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From Green Dot To Teacher Union Strategy

There is an interesting exchange on Fred Klonsky’s blog, as a discussion of the Green Dot charters becomes an occasion for discussing what’s ‘public’ and what’s ‘private’ in education, and teacher union stratagies and approaches to charter schools and small schools. Fred is the president of an Illinois NEA local. [You have to read the comments to really appreciate the dialogue.]

Having taken a ‘blood oath’ that we would respond only to substantive discussions of the ‘Green Dot tenure’ issue, it was a welcome development that today Eduwonk’s Andy Rotherham addressed the question of whether the term ‘tenure’ was a useful point of departure for a discussion. There are some not insignificant points of agreement between us: the real question is whether Green Dot teachers have due process rights against arbitrary and unreasonable discipline and dismissal, whatever term is used to describe it. Where we still disagree is that Andy seems to think that Green Dot’s ‘just cause’ standard and a grievance process that culminates with a hearing before an impartial arbitrator is a level of protection less than tenure. We don’t see that, and we have yet to see anyone even try to explain how that is the case. If anything, the Green Dot contract offers greater protection, since it covers all employees, where tenure protections do not cover probationary employees in their first years of service. Quite frankly, the public discourse around tenure and the actual real world of tenure rights are two very different things, in no small part because those who seek ‘at will’ standards of employment have a vested interest in promoting the idea that ‘tenure’ keeps school districts from dismissing teachers who are not doing their work.

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13 Comments:

  • 1 Schoolgal
    · May 25, 2007 at 9:45 am

    Basically Leo are you saying that despite the so-called committee to investigate alternatives, Randi will rubber stamp Green Dot. And, this union no longer sees tenure and seniority issues as important.

    What other alternatives were investigated? You make no mention of the “thorough” investigation process.

  • 2 curious3
    · May 25, 2007 at 9:33 pm

    Hey Leo,

    Thanks for focusing on this issue.

    I agree that these debates can get confused by terminology.

    I reviewed the Green Dot contract and I would make a few points:

    1. The contract only refers to dismissal in one sentence: “No unit member shall be disciplined, non-renewed, dismissed, reduced in rank or compensation without just cause.”

    2. “Just Cause” is not defined in the contract best I can tell.

    3. The section on due process is called “Conflict Resolution”. It doesn’t mention dismissal explicitly but I think it is fair to suggest it would be covered by this section.

    4. I think the contract is somewhat vague on the issue, but my reading suggests that a teacher can be dismissed as long as the administration believes there is “just cause”. The teacher could than appeal that decision based on the “Conflict Resolution” process. This process is time-limited such that it can’t last more than about 100 days.

    5. This process seems like a reasonable one to me. Many people (like me) hear tons of complaints that the NYC process is a disaster and extremely complicated. Are you suggesting that you would be comfortable with the Green Dot process?

    6. I plan (if possible) on chatting with Green Dot to get some clarification about the current contract with respect to this issue.

    7. Please correct me where you think I made mistakes in my facts or analysis. I have only done a little work on this.

    Ken

  • 3 Leo Casey
    · May 27, 2007 at 2:40 pm

    Ken:

    Just cause is a term of art in labor relations. There is a well-defined body of tests for just cause. You can find references to it on the web. See here and here.

    I would note that tenure in NYC uses what is essentially a just cause standard. If that comes as a bit of surprise, it is because this is an area where reality and media discourse are often at odds. In this area the dangers of relying upon anecdotal evidence are great. Moreover, insofar as there are cases where individuals are not dismissed who should be dismissed, the cause almost always lies in the failure of management to perform its duties. In the American system of law which governs labor relations, due process depends upon the advocates on both sides fulfilling their responsibilities. It is too easy for those who don’t do their job to blame the system.

    The UFT would have no difficulty negotiating a contract with a charter school that included a just cause standard. Since the current standard in our tenure system is ‘just cause,’ there is nothing for us to change there. However, if the question is would we give up the legal protection for that standard that state law provides teachers in district schools, the answer would be ‘no.’ We think that this is an essential protection of academic freedom, and that the extra protection of state law better secures it.

  • 4 curious3
    · May 27, 2007 at 7:45 pm

    Thanks for the info, Leo.

    A few more (!) thoughts on this:

    1. I have reached this point in a conversation with you before: you suggest (I think?) that there is nothing unreasonably difficult about the dismissal process in NYC while it is conventional wisdom amongst administrators that it is a nightmare to dismiss even the most egregious cases. Sadly, it is to the point that I feel like some people are being intellectually dishonest with respect to this issue. I have often seen speakers show the multi-page flow chart of steps that must be taken to remove a teacher. Is this all a hoax?

