I will make some final points so it goes on record and I'll have one more thread with answers from TFA national on some questions I put to them. Then I'll take my TFA efforts off-line.
- About Peter Maier's assertion that TFA will not cost the district anything, I have no idea if he is ignorant or naive or disingenuous. Of course, there are costs whether the TFA fee is paid or not. There is always overhead and the TFA recruits need to have a Special Ed teacher mentor. (Don Kennedy, COO, was just complaining on Tuesday to the Operations Committee about how thinly central staff are spread trying to keep up with new initiatives.)
- That any Board member believes that at the district-level there will be no pressure or direction to principals at high poverty schools to hire TFA applicants is nonsense. It says right in the contract "agreed number of teaching candidates - 20-25." Why pick a number at all if not to encourage/pressure the district to hire TFA? Why not just sign the contract and the district hires as many or few as they want? That number is in there for a reason.
- Also, the contract directs the district to hire pairs of TFA recruits so again, there's a directive on numbers. (I guess it's so they have a best friend at the school to eat lunch with).
- The new HR person did not get it right on the hiring pool for Phases I, II, and III. Holly Ferguson, a senior staffer, had to jump in and correct her. (They are 3 different pools of candidates.) That's worrisome.
- Legal counsel Neal Treat did what was termed a "tour de force" legal briefing. He did cover it quite well except for a couple of things. I don't care if it's the district or Arne Duncan who will take it on the chin should the Ninth Circuit Court decision go to the full circuit or even the Supreme Court. If a final decision is made in favor of the appellants, then TFA has a problem. Also, he stated this from the contract about FERPA:
Lots of nodding from the Board. He left off one key phrase at the end of that sentence:
..., upon request from the District."
I'll have to remind him and the Board of that request to be made every year.
- This business of diversity. Just to be clear, there is NO guarantee that because the current TFA recruits are 32% (I believe that was the figure) of color that the pool of TFA recruits who apply to Seattle will be that big. Ditto on the math and science. The Board seems to take it on faith that the pool will be expanded. I think that figure is surely greater than the average pool of teachers but again, there is no way of knowing who will apply here. (Odds are good, though, because if I were a 5-week teacher, I'd rather go to an easier "urban" district like Seattle instead of say, Detroit or LA.)
- I agree that Kay did the most nuanced thinking but it was quite funny for her to plea with TFA recruits not to come to Seattle if they truly didn't intend to be teachers.
- While I appreciate levity, I thought that Michael's remark that the 5-week training that TFA recruits get is more than what the School Board has, was a little off.
- Betty was the only one who seemed to get how this might look to teachers who already feel pressured and alienated. (I had a teacher, from a low-poverty north-end school, come up to me who is worried about how her evaluation will be under the new teacher contract. If she's worried, I have no idea how teachers in the south-end might feel.) That no other director saw it that way is fine BUT several seemed to take pains to make it sound like the TFA recruits would be the only teachers in the building with passion and the desire to follow-thru with every student. It was striking because as they described the TFA recruits, your mind did the contrast to "well if TFA is this, then they must mean the current teachers are that." Not a good picture.
But in the larger picture, last night we had the Board bypassing what most of us believe should happen in the way of accountability.
One, to vote in the very late and under-quality (and this is the staff admitting this) school reports was surprising. Steve and Peter stayed true to their "staff at all costs" voting pattern. Steven piped up that the Board was just "saying we had these done to OSPI" and Peter said "now if we don't vote for this, we don't get the money, right?" Good points guys but you miss the big point: get your work done in a timely manner.
Also, (with apologies to Dorothy for using her analogy), if your kid doesn't do his chores and says, "Mom I can't do them now, I have to go to soccer practice, the team is counting on me", is this anyway for the Board to allow the staff to behave? There were apologies all around but the fact is that staff didn't put much stock in these reports until Charlie rattled their cage. Clearly, the Board doesn't either as no one but Sherry seemed to care that they had no chance to do their oversight as Board members.
Second, public engagement. I was tired last night and hurrying to my car and a woman, who had testified for TFA, was trying to engage me as I walked. I was nodding and hurrying along and I mentioned that there had been no public engagement and that next time it might be something she was against. She said, "But there was public discussion" and I lost my temper and said something to her loudly and with effect. She walked off. I do apologize for speaking loudly and with effect.
But understand, that there would have been NO public discussion or even awareness of this issue without this blog, the Seattle 2010 blog, and other activists who raised this issue.
TFA wasn't going to do it . The district wasn't going to do it. The Board wasn't going to do it.
That should make everyone a little angry.