Judging Teachers Schools & Kids, posted by Nancy, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 8:46 pm
I just read Trevor Knaggs letter in the Pleasanton weekly, titled, "Judging Teachers. Mr. Knaggs writes that the priority of the APT is in improving the skills of teachers "rather than simply getting rid of them." Most people can be fired for any reason. I don't think it should be more difficult to fire a teacher, a person with a powerful affect on children, than a person in any other job. Teachers should not have any more job protection than a person working in the private sector.
Mr. Knaggs says that administrators conduct rigorous evaluations of teachers. One way teachers are evaluated in Pleasanton is by having another teacher in the same school observe them teaching. I can imagine just how rigorous that evaluation must be.
A principal observing a teacher sees that teacher on their very best behavior. When alone with students, teacher behavior can be very different. Parents who speak to the principal are told that the teacher "would never say that" and "no one else has ever complained before." Principals should keep in mind that parents talk to each other, and we're aware that others have complained. We're very aware that ineffective and verbally abusive teachers are still in positions of power over children, regardless of what we do.
Posted by Agree, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 19, 2010 at 11:18 pm
"Parents who speak to the principal are told that the teacher "would never say that" and "no one else has ever complained before.""
I agree 100%. My neighbor had a problem with a teacher last year and both the principal and the counselors defended the teacher, saying no one had complained before, but my neighbor knew at least 4 other students who had been through the same ordeal. Administrators do not understand that parents talk to each other, and we know if people have complained about a teacher before.
There is a website: ratemyteachers.com and granted, it is students entering the feedback, but a lot of times what is said on this site has turned out to be true.
Posted by Dark Corners, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2010 at 8:53 am
Teachers all need to go! Why do we blindly accept this idea of mandated schooling? We should all teach our children at home - then we won't have any more of this evolution and global wrming nonsense and we don't have to pay through the nose for "extras" all the time. I know just as much (if not MUCH MORE) than any of the teachers (cough - abominations!) my children have had. I'm sure I could do a much better job!
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Avenue neighborhood, on Nov 20, 2010 at 11:01 am
Knaggs is just another union hack who thinks he can pull the wool over our eyes in regards to their sole priority. The Teachers Union cares nothing about kids or education; they exist solely to protect teachers and to add to their member count. Knagg's comment on trying to protect against "arbitrary" firings is laughable. The Union thinks any actions against these unmotivated, unqualified teachers are unwarranted and arbitrary. We had an incompetent teacher "teaching" our son this year and when she was called to the carpet on her uselessness she kept referring to her 15 years of experience as a defense. That is the biggest joke of all....her 15 years of service means only that she did not die or quit for 15 years....congratulations. This is definitely one profession where longevity means absolutely nothing in terms of competence. Parents are on to the teachers union and their goal to protect teachers at all costs. The scare tactics every year where they tout layoffs and pink slips has grown tiresome. The union's influence and strength will be tested over the next few years....hopefully parents and citizens rise up to slap back these union thugs. There are many good teachers in our system, but we need to be able to weed out the losers in a quick and efficient manner.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Avenue neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 9:51 am
Knaggs may be a good teacher but his letter to the PW was misguided and disingenuous. Why should teachers be guaranteed job stability no matter their performance? The best teachers I have met are the ones who have worked in the private sector for years before becoming teachers. Those teachers have perspective and realize that the world is a tough comeptitive place and we need to prepare our kids to compete. Kids don't learn much from life long teachers who often are just going through the motions....counting down the days till summer time. The union is evil....I have been a union member before and I know the drill.
The Union is the sole reason why our education system is substandard, and people are becoming aware to the scam they represent. Teachers are underpaid...please.....teacher's are paid decently if converted to an hourly rate. Don't know many other professions were you get 4 months of a year.
Posted by delta, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 5:10 pm
"The Union is the sole reason why our education system is substandard, and people are becoming aware to the scam they represent. "
Nationwide and statewide public schools are substandard, but Pleasanton schools are not. Despite union rules and pay system, Pleasanton schools are doing quite well, even if you compare them to Dublin or Livermore.
