On same team

Ed­u­ca­tors want the best for kids

Arkansas Democrat-Gazette - - VOICES - MICHELE BALLENTINE-LINCH SPE­CIAL TO THE DEMO­CRAT-GAZETTE Michele Ballentine-Linch, Ph.D., is ex­ec­u­tive di­rec­tor of the Arkansas State Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion.

Arkansas De­part­ment of Ed­u­ca­tion Com­mis­sioner Johnny Key has re­quested a waiver of the Teacher Fair Dis­missal Act (TFDA) process for the 22 schools rated “D” or “F” in the Lit­tle Rock School District. TFDA man­dates a more thor­ough process to dis­miss cer­ti­fied staff, in­clud­ing teach­ers, coun­selors, and prin­ci­pals.

Com­mis­sioner Key has ar­gued that the district, which has been con­trolled by the state since 2015 due to low test scores, needs greater flex­i­bil­ity to make staff changes. All Arkansas dis­tricts have this op­tion and sev­eral large dis­tricts have this waiver in place.

The Lit­tle Rock School District has a dis­tin­guished his­tory of ed­u­cat­ing coura­geous stu­dents to be pos­i­tive change-mak­ers in our so­ci­ety. De­spite nu­mer­ous tal­ented ed­u­ca­tors and staff—and I’ve met too many to count— com­mit­ted to con­tin­u­ing this legacy, it con­tin­ues to strug­gle to ed­u­cate and serve Lit­tle Rock stu­dents ad­e­quately. Re­gard­less of how we mea­sure school qual­ity, ed­u­ca­tors know in their hearts when a school is teem­ing with suc­cess or strug­gling to meet a ba­sic prom­ise to stu­dents. A strug­gling school is a chal­leng­ing school in which to serve each day, and poor lead­er­ship only makes the sit­u­a­tion worse.

How­ever, it is clear in my ex­pe­ri­ence of work­ing with our LRSD Arkansas State Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion (ASTA) mem­bers and oth­ers, that they care deeply for their stu­dents and want the very best for them. Kids are why they step in that school build­ing each day.

For more than three decades, over $37 mil­lion per year of Arkansas tax­payer money, above and be­yond what has been al­lo­cated to other dis­tricts, was pro­vided to LRSD for improve­ment ef­forts. We must ac­knowl­edge nei­ther ad­di­tional money nor Lit­tle Rock Ed­u­ca­tion As­so­ci­a­tion union pri­or­i­ties have un­leashed sys­temic suc­cess in LRSD. In fact, the union’s con­tin­ued pro­mo­tion of its po­lit­i­cal agenda fur­ther com­pli­cates the con­ver­sa­tion, cultivating an ad­ver­sar­ial en­vi­ron­ment at a time when ed­u­ca­tors and stu­dents need sup­port and so­lu­tions.

Lead­er­ship ca­pac­ity and the pro­fes­sion­al­ism of the par­ties in­volved in the process de­ter­mine the ef­fec­tive­ness of TFDA. Com­pe­tent ad­min­is­tra­tors have the de­sire, skills, and ex­per­tise to sup­port and pro­vide re­sources to grow ed­u­ca­tors and make ap­pro­pri­ate em­ploy­ment de­ci­sions, which is essen­tially the TFDA process. The truth is the steps in the process can help pro­tect a teacher from wrong­ful dis­missal and pro­tect a school district from mak­ing a poor de­ci­sion, but it de­pends on the lead­er­ship and how those rep­re­sent­ing ed­u­ca­tors and ad­min­is­tra­tion through the process con­duct them­selves.

If TFDA re­mains in place, it is not a guar­an­tee the school district will only make wise ter­mi­na­tion de­ci­sions. If it is waived, it is not a cer­tainty the school district will make only poor ter­mi­na­tion de­ci­sions. Com­mis­sioner Key is on record stat­ing a TFDA waiver will be a “scalpel,” not a “chain­saw,” re­ject­ing union pre­dic­tions of mass fir­ings. Ei­ther way, there are other LRSD pro­cesses and pro­tec­tions re­main­ing to pro­tect against dis­crim­i­na­tion, hos­tile work en­vi­ron­ments, ha­rass­ment, and more.

Istrongly rec­om­mend school lead­ers fol­low TFDA to pro­vide sup­port and re­sources for ed­u­ca­tors to grow and learn—we are on the same team, work­ing to­gether for stu­dent achieve­ment.

For ex­am­ple, pro­vide ef­fec­tive re­sources and sup­port, clear and timely no­tices of dis­ci­plinary or in­ves­ti­ga­tory ac­tions, and ob­jec­tive hear­ings when re­quested if tak­ing ac­tion against a cer­ti­fied staffer. Not be­cause of any en­ti­tle­ment or law, but be­cause dis­missal de­ci­sions are com­plex and those added steps can pro­tect a school district from miss­ing sys­temic is­sues and los­ing tal­ented staff —in­clud­ing the col­leagues of the dis­missed who may vol­un­tar­ily leave as a re­sult of an un­jus­ti­fi­able de­ci­sion.

ASTA is the au­then­tic voice for ed­u­ca­tors. We have heard from sev­eral of our LRSD mem­bers who are con­cerned with how teach­ers are sup­ported or eval­u­ated, as well as how or why poor-per­form­ing ad­min­is­tra­tors and col­leagues are re­tained or even pro­moted. Be­cause of our LRSD ASTA mem­bers, our in­put is val­ued and we are in reg­u­lar com­mu­ni­ca­tion with district lead­er­ship and Com­mis­sioner Key as they strive to make de­ci­sions they feel are best for stu­dents. ASTA will con­tinue to be a pro­fes­sional and au­then­tic voice for its mem­ber­ship in a man­ner that is stu­dent-ori­ented while el­e­vat­ing the pro­fes­sion we love and to which have ded­i­cated our­selves.

The Arkansas State Teach­ers As­so­ci­a­tion is a state chap­ter of the As­so­ci­a­tion of Amer­i­can Ed­u­ca­tors (AAE), the largest na­tional, non-union, pro­fes­sional ed­u­ca­tor or­ga­ni­za­tion, ad­vanc­ing the pro­fes­sion by of­fer­ing a mod­ern ap­proach to ed­u­ca­tor em­pow­er­ment and ad­vo­cacy—pro­mot­ing pro­fes­sion­al­ism, col­lab­o­ra­tion and ex­cel­lence with­out a par­ti­san agenda. ASTA-AAE is com­mit­ted to a teach­ing pro­fes­sion that is stu­dent-ori­ented, well re­spected, and per­son­ally ful­fill­ing. AAE serves mem­bers in all 50 states and wel­comes pro­fes­sion­als from all ed­u­ca­tion en­ti­ties. Visit aaeteach­ers.org and astapro.org for fur­ther in­for­ma­tion.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.