Teacher's Union unhappy with SF school chief process

UESF teachers rally against layoffs March 16 (photo from uesf.org)

Key Tray from the United Educators of San Francisco called me to comment on my description of the outgoing and incoming school superintendent, which he found a little too flattering:

I haven't agreed with him on everything, but overall, he's done a good job -- the schools are better than when he arrived, enrollment is increasing, and there's no more of the imperious attitude and gag orders of the old Ackerman days. The district is on the right track -- although Garcia would be the first to admit that there's a lot more work to be done. And I have nothing bad to say about his annointed successor, Deputy Superintendent Richard Carranza. He'll probably do a fine job.

Tray's point: Yes, on a lot of levels Garcia did well, but in the past few weeks he's created a labor mess. "It's a big disappointment," Tray told me. "He's poisoned the well and now he's leaving the farm."

The problem: Garcia decided this year to exempt 14 low-performing schools from the annual round of layoffs. The layoff process is annoying anyway -- by state law, teachers have to be warned of layoffs in the spring although the state budget isn't done until the summer so the schools don't really know how much money they'll have. In most cases, the layoffs are later rescinded. Out of the 500-plus layoff notices this year, "most won't come to fruition," Tray notes.

But the bigger problem for the union is that Garcia tossed out the seniority process when he made the decision to protect schools in the "Superintendent's Zone." And while some people think that's just dandy, the teacher's union calls it a disaster: Seniority is one of the most sacred elements of a union contract.

"Now he's at war with the teacher's union," Tray said.

That, he said, won't be pleasant for the new superintendent, who has been one of Garcia's top aides: "Carranza's walking into a toxic mess."

Garcia, not too surprisingly, sees it very differently. "I'm the most pro-union guy you'll ever find," he told me. The 14 schools have a history of high turnover -- and in an effort to keep a team of teachers, some of whom don't have the highest seniority, in place, he exempted them from the layoffs. "We're talking about 70 people," he said. "And our figures suggest that this would have an impact on only three tenured teachers" who might face pink slips that they otherwise would have avoided.

As for the toxic labor environment? "It's too bad they see it that way. We've worked together on every issue for five years, and I hope this one area where we disagree doesn't ruin the entire relationship. This isn't the only issue that matters in the world; I just wish they wouldn't be this extreme."

Good luck, Mr. Carranza -- you've got some fence-mending to do.






"exempt 14 low-performing schools from the annual round of layoffs. The layoff process"

Yes, he screwed with the seniority system.

You've seen it, Tim. You're a public school parent and have been around long enough:

There are teachers who take roll, sit in class, assign reading, and do NO teaching whatsoever as they wait for the next bell, or they habitually take every Thursday and/or Friday off.

These teachers get outed and ousted, but only after considerable effort by parents. And then... they simply get sent to another school in what is known as ...

..."the dance of the lemons" (look it up).

The teacher's union is very unpopular among parents because protecting the seniority system is its top priority.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:40 pm

"Seniority is one of the most sacred elements of a union contract."

It is the most sacred.

Teachers know that the union will protect them to the bitter end once they establish senority. 10-15% of the teachers at SFUSD do not belong in teaching. But they know they have job protection until death do them part.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:43 pm

"I'm the most pro-union guy you'll ever find," he told me. The 14 schools have a history of high turnover -- and in an effort to keep a team of teachers in place..."

One example: Everett Middle School. Mostly young teachers, many very good, dedicated, enthusiastic. But 70% get layoff notices every year. And about 1/3 never return. They are replaced by teachers with seniority, often bad teachers who principals have pushed out of other schools, or who are coasting toward retirement.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 3:48 pm

Thank you for posting the link, Tim. It summarizes the problem with "churn" (seniority) and how it hurts schools with large immigrant/poor populations:

""Last year The Education Trust-West published a report, Victims of the Churn, that revealed that high-poverty schools in California were far more likely to experience teacher layoffs. Because layoffs are typically based on seniority, the least senior teachers are “bumped” out of their positions by teachers with more experience. And because high-poverty schools tend to be staffed with younger teachers, they turn out to be the biggest losers in this process. The victims of this arbitrary and bureaucratic system are teachers and the vulnerable students and communities they serve.""

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 4:05 pm

since their entire purpose is to push their own agenda at any cost, their opinions are de facto worthless as part of a serious political debate.

Posted by The Donald on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 5:04 pm

Unfortunately, those of us with children in SFUSD schools have to care. I'm a union supporter. I just wish they didn't defend their incompetent members to the bitter end.

10-15% of SFUSD teachers are dead weight (the others range from competent to fully dedicated and skillful). The seniority system, above all else, defends the dead wood.

Posted by Troll the 14th on Mar. 20, 2012 @ 6:57 pm

Care to comment, Tim?

Or do you merely ignore all your "trolls" after raining down truths upon them?

This SFUSD parent says the seniority system is protecting the 10% of teachers who are unqualified. Have you seen evidence to the contrary?

Posted by Guest on Mar. 26, 2012 @ 7:33 am

I guess Tim has made his diatribe and does not wish to discuss this subject with The Trolls.

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 07, 2012 @ 2:32 pm

I was hoping to have a discussion with Tim and others here about the "Seniority System" for teachers in public schools.

In my view, only incompetent teachers (the 15%) have anything to fear from dropping it.

Those of us with children in SF public schools know that a large majority of teachers are at least competent, and often very good. But our children have all had the misfortune of "studying" under one or two who simply do not belong in the teaching profession. These teachers know that the union and the seniority system will protect them to the bitter end.

I guess Tim doesn't have any children in public school. He doesn't want to discuss this. Why start a thread here, and then ignore it entirely?

Posted by Troll the XIV on Apr. 08, 2012 @ 8:28 am