Posted by To Aree, a resident of the Avila neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 7:36 pm
I only hope that one day teachers start a site called ratemystudentsparents.com I would love to see all of the details teachers could post without using their name. The fact that you give any credit to a site that is based on student feedback is ridiculous. You gave a wonderful example as to why teachers should not have their pay based on test scores.
"The Union is the sole reason why our education system is substandard, and people are becoming aware to the scam they represent. " Obviously the writer of the above quote spent way too much time watching "Waiting for Superman". To think that people believe any problems in our education system are caused by the union is absolutely ignorant. How in the world could people not see that family pay a vital role in a child's success or failure as a student?
Wake up parents, stop blaming teachers for your child's failures in life. Your child is struggling because you are not being consistent at home.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Hills neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:05 pm
It didn't take long for the Union spokes holes to respond did it. I have yet to see "Waiting for Superman", but I suspect that it has teachers up in arms because it reveals the ugly truth about their love affair with mediocrity. My kids are succeeding despite the teachers, not because of them. Again, we have seen some motivated, skilled teachers at our school who are outcasts with their peers because they think students first. They have the audacity to teach their students to think independently....not to force feed man-made global warming crap, or to push for social issues when the focus should be math, reading, and science.
Again, as a former union member, I saw first hand the ridiculous cat and mouse game that exists in a union environment. It becomes an us vs. them mentality which is bad enough in a business situation, but it is disasterous when we are trying to educate our kids.
Be worried teachers....we pay your salaries and we are tired of the 20-year retreads who watch the clock at our kids expense. I know many a teacher who can't stand the union and the money spent on political campaigns....money stolen from them....wasted dues. The Teacher's Union is the worst thing to happen to CA. It perpetuates poor performance while keeping the kids last.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Hills neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 8:28 pm
By the way all you sensitive teachers, I hope you enjoy another week off while most of us have to work. I don't mind that you have the time off, but don't whine about not being paid enough. Taxpayers are on to government workers altogether with teachers being the worst offenders of having their hands out constantly....thanks to your union.
Enjoy your summers, spring break, winter break, all your sick days, as well as your phony conference days. All you good teachers need to fight back against your union...come layoff time you will be the first to go....they will keep all the dead wood that has festered in the district for years.
Posted by delta, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 21, 2010 at 10:16 pm
"My kids are succeeding despite the teachers, not because of them. Again, we have seen some motivated, skilled teachers at our school who are outcasts with their peers because they think students first. They have the audacity to teach their students to think independently....not to force feed man-made global warming crap, or to push for social issues when the focus should be math, reading, and science."
Sounds like you haven't been anywhere near Pleasanton. You do realize we have a top performing district? My two children have had excellent teachers. My oldest is doing great at Cal engineering. I would say he had mostly motivated, skilled teachers.
Just so you know, I'm not in love with the unions, and I'd like to see merit pay and more realistic performance evaluations. I would also like to see a stop to pay for extra degrees which hasn't been shown to have any real impact on education. That said, I don't see why you are making those blanket statements against teachers in PUSD. My family hasn't had that experience at all.
Posted by Get the facts:, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2010 at 9:01 am
"I would also like to see a stop to pay for extra degrees . . ."
The stipend for a Masters is $500 annually. For National Board Certification, another $500. If you have both, the simple math leads you to the conclusion that the pay increase for these extra degrees is less than $100 bucks a month, before taxes. No teacher gets an extra degree for the money, they either come in with it already, or they get it for personal reasons. No one at PUSD gets rich off extra degrees.
Posted by Resident, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2010 at 9:32 am
What I would like to see is an end to the union. Unions were formed back when they were needed, to protect the rights of workers who were being exploited, children were sent to work, etc. Unions are NO LONGER needed. Not everyone belongs to a union, and they do just fine: on merit they keep their job, on merit they get a raise. Unions only keep the bad teachers on board, and also bad employees in other areas with unions (think of the government agencies).
We do not need unions.
PLeasanton has EXCELLENT teachers, but there are some bad apples who give the rest a bad name. Yes, I know some very bad teachers that happen to stay on board because of the union. Also, head counselors at the HS are here just because of the unions, not because of good job performance.
PUSD teachers: many of you are EXCELLENT, but some of your peers are not, and is is your union that keeps all of you at the same level: no difference is made between a truly excellent teacher and one that should be fired.