    2. Are you suggesting that it is state law that leads to the extremely complex process and not the contract itself? Where can I find the simplest step-by-step explanation of the process in New York City that is consistent with both the contract and state law?

    3. As I am sure won’t surprise you, I was thinking in terms of reforming the contract for the traditional public schools in NYC, not unionizing NYC charter schools. My position is that if we must have a contractual process (which I think is a mistake), the process should be a reasonable one.

    In general, I think, as others have suggested, that one needs to consider the particulars with respect to these issues. I fear that some of the generalizations without the details can be used to argue either position in a sloppy manner.

    Ken

  • 5 Schoolgal
    · May 28, 2007 at 9:42 am

    “Having taken a ‘blood oath’ that we would respond only to substantive discussions of the ‘Green Dot tenure’ issue…”

    So it’s either agree with you, or be ignored.

    Edwize is not your private domain. It is sponsored by the UFT as a place where members can express opinions.
    You are not in a position to judge what is substantive, especially when members have concerns.
    Last month I reminded you how Klein disrespected ATRs in an email sent to principals (as reported by the Times), and even found a post by CitySue that once echoed my concerns on this subject. You ignored that.

    It must irk you personally to be reminded by the members you serve how this administration and union have hurt us.

    As for tenure issues, Ken is correct.
    The process to remove a bad teacher is tedious, but principals have been lazy to do their job during the probation period too. Tenure must be preserved otherwise teachers could be removed for personal vendetta. Not too long ago NYTeacher reported on teachers that were removed from their school and threatened because of “whistle blowing”. A charter school teacher was removed for having conversations with other teachers about salary. When I took a training workshop with Mike M. on U-ratings, he refused to talk about bad teachers and said since they paid dues they deserved advocates. He may have been right on the latter, but it seemed it was the union’s position not to have substantive discussions on the subject of bad teachers. Had we done so, tenure would not be a point of contention now.

    Teachers do not deal with the same conditions as the business world. We are teachers, counselors, babysitters for parents who do not care for their own children. We deal with fighting children, and many teachers have been assaulted. We must teach in conditions that are dirty and in disrepair, and on the hottest days work in classroom that are not air conditioned. When students disrupt a class, we have no support.

    Yet we report for work each day because we believe we can make a difference in the lives of children.
    Making a difference sometimes means changing their behavior and making students see that education is important. That child may only score a little higher on the assessments, but it took a year to get that child to care about the assessment. Now it is only the score that counts, not the child. This is why tenure is important.

    As Peter pointed out, SLTs are no longer a collaborative process. Hiring under the SBO is no longer a collaborative process. Teachers under this union lost input in the decision- making process. As Frank pointed out,
    the DoE no longer regards their more experienced teachers.

    Would working for Green Dot give teachers greater input, or would the same principals we have now be running the show? Is Randi going to rubber stamp Green Dot and are the members going to have the opportunity to vote on this?

    Of course these concerns won’t be addressed under the blood-oath imposed by an individual who is supposed to represent me on a blog that is sponsored by my own union.

  • 6 Leo Casey
    · May 28, 2007 at 11:00 am

    Ken:

    I would agree with you that “generalizations without details” do not make for convincing arguments. I would put the generalization “it is conventional wisdom amongst administrators that it is a nightmare to dismiss even the most egregious cases” in that category. I would also say that arguments seeking to sustain generalizations about an entire system based on anecdotal evidence are also problematic.

    The problem here is that it is your premises which are in question, precisely because they are generalizations based on the above.

  • 7 Schoolgal
    · May 28, 2007 at 3:54 pm

    Let’s see: Generalizations v facts?

    Is it not a fact that a major factor of the school report card is that students show a full year progress? If not, then my principal is giving out false information.

    Is it not a fact that NYTeacher recently printed an article about the plight of ATRs?

    Is it not fact that a majority to teachers face issues that I point out such as discipline problems, no a/c, overcrowding, schools in disrepair…
    Of course it’s much nicer at union headquarters and easy to forget what it is like in the classrooms and dismiss other points of view as generalizations.

    Could it be you will soon be packing up your office and moving to DC? I certainly hope so because we need union officials who are willing to answer the questions put forth by all members, and not just the ones who praise you.

  • 8 Whose schools? Our schools. « JD2718
    · May 29, 2007 at 7:59 pm

    […] There has been a discussion running on Fred Klonsky’s blog (me, Leo Casey, and Fred) (and continuing on Edwize) about Green Dot and tenure and our attitude to “hybrid forms” (semi-public charter […]

  • 9 curious3
    · May 31, 2007 at 10:31 am

    I finally spoke to someone at Green Dot. He told me:

    1. They have a non-contractual development and action plan to work with teachers that are not performing well.

    2. They dismiss teachers under their “just cause” provision based on either some “egregious” action by the teacher or for failing to improve performance under the development and action plan.

