District budget / Smart stuff / War on Teachers

Smart read of the day: Lisa Haver on why real accountability goes both ways

“The question then is:  Is accountability applicable only to those in the classrooms? Why do we not hold those in leadership positions accountable?  It is the responsibility of the Superintendent and the SRC to make sure that we have a functioning system which meets all of the needs of our students.  It is their responsibility to provide a system in which every school provides not just the books and supplies, but a safe climate in a clean school so that students can learn.

Did our leaders step up and fight for what our students and teachers need?”

Testimony of Lisa Haver, Aug. 21, 2014

We are beginning another school year in which teachers and other school professionals will not be provided with anything close to what they need to do their jobs.  They will be faced with overcrowded classrooms which they will have to clean themselves because the district is cutting back on cleaning staff and supplies, and teachers do not want to subject their students to sitting in filth. They will have to buy more of the paper and supplies the district has stopped paying for. They will be responsible to teach even more students who will be late and absent because they no longer qualify for transportation. They will continue to be the de facto counselors and nurses. They are held to a high standard, and there are serious consequences, even the loss of their jobs, when they do not reach those standards.

Every year, it seems, more money is spent on more evaluation systems [see Resolution A-39] , from both the district and the state, with more time and paperwork involved, by which teachers are judged.

And this year will be no different.  In fact, part of the teacher evaluation this year will include their students’ attendance because the powers that be say to them that the one factor which gets students to school is how engaging a teacher’s lessons are.

And once again, they are being told that they are selfish because they will not take massive cuts in salary in benefits. They are vilified for not agreeing to give up collective bargaining rights which previous administrations have honored for decades, or agree to the imposition of work rules, which Superintendent Hite, Chairman Green and the other SRC members know has nothing to do with putting one penny more into the district’s budget.

The question then is:  Is accountability applicable only to those in the classrooms? Why do we not hold those in leadership positions accountable?  It is the responsibility of the Superintendent and the SRC to make sure that we have a functioning system which meets all of the needs of our students.  It is their responsibility to provide a system in which every school provides not just the books and supplies, but a safe climate in a clean school so that students can learn.

Did our leaders step up and fight for what our students and teachers need?  We have less than we had last year and the year before.

Did those entrusted to providing what we need mount a public campaign, joining with the parents, union members and students who called on the Governor to fulfill his obligations to provide a “thorough and adequate” education for all of our students?

Did they join with superintendents and school board members from other districts who are facing the same issues because of the Governor’s education cutbacks?

But when accountability is expected from those at every level, these questions don’t even matter.  When teachers and other school professionals fail to do their jobs, they don’t get to make excuses. That must apply to those at the top also. When the Superintendent and the members of the SRC fail to do their jobs, they should, as a matter of principle, step aside and let those who are able fulfill those positions and show true courage and leadership.

Lisa Haver is a retired school district teacher and a member of the Alliance for Philadelphia Public Schools-APPS. She delivered this testimony to the School Reform Commission on Aug. 21st and allowed us to reprint it with minor edits here. Follow her on Twitter at @Haver_Lisa or @APPSphilly

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