The union hurts good teachers who are new and do not have tenure, because instead of getting rid of the BAD tenured teachers, they layoff the most EXCELLENT, new, non-tenured teacher
Posted by Be Positive, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2010 at 5:14 pm
With the hundreds of families the teachers work with over the years, there are many that have good experiences in their classrooms, and of course some where they may not have a good experience, even though they are in the same environment. How is it that you are qualified to judge this range of experiences, because of conversations in the neighborhood or the soccer field?
I have watched my children go through each level in this district with amazing teachers. Not all of them were my children's favorites- many complaints about ones that were hard or cheers for one that in my opinion coddled the kids. Yet each teacher gave my children new skills and understanding for dealing with different personalities. You could have been in those same classrooms, yet your opinion should cause a teacher to be fired?
You make it clear to me why the teachers need their union more than ever now. And to think, this is a union who gave back $4.5 million in savings to the district. We have a lot to be thankful for.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Hills neighborhood, on Nov 22, 2010 at 8:28 pm
The firing process in a non-union environment is not arbitrary (private sector firings are done in a careful manner). It would follow set SOP's in determining the effectiveness and performance of the teachers. If a teacher is a low achiever, then they would be put on a correction plan....if no improvement is experienced after 90 days then the teacher would be dismissed. That teacher can then go work for the DMV or another gov't. job.
I want the best teaching our schools...motivated teachers with fresh ideas....don't want the lazy, emotionally unbalanced losers that sometimes walk the halls of our schools.
Your weak point that the private sector doesn't work this way when referring to getting rid of the older, unmotivated teachers is exactly the mentality that is dangerous. They aren't bad because they are old, they suck because they have been instituionalized by the union to focus on tenure and how to combat the administration and school boards. You don't see the same scenario play out in the private sector because all employees know that they need to compete and prove their worth constantly. The private sector is a sink or swim environment....no union trying to coddle employees who constantly show up late, who have insufficient soft skills, and who cannot accept criticism.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Hills neighborhood, on Nov 23, 2010 at 9:37 am
Unions aren't as prevalent in private sector....most industries are not unionized. By the way, look what your unions did for the auto industry......thanks for that. How about the airlines....the only successful airline is Southwest who is...you guessed it....not 100% unionized.
Unions kills big business....if you don't believe it ask some former auto workers if they have 2nd thoughts about the union's cry of "more, more, more"
Posted by Darth Vader, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Nov 23, 2010 at 6:48 pm
As a teacher in this district I would have to say that you are ALL correct. This is an incredibly complex issue and to treat it as if there is one quick fix is really a bit naive. There are some bad teachers. Some really bad teachers. And yes, sometimes kids succeed despite those teachers. Parents who can will get tutors to ensure that the kids are able to pass. These teachers need to be assisted and/or removed from the profession. There are also some spectacular teachers who do more for kids than you can ever imagine. Though this seems black and white it's not. Some "bad" teachers for your kid may be a "good" teacher for my kid. This is where the crazy parents come in. While personally I would love to not have to pay the union I do need protection from some of the parents who "pay my salary" and therefore think they are my boss. I have more than 25 years experience in this industry and most of the difficult parents I deal with have none. Yet they still feel free to tell me how to teach instead of respecting my professional abilities. I could not have high expectations of the kids if I had no protection from the parents. Some of them would have me fired for the slightest disagreement. I do not have enough time in my day to deal with all of that. Dealing with kids all day is exhausting in and of itself.
I will tell you that as a dedicated teacher at one of the best school districts in the state I would welcome some *Civil* conversation about how to improve our system. We should always be striving to be better than we are now.
Posted by GX, a member of the Foothill High School community, on Nov 24, 2010 at 4:04 pm
Darth Vader - Thanks for your comments and perspectives. Your candor is refreshing and much appreciated. I do agree that we can accomplish more with civil discussions - as long as we get all the facts on the table and don't shy away from them. Thank you for all that you and other teachers do for our kids. As you/we all continue to strive for a stronger school district, it is imporant to have high standards for all stakeholders - teachers, parents and kids. To be honest though, I've yet to find a union example that exemplifies this. I would welcome positive examples that may convince me that unions can be a positive influence on the overall system.
