Town Square

Post a New Topic

Menlo Park nonprofit wins state teacher tenure lawsuit

Original post made on Jun 11, 2014

California's teacher tenure laws were declared unconstitutional Tuesday by a Los Angeles County Superior Court judge, ruling on a lawsuit sponsored by Students Matter, a Menlo Park-based nonprofit group founded by Silicon Valley entrepreneur David Welch.

Read the full story here Web Link posted Wednesday, June 11, 2014, 8:24 AM

Comments (58)

 +   Like this comment
Posted by Jonathan Payne
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:56 am

It has always been outrageous that two years is all that's required for tenure. Any thinking person cannot disagree.

However, it's always been a disgrace the way education is set up in this country, with property taxes funding education. That there is the end of the "American Dream" we were all raised to believe in, simply because already-rich people will by definition have the best schools to give their children an unfair advantage in their lives. The "American Dream" has always been about equal opportunity, where you're intelligence and diligence and hard work are what define what you can achieve, not how much money your family has or where you live.

I do not blame teachers for the mess that is our public school systems. I blame under-funding, under-appreciating the value of a free education for all children for the betterment of the country as a whole. And therefore, I blame wealthy right-wing nut cases for not valuing a once better system that they probably and often benefitted from when they were children but no longer seem value because they forgot where they came from.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Izzy
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:22 am

Congrats to the nine students, including a senior from Sequoia High School (although she brought the suit because of a teacher in her middle school, not Sequoia) for having the courage to stand up and be heard!

Good teachers are so important to the success of our children. They need to be able to connect and inspire students and this victory is a huge step in the right direction. While this is only the first step because teach associations will continue to fight this for some time, it appears, hopefully a final ruling will help schools to keep the good teachers and remove the ones who are not.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:26 am

> "It is fundamentally anti-public education, scapegoating teachers for
> problems originating in underfunding, poverty, and economic inequality,"
> CFT President Joshua Pechthalt said of the lawsuit.

To a man (or woman), virtually every one in the education industry makes the claim that the schools are "underfunded". Actually, the US taxpayer invests about 4%-5% of the country's GDP in public education—

Fast Facts About US Education System:
Web Link
Total taxpayer investment in K-12 education in the United States for the 2004-05 school year is estimated to be $536 billion.
Even in this current time of the war against terror, taxpayer investment in education exceeds that for national defense. In addition to the K-12 money mentioned above, taxpayers will spend an estimated $373 billion for higher education in the same school year. As depicted on the chart below, the United States is a world leader in education investment. However, nations that spend far less achieve higher levels of student performance.
----

Notice that the US spends more for public education than it does for national defense (at the moment, anyway). It's a sure bet than anyone claiming that the schools are underfunded would deny the facts on the US Department of Education web-page. It's doubtful that such people will ever accept the facts—they will just continue to opine way, which is their right. And given the lack of facts in such opinion—we have the right to either challenge them, or ignore them.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Midtown man
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:49 am

Wow! David vs Goliath ! I taught HS English for 20 years, 5 in CT and 15 in Palo Alto.
We had merit pay back East for superior performance. Here there's no incentive after passing two years of evaluation . Everyone wants highest quality from teachers, not tenure for all regardless of skill. Do all students get A's ? If so , maybe that 's a trickle down from a set of values. I guess it's a struggle between the meritocracy giving rewards for achievement vs. a dumbing down so. " everyone wins" (good luck with that "). We are struggling against a Darwinianism and if put to popular vote, the majority will not vote against self-interest. One time here where a judge took a courageous stand.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by DT North
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:02 am

Thank goodness we're taking a step towards reality and what is right! I am all for treating teachers well, but to guarantee a permanent position after just two years is insanity. This does not happen in any other profession, why should teachers not have to continually prove themselves like the rest of us do? I, 30 years ago, and my kids now have had some excellent teachers who go well beyond the call of duty, taking great pride in their job and teachers who one has to wonder why they are able to keep their job. No, we don't need to wonder, it is the antiquated tenure system.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:16 am

Teachers don't have tenure—that's a misnomer—and they certainly don't have a job for life.
Teachers with less than two years on the job can be dismissed immediately and for any reason.
Teachers with more than two years of experience simply have the right to a hearing before
being dismissed. The ability to have their case reviewed by an objective panel ensures that
school boards or administrators don't fire good teachers they may disagree with or who speak
out on issues like student safety or appropriate use of district funds. This right to be heard
makes the teaching and learning environment more stable.

