“I’ve Ended Many School Days Crying in My Car”

The article linked to below at CalMatters is heart wrenching.  Equally disturbing is the following quote regarding the San Francisco Unified School District (where I worked for one year before getting “downsized” during the financial crisis due to lack of seniority):

“The district tries to convince veteran educators to work in the Bayview and even offers annual bonuses to the ones who say yes. But few do, said district spokeswoman Jessica Qian Wan, who added that the district cannot forcibly assign teachers to any of its schools. Officials from the union representing the city’s educators wouldn’t say why its most experienced members don’t want to work in the Bayview, and they declined to connect me with a teacher for an interview.”

Anyone with half a brain knows the answer to this question, i.e., the constant battle with disruptive students in the classrooms, but political correctness prevails.

The usual reaction to unpleasant things is to say nothing.  This also remains the case regarding my inquiries into budgeting for the recent SMFCSD teacher salary settlement.  My messages to the Superintendent, Chief Budget Officer, and some of the existing Board members regarding the budget impact of the settlement remain unanswered.  I am concerned when a seemingly intractable budget problem is resolved just before three seats on the Board of Trustees turn over.

Hiring and firing in public education remains governed by seniority, and any future budget shortfalls will be born by “inexperienced” teachers.  We need to make sure that this does not happen in SMFCSD.

I spent my career in a few different fields, and teaching is especially poor in its treatment of new employees.  New employee retention is clearly not improved by giving junior people the lion’s share of the hardest-to-teach classes and making them bear the brunt of financial shortfalls, so, those of you in education, please stop expressing “surprise” that, on average, people stay in the teaching profession for no more than five years.  It is often your treatment of young teachers that leads to this turnover.  Teachers who make it through this gauntlet are then further reinforced in their belief that, having “paid their dues,” they are more deserving of their positions even if they get lazy later and start slacking off.

When I was a manager in the software industry, I made a special point to distribute the less pleasant assignments around equally, and not to give a task to someone else that I would not consider doing myself.  I also made sure that perks were equitably distributed, and made a point of giving them to others before taking things for myself.  This is the way to retain employees, and public education should take note.  I am NOT claiming that all managers in fields other than teaching are excellent, but teaching sure seems to have a bigger problem than average in this regards.

Now on to the CalMatters article.  PLEASE read this (it is not long), and, if you can help this reporter in her quest, please do so.  The wall of silence has existed for far too long.

Please post your comments following this article below.  You must scroll all the way down to the the “Leave a Reply” box to reply to the article directly or click the Reply link following a particular comment to respond primarily to that comment.

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Thanks as always for your participation!

Author: David Kristofferson

Retired Ph.D. scientist, teacher (after retiring from industry, taught in private and public high schools and then worked a decade in my own private tutoring business), bioinformatician (managed both the NIH-funded GenBank National Nucleic Acid Sequence Databank and the BIONET National Computer Resource for Molecular Biology), IT director at Eos and Raven Biotechnologies, software product manager, AAAS Fellow, avid cyclist, and backpacker!

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