Posted by To GX, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 24, 2010 at 5:24 pm
GX - You seem like a level-headed person looking for solutions, and as a teacher in the district I appreciate that.
To answer a question you asked earlier, about how long it takes a teacher to get fired, it depends. If the teacher is temporary or probationary, it doesn't take long at all. If the teacher has earned permanent status, though, it can take a while. In my years in the district I've seen it done 3 or 4 times, and each time it was different. I've seen it take as little as 3 months and as long as a school year. What I think is important to remember, though, is that the contract lays out the steps required, and it's far from impossible. It is, however, the job of the site administrator to undertake these steps. It's not teachers who keep the poor performers working, it's the bosses. Does the union make the process more difficult? Yes, but that leads me to my question for you.
How do you create a system where the good teachers receive the protection we deserve, but leave out those who don't? I'm sorry, but it would be naive to think we don't need it. Read some of the comments from Steve up above. Apparently, since he pays taxes, he deserves the right to determine our fate. Since many of us are "lazy, emotionally unbalanced losers" and his kids are "succeeding despite the teachers, not because of them," would you have him decide who stays and who goes? The irony is that we already have exactly what he's asking for. While the 90 days part is off, the system I talked about for removing teachers involves:
"Set SOP's in determining the effectiveness and performance of the teachers. If a teacher is a low achiever, then they would be put on a correction plan."
Even if Steve is in the minority amongst parents in the district, and I think/hope he is, it doesn't give me much solace, because under his system it would only take one unhappy person, be it parent, student, or administrator. See Darth Vader's comments for some perspective on why this would be bad for teachers.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Avenue neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2010 at 5:54 am
The proof is in front of you folks....firings happen very infrequently at public schools. Like a comet showing up every few years. I laugh that you need protection from parents. Private schools do fine and the faculty isn't a revolving door. You don't think parents complain at private schools? If a parent complains and they are being unreasonable, a teacher will nit be removed. If multiple parents complain and there is validity to the claims then action will be taken. That's all we ask for is to remove the protection at all costs mentality that exists with the teachers union.
Like or not teachers, I'm not the minority. Your bad apples are truly spoiling the bunch. We moved to Pleasanton partially for the schools and have been mostly pleased with the teachers we have known but we have also run into 3 crazy people who should not be interacting with kids let alone teaching. I had a teacher conference this year where the teacher was crying before it started. Completely unstable and unfit to teach.....an emotional wreck who all the parents despised yet there is absolutely no chance of her being removed.....no chance and you know it.
As taxpayers, we are your ultimate bosses....I know you despise that notion but that is what is true when you work in the public sector. You come to us for money requests when you feel underpaid or overworked. (complete joke) do in my book that makes us your ultimate bosses. With that said, many of your bosses are unsatisfied. If you are a good teacher, don't have to be popular, you would be paid better with nothing to worry about come layoff time.....you won't have to worry about seniority with a proper system based on performance.
Posted by To GX, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2010 at 10:32 am
The proof is in front of you folks. Steve is an alarmist, and may just be an emotionally unbalanced loser as well. Did you even read the whole post? How long have I been in the district? How many schools have employed me? You have no idea, and no idea how often firings happen. Spread your fear and hate somewhere else.
And if you want us to be like private schools, fine. Remember, they have admissions standards, and can pick and choose who goes to their school. You're right, they don't often have a revolving door mentality in terms of faculty, that's reserved for kids. They can fire kids there. Your posts indicate that your ego has you convinced that every school would be lucky to have you and your kids, but I'm not so sure.
Posted by Steve, a resident of the Vineyard Avenue neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2010 at 12:17 pm
You must be a long time teacher.....ranting and hysterical. An alarmist....why, be because I want accountability in the classroom. I don't care about you or how long you have been teaching.....you seem completely ego centric....do you cry when confronted by unhappy parents? How dare parents expect professionalism from all teachers...how dare parents question the behavior of teachers in the classroom.
I'm glad I'm in your head dead wood.....attacking my kids just proves your focus is on your fellow union members; the kids are just a means to a paycheck and a pension.
Happy thanksgiving....or do you wait to celebrate May Day!