My teacher's union is supporting AB 215, which expedites the dismissal process. It was approved by the State Senate this week. The bill is expected to be approved by the Assembly and signed by Governor Brown. My union is part of the process of reforming the teacher's due process protections, as this is clearly warranted.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:18 am

This is wonderful!!!

So what does this mean for current teachers? Can we give the superstars merit pay? Can we get rid of the teachers who have made our kids miserable for years?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:21 am

@Jonathan.....you had me until you blamed right-wing nut cases for the failure of public schools to deliver a good product. Year after year educators ask for and are given more money to "improve" the system. Yet, the system continues to deliver a product that has California ranked near the bottom of the ladder nationally. Other public schools across the country aren't fulfilling the "Dream" that was supposed to be the Public School System in large part because of Teachers Unions that are more concerned with take home pay,pension benefits and protecting lousy teachers than with educating our children. Liberals have been screaming for years that they only need more money and it'll get better, but it doesn't Make teachers accountable and we'll see a difference.

Why not give families the opportunity to attend private schools by issuing vouchers, as some "right wing nut cases" have suggested and see what happens? Parochial schools have been providing excellent, low cost education for years and statistically, their students fare much better than the public school students.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:26 am

@37 Year Resident:

"Parochial schools have been providing excellent, low cost education for years and statistically, their students fare much better than the public school students."

Evidence?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Fabulous!!!!
a resident of Stanford
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:28 am

18 months is not nearly long enough to establish an accurate, sustained teaching record let alone granting tenure. Someone on KQED this morning likened it to a shot-gun wedding. So true! This is a step in the right direction. Most top colleges and universities require about seven years, which I think should be the minimum for a public school teacher. Additionally, it should be highly rigorous. It should be an honor.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:30 am

@Anony Mouse -

What I view as the most positive thing about this is being able to reward excellent teachers!

To address your comments - in professional jobs (except for teaching) people don't get a hearing before they can be dismissed, nor is their pay determined simply by years of experience and education. Most people remain employed because they are good at their jobs and get raises for the same reason. The same should be true in the teaching profession. Our students deserve teachers who can be rewarded for their efforts.

As far as the AB 215 bill - it looks like it makes it easier to fire people for "egregious misconduct, including child abuse, sexual abuse and certain drug offenses (only some drug offenses???) but otherwise it gives teachers a 13 month process for any other type of dismissal. Again, what other business gives an employee 13 months of time before dismissing them? That is more than a whole grade of a student's life.

Pay for good work can only elevate the profession, only under performers should be worried.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by 37 year resident
a resident of Old Palo Alto
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:43 am

@AnonyMouse...there have been several published studies over the years that compare public vs. parochial elementary education. I'm sure you can find them by doing a Google search.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:48 am

@37 Year Resident:

Funny, here are two links that argue BOTH sides. Apparently parochial schools are better AND worse. So which one is it?

Web Link

Web Link




 +   Like this comment
Posted by Witch hunt
a resident of Charleston Gardens
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:51 am

The school districts have just been given a license to kill. They can and will kill the careers of not only "ineffective" teachers, but honest, hard working, out spoken teachers as well. Teachers will be afraid to blow the whistle on ineffective administrators, school boards, and superintendent & her/his staff. The recent "vote of no confidence" by the Gunn teachers would never have happen for fear of retaliation. Ineffective members of the Gunn so-called leadership team would not have been weeded out. Tenure protects not only teachers, but students as well. Students will not be subjected to a merry go round of teaching staff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 12:13 pm

> Teachers will be afraid to blow the whistle on ineffective
> administrators, school boards, and superintendent & her/his staff.

Ah .. how many times does this happen? There was a memo accussing former super MF Callan of "creating a culture of fear" .. but provided no actual evidence. And what about the current super? Was there even one teacher who had anything to say about him?

