To the Editor:
Your article “Accords Designed to Turn Around Troubled Schools” (June 13, 2007) highlights a “unique” contract arrangement between the teachers’ union and school district in Anne Arundel County, Md., concerning the “zero-basing” of employees, to quote Superintendent Kevin Maxwell, to appease the federal No Child Left Behind Act. Many teachers, staff members, students, and parents affected, however, are disillusioned and angry about this pact.
At the school where these changes are occurring, Annapolis High School, entire academic departments have decided not to return next year for various reasons, including the unprofessional treatment shown to employees during zero-basing activities. Several successful teachers have been “rejected” by the administration for reasons that remain unclear. Are we too old, of the wrong gender, of the wrong race, or did our highly rated teaching ability suddenly diminish? Will our departure really help scores?
After months of uncertainty, many custodians and cafeteria workers at the school still don’t know whether they can stay. Some staff members are going elsewhere for jobs. Being told that they no longer have secure employment in the school where they have performed well for many years is cruel to these employees.
Even members of the teacher-elected faculty council and union representatives have been “rejected” by the school’s administration or have chosen not to return. Will this increase the morale of a school that needs highly motivated teachers to raise the scores of a challenging student population?
Many talented and award-winning teachers who give extra time to student activities will be leaving, including the newspaper-club sponsor, the drama-club sponsor, the yearbook sponsor, and other trusted mentors. Will forcing out respected teachers and staff members motivate students to do well on tests? The school spirit that is promoted to help students achieve has been dumped.
Some cooperation between unions and districts may help improve test scores at struggling schools. But treating valuable faculty and staff members as the problem instead of part of the solution is misguided and politically motivated. What we need are better leadership and community involvement to raise student achievement.
A version of this article appeared in the June 20, 2007 edition of Education Week as Forcing Out Teachers Lowers a School’s Morale