An Open Letter to the Teachers of NJ" October, 2009

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

A Newark Teacher Speaks

I received an email from a teacher in Newark today. It was so well-written and so powerful that I asked for permission to share it.

I'm omitting the first paragraph, as it details this teacher's particular salary situation. Suffice to say the teacher, with more than ten years of experience, will take a significant hit on pay - and that's not even counting the new state-mandated contributions to benefits, which will quadruple over four years.

None of the teachers I know are happy with this.  It has been the consensus that we would all vote NO.  Having peer evaluators has the potential advantage of us having empathetic people helping to decide how "effective" we are.  The more likely scenario, however, will be that they pay retired teachers to do this ("When I was in the classroom, I had 40 kids in there...") , and drain the Zuckerberg money in those consultant fees.  Or, they will pull teachers that are known to be mediocre at best out of the class to evaluate us.  They will be bloated with their sense of importance and their revisionist memory of how THEY ran a class.

Also, there is a fair amount of bitterness over the whole compensation and future earnings issue.  We are not happy.  Add to that, it would seem that our own union might be trying to bully/scare us into ratifying this contract.  My building rep had a meeting this morning.  I did not make it because it was last minute and I had given 5 students passes to come in early for tutoring.  From every account I heard, however, our rep told those who were there that if we don't vote for this proposal, the only thing left will be to strike - with no income, no benefits, etc.  Now several people who were firm NO votes are concerned.  They are waffling.

I am so saddened by all of this.  I love my job, and I love my kids.  I take a good deal more grief than my friends who teach in other districts take.  I am [xx], and have never done anything but teach.  What can I do?  I have a lot of faith in my abilities in the classroom, so I am left seriously considering leaving Newark.  My stomach aches at the thought of leaving.  I would never claim to be the best teacher out there, but I am very good.  I see significant growth in my kids every year, and I see where they go after a year with me.  I have pride, and am very tired of being so disrespected by my government.  If this passes, I think the odds will go sharply up, in favor of me leaving a district I really love.  It makes me want to cry.

Thank you for continuing your honest analysis of the current state of public education.  We appreciate it.

"... I had given 5 students passes to come in early for tutoring." Says it all, doesn't it? Even when it came to matters of grave personal concern, this teacher put his/her students first.

I don't know if this is the best deal Newark's teachers can get, but I do know one thing for sure: they deserve much, much better than what they are being offered. No one - not Chris Christie, not Cory Booker, not Chris Cerf, not Eli Broad, not Cami Anderson - will ever convince me otherwise.

We're pulling for you, teachers of Newark. Follow your hearts, and we'll take care of your backs.


B. Barrett said...

I'm not convinced that this contract will make a major difference in the outcomes for students, nor am I convinced that its going to accomplish what the supposed intentions are in terms of motivating/retaining great teachers. (Note how couched that statement is...)

That said, what's the counter proposal and who presents it? If not the union or the powers that be, what's the other option? That's where I am in terms of the national conversation that is playing out in these microcosmic, very real ways in our communities. Its not enough anymore to be for or against or to "follow hearts" and "get backs". Things need to change for students. Things need to change for teachers.
Things need to change for our communities.
What are actionable solutions that we can all get behind?
@edutelligentsia (formerly @brickcityedu)

Teachers said...

What is happening in New Jersey is happening in one form another in Illinois and is being carried out by corrupt democrats. It's not about issues, ideology, political parties or education. It's all about the power and the money.
Glen Brown in Illinois is the most articulate and insightful examiner of Illinois machinations and educational fallout. You should post his site http://teacherpoetmusicianglenbrown.blogspot.com/2012/10/education-reform-is-failing-and.html. He and Fred Klonsky deliver the goods on Illinois and Chicago.
Ken Previti

Duke said...

@edutelligentsia I've detailed many things over the years as to what needs to be done. But it really boils down to this:

Fix poverty. It will all follow from there.

Duke said...

Thx, Ken. The Klonskys are the best. I will check out Gem Brown for sure.

ed notes online said...

Sometimes no new contract is better than a bad one. Randi Weingarten used the threat that the only alternative was to strike here in NYC to push the 2005 contract. Many teachers would say it would have been better to have no contract. Right now the UFT strategy is to wait out Bloomberg so when it suits them they use the other side of the argument.
This contract in Newark is a wolf in sheep's clothing.

Read the NEW Caucus analysis of the contract. I posted a variety of comments and analysis at ed notes: Newark Contract: Weingarten is a Serial Pusher of Bad Contracts -

B. Barrett said...

I read you regularly. While I don't disagree that the effects of poverty have a significant, deleterous effects on our students' academic success, teachers & the supt. can't fix poverty. And I argue that fixing poverty doesn't address the very real lack of teachers in Math, Science, Special Needs, and general high-teacher turnover in struggling urban districts. But if someone's going to say that this contract is crap, then present what you want to see instead. The other practical question I have, specifically as it relates to this, what's the alternative contract and who presents it?

I guess my general fatigue with the conversations (if you can call them that) in education right now is the yelling back-and-forth from both sides about how the other is wrong. And as a reader of your blog, I kinda expect more from you that a dismissive "fix poverty" when I'm asking specifics on the contract & the very real question of what opposition looks like when the head of the union is supporting it.
-Stuck in the Middle (a.k.a. @Edutelligentsia)

Duke said...

I never said the contract is crap. I said it's a deal: lots of private money for merit pay. All I'm doing is spelling that out.

So you need to direct your question to the teachers of Newark who are opposing this.

B. Barrett said...

I'm not saying its crap, or that you said its crap, but you're clearly opposed to it (let's not get hung up on semantics and miss the big picture I'm trying to get at). I'm not taking a position either way. My point is that when anyone in the ed policy debate calls someone else out (regardless of ideology), I'd rather see new solutions/ideas presented rather than just poking holes in what's been presented. (I'd also add that this isn't just an edu issue, clearly its playing out in Washington, as well, on a variety of issues.)

I'm directing this to you because I have tremendous respect for your work (and School Finance 101's Baker) and think that you guys are smart enough to do this-- and have a platform to do so. Obviously, I can't direct this to teachers in Newark at-large...nor is it a question just for them.

Anonymous said...

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