Where was the "whistleblowing" on Phil Winston? Or what about all of the alleged coverups that have been alleged over "bullying". Certainly teachers must see all of this "bullying" all day long. So, where are the whistleblowers?

Sorry .. but teachers are not the kinds of people who are likely to blow a lot of whistles, or rock a lot of boats.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stepheny McGraw
a resident of Midtown
on Jun 11, 2014 at 1:57 pm

This ruling is long overdue. Teachers are valuable resources, but the teachers' union in California is set up to protect its worst with things like two years and to tenure and blind defense of any teacher threatened with job loss for bad performance or misconduct. This, while penalizing its best by ruling out merit based pay raises.

I support teachers and good education. I do not support the California Teachers Union.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Changing the seats on the titantic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:18 pm

Yes their are bad teachers out there, lazy teachers etc.... teachers are just human beings that are not any different than when I went to school in 70's and 80's . You had your teachers that motivated and then your teachers that were just putting in the time.

You can change tenure etc.... but the fact of the matter is education starts at home and the fastest growing demographic in California just does not value education as a whole, not all but for sure the majority. Gang banging parents or parents working three jobs just do not have the time or energy to put into the kids. Palo Alto is a great district because the parents care and are involved. This is a social issue. Kids at the privates schools do well because they are vested and their parents are vested in getting a good education. Heck they are so interested in education they choose to pay for it.

Just go to an open house at Kennedy Middle School in Redwood City and then go to a Jordan Middle School open house and you will see a huge, huge difference in parent involvement , etc....

Change the tenure law all you want, heck go at it with all kinds of changes blaming teachers and California Educational System and in the end nothing is going to change because this is a social demographic issue that no one wants to talk about because easier to look outward then looking inward at the clients. Also very PC incorrect.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Changing the seats on the titantic
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:31 pm

[Post removed.]


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2014 at 2:43 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

Mark Zuckerberg, if you want to help schools throughout California, and potentially the nation, all at one time, without dropping $100K+ on individual districts, just fun the defense of this ruling against the teachers unions. It is going to take some bucks to counter their war-chest, and you can help. Bang-for-the-buck, this is the cheapest way you could help the most schools in the most significant way. You will never get as easy a chance to help so many as this one opportunity offers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bill Kelly
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:07 pm

You can have 20 years experience or you can have 1 years experience 20 times. My kids have had some unbeleivably good teachers in Palo Alto and they have had some really crappy tenured teachers. I feel strongly that if you can't teach then it's time to get out of the school and give an opportunity to someone who wants to try.

This is long overdue.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by I say good
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:14 pm

I betcha there are some reeeeally crappy teachers who know deep down they are reeeeally crappy teachers and who are reeeeally nervous right about now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2014 at 3:21 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

If you do the math on the numbers in that article, the judge is basically saying that up to about 30% of the teachers in California are "grossly ineffective". That does not mention the "badly ineffective" or "moderately ineffective". I hope he was not just being generous to the teachers.

30% "grossly ineffective"! Wow! That is an INTERESTING number.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh My
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:09 pm

JustMe - The math actually calculates out to 3% grossly ineffective...

For those discussing $s, it is FAR too costly to dismiss a teacher that is unanimously felt to be ineffective. This is a great start!! Teachers that enjoy teaching will put their heart into the job and will be effective. There are far too many teachers that teach simply because it is one of the easiest professional jobs to keep (because of tenure), not because they are passionate about teaching. There will be ways for strong teachers to retain their job even when they have a disagreement with administration.

Glad to see progress is being made here!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:45 pm

Public sector unions should be outlawed (as FDR thought). Public education should be funded via a voucher system. Let the people decide how, and where, they want to educate their children. Just test them for what they learn, each year, using a national level objective test (as best as is possible)...this would be the report card to the parents, who spend their vouchers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 4:48 pm

@Oh My:

"There will be ways for strong teachers to retain their job even when they have a disagreement with administration."

What will those ways be?

