So here's the situation: we are an urban district but not a truly "urban" district like D.C., Detroit or LA. We have problems (stagnation being probably the greatest one and the inability/lack of interest in replicating successful programs being the second greatest one). There's a piecemeal feeling to what gets done in this district.
Our country, our state, our county and our city are all facing down a continuing bad economy. However, unlike other parts of the country, our city is faring better than many. But we do have many unemployed people and that includes teachers. As well, there are at least 4 colleges of education in our state.
The Superintendent has admitted that there is no shortage of teachers in Seattle. So between the existing pool including a number of teachers (some of whom may have been laid off through no fault except being first hires) and new teachers coming into the pool by virtue of graduating from a teaching college, it would seem there is a pretty large pool of teaching candidates.
And yet, our district wants to rush to bring in Teach for America. No real discussion especially with the people whose children will be taught by these teachers. No outreach by anyone to parents (I would count the SCPTSA bulletin as informational and not outreach).
Teach for America HAS to get three districts and a higher ed institution to sign on for them. Now Federal Way already has and that leaves (as far as I can find) Kent, Seattle, Highline and Tacoma. I have no idea what higher ed institution is signing on but I hear that the new dean at UW's College of Education likes TFA and that would be because he's an alum. (Those TFAers are like Tribbles.)
The cost to the district is starting salary plus $4k per year (for two years) per TFA teacher. Plus any TFA teacher teaching special ed has to have a special education teacher mentor in the building. Plus overhead to manage all this. (And I leave out the lawsuits because I don't know how many there will be.)
So there is no teacher shortage, we are allegedly in dire financial straits and yet this is one of the top things for our Superintendent and Board to get done. Like yesterday.
So I'm bypassing my usual question of "what is the problem we are trying to solve?" because logistically we don't have the money for this initiative, we don't have a shortage of qualified teachers and the outcomes of TFA teachers are all over the place. (A lot like charters.)
So then the question becomes:
- why would 7 apparently bright people are falling all over themselves to get this thing done by Thanksgiving?
- why would elected officials bypass a process that they themselves have told the district is important when bringing motions to their attention
- why would the one thing that the Superintendent has consistently failed at in her tenure in this district be bypassed in this case by the Board?
- why would the consideration of parents' viewpoints or even notification not matter on this issue?
My contention is that the Board is going to try to look down at their screens the next Board meeting to avoid the gazes of the concerned and disappointed (and angry) in the audience. They know that the public engagement of TFA is of no interest to us - we want to know what public engagement OUR district has done with our school communities and the answer to that is none.
But they will pass this agreement and they will do it because they have been bought. Not personally of course but our district and Board have heard the siren song of more money from someone. "Sign up TFA and watch a large "grant" come your way."
For me, there is no other explanation. These Directors who got elected by the citizens of Seattle. Because School Board elections get smaller voting numbers than most other elected officers, then I'd strongly suspect a large number of those voters are parents. Why would the Board ignore a large segment of the voting population who are the most likely people to vote in a School Board election?
Our Board is being bought by local ed reform folks determined that every single national ed reform plank is part of our district whether or not it is what is good or best for our district.
I have no heard ONE person say they wanted no change or improvement or in favor of keeping the status quo. But this upending of our district to mirror national trends without clearly explaining why is wrong. Local control indeed.
That's my story and I'm sticking to it (because all 7 of our Board members didn't suddenly lose their sense of fairness and good judgment).
I don't care how much money we get; this is wrong.