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

Friday, March 29, 2013

Perth Amboy Follies Update

Let's check back in on the Reformiest District In New Jersey™:
City schools Superintendent Janine Walker Caffrey insists her district is out of ideas.Time and again, she said, administrators have tried — and failed — to attract bilingual math and science teachers to Perth Amboy’s public schools.
“We’ve posted positions a total of 26 times,” Caffrey said. “We’ve had face-to-face meetings with students at five universities over the last few months. We’ve posted jobs on 13 national websites, had numerous ads in newspapers.
“We’re taking the next step.”
That step is sending four administrators to Puerto Rico next month in an attempt to recruit bilingual teachers to Perth Amboy schools. The district will spend $5,808 to finance the four-day drip, which was approved Tuesday by the district's Board of Education. [emphasis mine]
Has anyone tried... you know... picking up the phone? Skypeing? And do you really need four administrators for this trip?

Of course, the Queen of Tenure is in high dudgeon that anyone would have a problem with this:
In an interview with NJ.com, Caffrey vehemently defended the district’s plan, saying she was “surprised at how controversial” the recruiting trip had become. She also bristled at the notion that the district was passing over or ignoring qualified candidates locally.
“To make some comment that we’re robbing some sort of New Jersey teacher who is out of a job is ridiculous,” Caffrey said, adding that hiring in-state is always the district’s “top-priority.”
Caffrey repeatedly cited the district’s attempts to find qualified bilingual math and science teachers in New Jersey — endeavors, she said, which produced no results. She added that the district has already spent more than $6,000 on job ads that have proven unsuccessful.
I have no doubt that finding qualified, bi-lingual STEM teachers is difficult. Perhaps it would help if the candidates - who, if they are in high demand, could go anywhere - didn't think that coming to Perth Amboy meant working for a boss who says things like this:
The union would rather throw... I should say the union leadership. I think it's really important that we say "union leadership," because the great majority of teachers are amazing wonderful people who don't agree with their own union leadership.  The union leadership in this community would rather suspend children and throw them out of school then provide them with the services they need to be successful
Yeah, sounds like a place where I'd love to work! Plus, there's nothing better than having a boss who goes to the media at the drop of a hat, contradicting members of her own school board. And who wouldn't want to sign on at a school where your future colleagues cheer when your future boss is suspended, and the local's president says "I don’t believe the staff has the faith and confidence to follow her to make the changes in the district that need to be made"?

Add to that highly politicized school board elections fueled by outsider money, big deals involving the Education Commissioner's cronies, reports of infighting between the administrators, school board members with personal vendettas... Yeah, I just can't understand why teachers aren't lining up around the block to come work in Perth Amboy. Sounds just so awesome, doesn't it?

One thing that reformyists like Caffrey have failed to understand is that their constant harping on what is wrong with schools does little to make education an attractive career. I know they try to mitigate their whines with a few cliches - "we have incredibly dedicated professionals who give all they have to our kids every day" - but that hardly makes the teaching profession sound like a great lifestyle choice, does it? 

Do we now require that teachers have to be saints? Do they have to give "all they have" to their students? Are they not allowed to keep something for their families? For themselves? Chris Christie doesn't think so:
I think for those people who are feeling discouraged right now, because they're going to have to pay a percentage of their health insurance premium, or they're going to have to pay one or two points more towards a lifetime pension, then I would suggest to you respectfully that those people have completely lost touch with reality, and probably didn't have the passion to begin with.
"Suck it up, losers!" isn't exactly the best recruiting slogan I've ever heard.

Maybe the best way to get good teachers to come to Perth Amboy is to make Perth Amboy less of a circus and more of a place of professional pride and mutual respect. Maybe we can get the teachers we need if we stop politicizing education and educational leaders stop running to the media every time they feel aggrieved. Maybe, if we want the best and the brightest to consider teaching, we should spend a little less time talking about what's allegedly wrong with education and spend a little more time talking about what's right.

Just a thought...
Talk about what's good in our schools?! Are you crazy?!


Mrs. King's music students said...

Hilarious take on this. Laughed all though it. I don't get why she's sending 4 admins to Puerto Rico necessarily???? Why not put the $$$ in one admins pocket and send him to Gitmo or Camden in search of Spanish speaking teachers? Better yet, offer to send one lucky applicant on a pre-paid trip to Puerto Rico?

Catherine Lugg said...

Of course, this same genius superintendent DISMANTLED a blue-ribbon bilingual ed program, complete with layoffs. as soon as she came into office. So, it's the district is going to have an extra special hard time in hiring, since it's 'box office poison.'

Rod viquez said...

I loved working with the kids in amboy. Today, you couldn't pay me enough to return there. The district is as attractive to work as Bikini Atoll is to vacation at.
When you can't justify asking teachers to work more for less, just pull out the old, teachers should be expected to work for free and screw their own kids to teach other people's kids

Mrs. King's music students said...

On second thought, now that education is a for profit business, whats to stop highly qualified teachers from becoming free agents for themselves? For example, having written "the only LA curriculum that passed QSAC" for the pay of a "second year music teacher" - why wouldn't I shop around this skill for a price? Why wouldn't inner city coaches collaborate with academic types to produce ball players who can maintain at least a 'C' average in academic subjects for the highest bidder? Why couldn't top notch Princeton teachers making the same money as so-so teachers command enough to actually live in Princeton? And why wouldn't a guy with national recognition in the field (such as yourself), call that twit in Perth Amboy and say 'send me the $5000.00 and I'll have 5 qualified candidates on your doorstep next Monday?