I want to tell you a little story. I am a PAUSD elementary teacher. A few years ago, I taught at a school in PAUSD that had what I would describe as inept, if not outright discriminatory leadership. The person made our lives as teachers needlessly unpleasant. There was vindictiveness, pettiness, the whole 9 yards. It was clear that this was a detriment to our lives as teachers, but more importantly a detriment to the education our students were getting. I doubt that many parents knew very much of the situation, because we teachers tried to handle this within the system. Thanks to the due process provisions, we were able to speak out without fear of losing our jobs. We spoke out on behalf of ourselves, the students and the parents. Still, it took 2 years of meetings with 25 Churchill to effect the change that so clearly needed to happen. I have no doubt that 25 Churchill had no idea what this person was up to until we spoke out. The person would probably still be there were it not for our pressure. (Eventually parents started to chime in, and I suspect that tipped the balance) None of this happens without due process protection.

Lastly, to use the example of this principal who was so difficult, I shudder to think what s/he would have done with the added power to hire and fire. Quality, effective teachers surely would have been fired because they were not in keeping with this person's agenda (such as it was). All to the detriment of the students.

This was my personal experience. I hope this helps explain why this ruling may not be the unalloyed victory some may think it is.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mr.Recycle
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:00 pm

@Anony Mouse - Getting rid of tenure doesn't mean principal's can arbitrarily fire teachers.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GoodForCommunity
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:13 pm

This ruling is good for students, good for the community, and good for teachers.

- Students will get higher quality of teachers. Without a doubt, Jordan Middle School has some real problems that need to go. Starting with the Principal, and a few other choice teachers who make students lives hell.

- The community will benefit as we can finally change the culture in these schools towards something more student-focused, and less teacher-focused.

- The teachers will benefit, as the long-term effects of weeding out the grossly ineffective teachers will mean fewer teachers in the labor pool, and hence rising wages (supply & demand). Any profession with restricted access has higher salaries. Only now the salaries will go up based upon demand for good teachers.

As for concerns about "protection" from poor administrators, it is too bad that teachers feel this way - today the students have no "protection" from poor teachers. And retaliation is rampant against students who complain. The teachers will certainly find a way to report problem administrators -through their union rep, or to the Superintendent. This is another reason why site-based management doesn't work. The Super needs to exercise oversight over the Principals. As long as this disconnect remains, both parents and teachers will be forever dissatisfied that the district is not managed.

This is a great day!. Thank you Judge!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by JustMe
a resident of Duveneck/St. Francis
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:15 pm

JustMe is a registered user.

My bad, slipped the decimal point. But in that case the number is surprisingly low. Also consider that since they are saying that those under-performers tend to be over-represented in schools in lower-income areas, then the percentage would be higher in those areas and lower in the more well-off areas. That is apparently the basis for the suit.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:34 pm

If there is no tenure and teachers can be paid based on their skills, fixing troubled schools could actually be easier. We could pay the best, brightest and most experienced teachers (who now can't change Districts because they lose seniority) to work at the troubled schools. Teacher make a huge difference (duh). What if every teacher in Ravenswood could start at $60K instead of $42K? Do you think there would be more competition for those spots?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Craig Laughton
a resident of College Terrace
on Jun 11, 2014 at 5:50 pm

>What if every teacher in Ravenswood could start at $60K instead of $42K? Do you think there would be more competition for those spots?

An educational voucher system could probably do a lot better than that. Set your sights higher!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh, if only.....
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:13 pm

I sure wish this had passed years ago, when my kids were in Palo Alto schools. Both of them had two or three abominable teachers in each school they were in.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Paly Parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:29 pm

We have had some horrific teachers at all level schools during our time here. Some of these were young teachers who hadn't developed the necessary experience, some were older teachers nearing retirement who didn't want/couldn't move with the times in various aspects of teaching/technology or similar, and others were just plain bad teachers.

My suspicion is that if there was no tenure it would make those unwilling to adapt to improve their skills or move with the times in a satisfactory fashion, to make poor teachers improve their skills and give younger teachers an added incentive to find their feet or get out of the water. For this reason I think it would make all teachers more accountable to do a good job in the classroom and less likely to sit on their laurels as they near retirement. All in all, it is bound to improve those teachers who need to have an attitude of staying on the ball. Accountability is the important issue which all teachers must have and of course all the students will benefit from overall improvements to accountability on behalf of those that don't have it now. There is no incentive for a teacher to improve unless there is fear of repercussions and this will give that. I don't necessarily think that all these teachers will be forced to leave, but I think it will make them up their game.