    3. A dismissed teacher could, in theory, dispute the dismissal under the “conflict resolution” section of the contract but that hasn’t happened yet to the best of his knowledge. Also, he would think that during the “conflict resolution” process, the teacher would not be teaching.

    4. He expects that the next contract will include more details to mirror how the process is currently working.

    A few points I would make based on my understanding of this:
    1. If a teacher does something “egregious”, Green Dot could dismiss the teacher immediately and the teacher’s recourse would be the “conflict resolution” process. In other words, if Green Dot judges that a teacher does something egregious, the teacher could be out of the classroom immediately. The “conflict resolution” process could not last more than about 100 days.

    2. All teachers, regardless of seniority, could be dismissed for poor performance as judged by Green Dot provided that this performance problem has been communicated very clearly and a reasonable “development and action plan” has been conducted. Once dismissed, the teacher is out of the classroom and, although it has never happened before, could go through the “conlict resolution” process that, again, could not last more than about 100 days.

    How does this compare to the current NYC process?

    Ken

  • 10 Leo Casey
    · Jun 3, 2007 at 11:53 am

    1. We have peer intervention program, expanded under the latest contract, for working with tenured teachers whose classroom performance is not satisfactory. Under the expansion, an outside third party evaluates the classroom performance of a teacher. When a teacher in the peer intervention program is clearly unable to make the grade, there is a process for counseling them out of teaching and into a more suitable job.

    2. “Egregious” is not a self-evident term, but it certainly is the case in NYC that a teacher who has been accused of serious misconduct such as assaulting a student is removed from the classroom pending the adjudication of charges against him/her.

    3. Teachers at all levels of seniority can be and are removed for failure to perform satisfactorily. In most cases where the teacher are unable to succeed in the classrom, they leave well before the conclusion of the dismissal process, through resignation or retirement. Before the final decision, there are grievances and U rating appeals which often provide indications of what would happen in the 3020a process. Very few people who are unsuccessful in the classroom have the will to fight to the end when the results are predictible.

  • 11 Another post about Green Dot and tenure. « PREA Prez
    · Jun 14, 2007 at 5:27 am

    […] Take a look at my reply.. […]

  • 12 Bonnie Moore
    · Jul 24, 2010 at 3:08 pm

    How often, according to statistics of U.S. Public Teachers who have reached Tenure, and then is implicated in an “egregious act” or “poor performance,” removed and ultimately terminated? I’m sure it varies from county to county, town to town, because of course, there are good and poor administrators, other issues in politics which will change outcomes everywhere, …but, in general, are there statistics, because I’d be appreciative of any information regarding the actual percentage of complaints from peers and parents, students, before disciplinary measures are taken to the point of suspension for conflict resolution or other system in place, and how often do those “hopeless” causes and liabilities, actually get terminated after they have somehow managed to “push through” to tenure and more ample state protection from wrongful discharge? It hardly seems right that we barter with any true offenders, and play the process until they straggle along until they get their full retirement. What a precedent to set for others who may decide to dig their heels in or haughtily play out the game of semantics and fancy footwork which is often the response of many sociopathic personalities, who are found in many of our best jobs, positions, from government on down. Just curious, because I have seen this happen in all professions with unions, and whereas people without unions more often than not, have to just take those apples, I’ve noted that more often than not, those in unions, do not. Well, at least not even close to each other in comparison. I could cite tons of examples I’ve seen first hand! Shops, Medical Centers, Schools, and Local Government, it is the millstone of the Unions I believe, that coupled with the fact that as Curious Gal stated, the Unions are teachers, often not nurses, often do not truly represent us, how could they? How can you have a real commitment and vestment in something that’s not your personal experience and life. I only say this because often I see the cut throat people at work who will outsmart and sabotage all the normal, kind hearted, true team players, making your honest, hard working efforts fail anyway, by their games with management, forming relationships with those in control of your livelihood, and be the eyes for the administrators. They always have the perfect lies and an uncanny way of diverting attention to other people and things. They have a gift for “suck up” and perfected it along the way. Regardless of union or not, they can make everyones lives hell, but never seem to get in too much trouble, they usually run off all the nicest and best, who could deal with the children, students, as that is expected to a degree, developmentally. What I can’t hardly cope with for long periods are the difficult peers who can’t seem to blend and work as a team, although they often get into the positions as Team Leaders or Expert!

  • 13 Bonnie Moore
    · Jul 24, 2010 at 3:13 pm

    In my above comment, I meant to say that Unions do not usually have teachers running them, or are teachers the administrators in teacher unions, and the NEA? Because I don’t see a personal representative in field of work in unions representing my peers. Please educate me on this if it is different within the Unions for teachers.