This is for the superintendents out there who are concerned about the bad teachers on their staff, the superintendents who are afraid that they are either awash in a sea of incompetence or watching the rising tide or terror that comes from a few bad apples spreading their blasting blight through the district barrel. For those of you who are worried that you have some teachers who just aren't doing the job, here's some simple advice.
Seriously, I feel some days that superintendents have simply forgotten that they have some powers with their job, that they feel helpless in the face of terrible, terrible teaching. So to those of you in these dire straits, I want to remind you what you can do.
You can fire them.
You do remember that, right? You have the power to fire incompetent teachers.
Yes, yes, I know. It would be hard. You would have to fill out papers, and probably have meetings and somebody might even object and make you explain yourself. You might have to actually prove that the teacher really is incompetent and not merely annoying or irritating or refusing to play a board member's kid on first string.
But you can do that, right? Provide proof that the teacher is actually incompetent? You went to superintendent school and took Filling Out Superintendent Paperwork 101?
Hell, in some states, it's not even that hard any more. Just stack the offending teacher's classes so that the test scores will come back just the way you want them. Boom! You have your "proof" that the teacher sucks.
Document. Collect information. Observe. Hell, even attempt remediation if you like. And then.
I repeat this because to hear some superintendents talk, you would think they were expressly forbidden to fire anybody ever. They need their state to pass new laws, to scrap tenure or seniority or both because, somehow, they believe they have no power to fire bad teachers. So I want to remind you-- you totally have that power. Hell, I've watched some of you use it. So if there are bad teachers in your district,
Now, maybe what you really mean is that you want to be able to fire them easily. Just a wave of your hand and some teacher that has been a pain in your butt will just vanish. Maybe you imagined that being a superintendent would look more like being the CEO of some major corporation and you could just snap your fingers and people who irritate you would vanish without so much as a peep and you wouldn't have to explain anything to anyone. Well, that's not your job. You answer to elected officials and you spend tax dollars and the public is entitled to know why you do things and whether or not you are pursuing the best interests of the public or whether you just axed Mrs. DeWhipsnot because you'll be damned if you'll have One of Those on your staff.
I know it sucks. Hell, I was hoping that being a teacher would be more like being a rich, famous rock star. Looks like we both missed out.
But if you want to get rid of a bad teacher, senior or not, just do your homework. Collect the paperwork. Build your case. Do your homework. Do your job. And then, once you've done your job, well, then-
Yes, I know in some districts (particularly the big urban ones) the hoops you have to jump through are considerable. I blame your board which negotiated a bad contract in the first place. But this is your job. This is why you get the big bucks. And really-- are you saying that you should be able to fire a bad teacher without being able to substantiate the charge that she's a bad teacher? You should be able to fire her just because you want to and you say so? Think back to some of the people you worked for early in your career. Heck, think about some of the building principals who work for you right now. Does the "because I say so" approach really sound like a good idea?
And yes, you could just rank your teachers and always furlough the bottom of the stack every time the state cuts your budget. I suppose it's easier than actually pressuring the state to fully fund your school. But how will you ever recruit and build a staff? Yes, young teachers will initially think, "This is great. I won't have to worry about losing my job in the first few years that I'm least senior." But eventually it will dawn on them that they will have to worry about their jobs in that same youngest teacher way for the rest of their entire careers-- particularly when we're using a teacher ranking system no more reliable than the roll of the dice.
So sure, we could come up with some new set of laws that would upend the profession and incite thunderdome amongst the staff and make life really easy for the poor, beleaguered superintendent.
Or, when you determine in your considered professional superintendenty opinion that a teacher is incompetent, you could collect the data, do your job and then--
You could fire them.And if you didn't want to do the work to fire them, you could stop whining about it.