Good news.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 6:50 pm

> I taught at a school in PAUSD that had what I would describe as inept,
> if not outright discriminatory leadership. The person made our
> lives as teachers needlessly unpleasant.

Your story sounds plausible, but you didn't use the word "grievance" in the telling of the tale. Did you, and your fellow teachers, follow the negotiated grievance methods that was in your contracts?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Joe
a resident of Barron Park
on Jun 11, 2014 at 7:52 pm

Pretty much everyone agrees that the tenure and dismissal laws in California are horrible. The laws are terribly tilted in favor of the teachers and their union. These laws obviously need to be fixed, but the political climate in California makes that effort a non-starter.

The crux of the case is that these union friendly laws directly hurt poor and minority children. Because the our state constitution guarantees an "equal opportunity for an equal education," the judge ruled that the welfare of the children essentially outweighed the rights of the teachers union.

On the surface, that seems like a good development. But if the ruling withstands appeal, the courts in California will have set a precedent that may be problematic for Palo Alto. The current funding system, along with Palo Alto's "basic aid district" status, could quickly come to an end. There's clearly a significant difference in funding between public school districts in wealthy areas such as Palo Alto and less well off areas nearby. The courts would likely also be asked to address this fiscal disparity. Given the hypothetical precedent in this case, the courts would almost certainly require a more equitable distribution of public education money across all districts.

It's important to know this effort was bank-rolled by David Welch, as the article states. Welch is a charter school proponent and has been promoting this case for several years. There are a lot of hot button issues involved. Welch's message is tuned for maximum emotion on these issues. But, unlike most of the people posting here, Welch is less interested in the needs of minority students than he is in pushing his agenda. Palo Alto should be concerned that if this ruling stands, the courts will empowered to take a more active role in education of our children in our schools. The end result will likely not be good for Palo Alto public education or for that matter, the public education of every child in California.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:01 pm

> The end result will likely not be good for Palo Alto public education
> or for that matter, the public education of every child in California.

It's interesting that people who seem so endeared to "public education" never seem particularly upset by its failures. Charter schools, by the way, are publicly-funded.

Public education has become a massive employment engine, which seems to have lost sight of the purpose of educating the nation's children. Why people seem to hold this failed institution in such high regard is difficult to understand.

> the courts could become more involved in public education.

Would that be a bad thing, given the the Legislature--one of the three branches of government--might be offset by the Judicial System--one of the other three branches--for the good of the State's children?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Palo Alto High School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 8:59 pm

@ Craig Laughton - vouchers only work if there are schools that can/will accept them. Every non-public school in our area already is hard to get into. The public schools have to accept the kids who don't get into the private/parochial schools. Can you name an area private school that would benefit from vouchers? Every one I know is hard to get into and has many more applicants than spots.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:13 pm

I'm picturing walking into the office at Menlo School:

"Hi, I'm here with my $8500 voucher. I'm ready to register my child. I want the absolute best education you can offer."

Would they laugh in my face, or just politely wait until after I leave?

I know, when we are talking about vouchers, we don't actually mean that THOSE children will get into Castilleja and Menlo. Surely, some education entrepreneur will find a place for THOSE children.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents shudder, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:21 pm

@Anony Mouse

I want to tell you a little story. I am a PAUSD parent. A few years ago, I was a parent at a school in PAUSD that had what I would describe as inept, if not outright vindictive, petty, myopic handful of teachers who were not spending their time teaching our neediest children, especially our students learning English, but instead were incessantly whining to us parents about nothing in particular. Your irrational fear about speaking out doesn't translate to any real truth, it just means that you have opinion. That's super. You claim that tenure is needed by teachers to protect them, then does that mean that your former bogeyman principal, you know, the one that made you shudder, should have tenure protection as well to protect her or him from teachers being vindictive, petty, the whole 9 yards? And let's be clear, the due process you talk about means years and thousands of dollars to even get near to a point of firing a teacher, so would it had been appropriate to grant that due process to your principal after 18 months, or just you?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:24 pm

> Every one I know is hard to get into and has many
> more applicants than spots.