Posted by delta, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 25, 2010 at 3:50 pm
"You're right, they don't often have a revolving door mentality in terms of faculty"
I'm going to have to say you're both wrong about this. At Quarry Lane school, it seemed that new teachers seemed to quit within two or three years. We kept getting stuck with new, marginally competent teachers who quit the next year. Factor in all the money we paid, and I think we got ripped off. We had much better luck with Pleasanton Middle school and AVHS.
Posted by Cholo, a resident of Livermore, on Nov 27, 2010 at 2:02 pm
I have a hunch that many Plutonian parents are average and below average and their children are mostly average and/or below average. Accept them and quit trying to pressure them to be something they will never be.
Posted by to Darth Vader, a resident of the Mohr Park neighborhood, on Nov 28, 2010 at 10:17 pm
I agree with Darth Vader in saying that teachers need protection from parents. I work at a preschool and I've had my fair share of parents that complained about me but not for valid reasons. They wanted me to focus solely on their child but there are 22 other children in the class and I'm trying to teach all of them equally. Thankfully, my boss is there to actually back me up with things like that though. I wouldn't be fired for one incident like that. It would be if I continued to ignore the parent/ child's needs and had them suffer because of it. This is what should be done for teachers. They really shouldn't need unions if they know that the administration has their back to a certain degree. However, should they get multiple valid complaints over a period of time, say, 2 or 3 years without making an effort to change, they should be fired immediately like anyone else with a job.
Posted by Frank, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Nov 29, 2010 at 7:14 pm
Name one innocent teacher that was fired because of baseless claims from a parent. I know teachers who remain teaching despite vaild claims made by many parents over a number of years. I know teachers who voiced concerns about another teacher's inappropriate behavior and were retaliated against by the administration for being brave enough to speak up. Teachers see a lot and say nothing because of this.
Posted by Darth Vader, a member of the Amador Valley High School community, on Nov 29, 2010 at 10:39 pm
I am not saying that teachers are currently (or ever have been in my experience) fired for parental complaints. I am saying that the combination of a lazy administration and aggressive parents could prove to be too much for even the best teachers to overcome. I totally agree with you about retaliatory administration. In my experience we have too many people going into administration only because they do not have any desire to be in the classroom. Many (not all of course!) administrators I have seen move from the classroom to the office were terrible teachers. I know it's the unions point of view that all teachers are exactly the same but they are not. And many of you are very correct in stating that we too are frustrated. Some of us take this job and this responsibility very seriously and to have to deal with dead beat colleagues is frustrating to say the least. But, the fact is we are very busy teaching. We need the public to step in and,while being reasonable, demand that teachers who are incompetent are either helped to become competent or removed from the profession.
Posted by Not So Sure, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 1, 2010 at 12:31 am
At any given school, it is common knowledge who the good teachers are. Parents do crazy things to get them, from writing letters to making phone calls in the 2-3 days before the school year begins to get that teacher for their child.
Those teachers should be rewarded.
Conversations among parents in the first week of school are part of life - it amazes me that we are all paralyzed in any effort to actually do something about what is common community knowledge.
And I everyone knows who the crummy ones are. Unfortunately, anywhere from 30-150 families have to suffer through an entire year with them.
And...the bummmer is that there are quite a few really good, young, teachers who were laid of because they didn't have seniority.
Posted by Be Positive, a resident of the Another Pleasanton neighborhood neighborhood, on Dec 3, 2010 at 6:50 pm
It is a fact that as a young teacher, we were told to bend over backwards for parents, give them what they want, and make the kids happy or you will no longer be here. We called it witch hunts! We knew who the parents were that worked to remove any newish teacher that didn't give in to their demands.
I certainly do not want a group of people who discuss/gossip about a teacher to be responsible for whether they stayed employed based on only their experiences. What about those who have good experiences with the same teacher?
My son has a teacher this year who has the unfortunate rumor of being the worst at the school. She is hard, holds high expectations for her students, and doesn't take parent excuses for when the kids don't do what they are expected to do. My son is learning more from her than I ever expected. Now ask my son and he wishes he were not in this class because so and so down the hall is so much easier and nicer....then again- he is a kid, of course he's going to chose the path of least resistance- does that mean she shouldn't be teaching? How is popular better?
I would rather have my kids exposed to a variety of personalities throughout their schooling, isn't that what we struggle to deal with in our daily adult lives?