Thursday, June 27, 2013

Is the Administration Following the Best Process to Hire the Most Qualified Teachers?

Below is a post we received today from D181 and D86 parent and taxpayer, Jill Quinones. She requested that we publish it as a stand-alone post. Mrs. Quinones is currently a special education teacher in a neighboring school district and previously taught in D181. She holds both a Masters in Special Education from Northwestern University and a Juris Doctor. We thank Mrs. Quinones for her contribution and willingness to publish her name.

Mrs. Quinones' Post:

One of the most important factors in the successful education of a student is the quality of his or her teacher.  Knowing this, it is simply shocking to me that the 2013-14 school year begins in only 55 days and D181 has just posted a classroom teacher position (5th Grade Walker School) for a vacancy it has known about for over a year.

Sometime before the 2012 school year began, two teachers at Walker School gave notice of their resignations at the end of the 2012-13 school year (4th Grade and Differentiation Specialist). 
The 4th Grade at Walker School had three (3) sections, but the 3rd Grade only had two (2), so the loss of the 4th Grade teacher did not impact 4th grade for 2013-14, but it left the school short one teacher to potentially move to 5th Grade.  Then, in December 2012, a 5th Grade teacher also submitted her Notice of Resignation effective the end of the 2012-13 school year.  Given that the 2012-13 5th Grade class was only two (2) sections, this meant Walker School was now short two classroom teachers for 2013-14.

There are certain contractual steps the District must take to offer openings within the District first to any teacher already in the District before posting the job to outside candidates.  I am assuming this was done, but that no one wanted the 5th Grade Walker positions because prior to June 20, 2013, they remained open.

There are also provisions in the Teachers’ Contract for involuntary transfers whereby the Administration can choose to move teachers for a variety of reasons to a different building or position.  One of those reasons would be too many teachers at one building and not enough at another.  Because the positions remained open through late June, I am assuming the District did not do this either.  Rather, what the District did do at an April 8 Board Meeting was honorably discharge (or RIF-Reduction in Force) an unknown number of teachers due to “unknown student needs.”

“Unknown Student Needs”?  The 2013-14 5th Grade Class has been a three-section class since Kindergarten with over 70 students.  Did the Administration think that over 40 of them were going to move such that only one teacher would be needed? 

Finally, at this week’s June 24 Board Meeting one of those Honorably Discharged teachers was hired back to be one of the 5th Grade teachers at Walker School.  It is not clear whether that teacher has been participating in the many hours of teacher training that has been happening in June to prepare our teachers for all of the curriculum changes to be implemented this fall, hopefully she has.   It is also unclear why she would have been dismissed in the first place when on April 8 the Administration should have been aware that Walker School was short not one, but two 5th Grade teachers. 

And what about that second needed teacher?  That job was just posted one week ago on June 20.  Why the wait?  It is pretty clear that whoever is hired will, in fact, have missed all of the June teacher trainings.  Of a greater concern is the fact that most experienced teachers who might have been looking for new jobs typically begin that search no later than April, not July.  Most of the teachers looking for jobs in July are teachers who just graduated from college in June.  Not that there is anything wrong with first year teachers in general, but as noted in the post below, do we really want this District to become a starter District?  As a parent who is also a teacher, I certainly do not.  Given the demands in this District both in terms of massive curriculum implementation and high parental expectation, any new hire should be a teacher who has already mastered the basic teaching skills hands on and is ready to meet the more rigorous expectations of D181 and its families.

Time will tell whether the new 5th Grade teachers selected for Walker School next year come in with the experience necessary to master all that will be demanded of them and to provide the highest quality educational experience for our students.  Time was something this Administration had more than enough of to find and train the most highly qualified teachers, so why did they squander most of it?

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