Let's not forget the general rule of supply and demand? Oh .. right .. that sort of thing is not generally taught in the public school system, is it?

With enough voucher money, what makes you think that new private schools won't open to meet the demand?


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 9:32 pm

@parents shudder too

Thanks, I like how you used my story telling style.

I know you think my perceptions are irrational, and that they don't translate into any real truth. All I can say is that you sound very angry. I know the feeling. I was angry too. It's terrible to feel powerless when you feel that the stakes are so high. I agree, the stakes are incredibly high. I don't really know if the Principal should have tenure protection. You called him a boogeyman, and I can assure you s/he was real, flesh and blood and not at all focused on what's important (students). All I can tell you is that I had this personal experience. The folks at 25 Churchill had no idea. We had to speak out for 2 years. We were given a polite pat on the head for 23 months. Then s/he was gone. From my own personal experience as a teacher, without due-process protection, I think he would still be in his position. He was in the process of creating the environment you were so bothered by: : "inept, if not outright vindictive, petty, myopic handful of teachers who were not spending their time teaching our neediest children, especially our students learning English, but instead were incessantly whining to us parents about nothing in particular."


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents shudder, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:08 pm

Keep blaming principals and keep calling us parents angry. Might be a good idea to not read too much subtext and just stick to what is written. Like I noticed you wrote he instead of she a few times, indicating it was a male principal. You and your small group of teachers seem to be principal experts with your assertions-as-facts statements, but that would mean that it would be just as appropriate that my small group of parents being teacher experts. Are you saying that we should head over to 25 Churchill with our personal experiences about tenured teachers who are flesh and blood and certainly not focused on students? After reading about a supposed no-confidence vote against Katya Villalobos, the running-out-of-town of Phil Winston and Jacqueline McEvoy, one for being too lenient and the other for being too strict, and all the other PAUSD principals and administrators who have endured the union treatment (let's not forget Joseph Di Salvo situation eight years ago in which a handful of JLS teachers ran him out of town), this woe-is-me wannabe victim mentality just isn't playing like it used to. PAUSD has great teachers, I would assert, but it has a ver small, yet very significant, share of ineffective teachers, and this latest ruling, which I predict will be gutted very soon, is a necessary step in the right direction.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:21 pm

@Parents shudder, too

Sorry, I thought I detected anger in your post. I apologize. You sound as if you are offended to be called angry. I apologize.

I hope you understand, I am only talking about my own personal experience. I'm not blaming principals - just this one. I'm not sure how to respond to your comment about "assertions-as-facts". I guess my personal experience is both an assertion of my reality as I perceive it, and a (sort of) fact. I was there, and I have something to report. Take it as you will. As for teachers you believe are not focussed on students - yes, please take your concerns to the teacher, the principal, and any other administrator who will hear you. I encourage you to ask administrators to do their job. Many parents have done just that, as is their right.

I don't know about those other administrator situations you cite.

Finally, I don't consider myself a victim. I hope no one get's any sort of "woe-is-me" type subtext from my postings. The system worked in our situation. As I have stated before, without due process protections, I don't think the outcome would have been as positive for the human beings involved - teachers, students, parents, staff.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by GoodForCommunity
a resident of Jordan Middle School
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:26 pm

@Parents shudder too writes: "..this woe-is-me wannabe victim mentality just isn't playing like it used to. PAUSD has great teachers, I would assert, but it has a ver small, yet very significant, share of ineffective teachers,"


Yep. Except it is not very small. By my best estimate about 5% of my kids teachers were actually so bad as to be in violation of law, another 15% where simply bad educators: demotivating, intimidating, unorganized, unfair, unfit, and undead.

So that puts the number around 20% who should go. And the Principal of Jordan. And these teachers have built up years of ill-will in the mistreatment of parents. I care little for the woe-is-me B.S., given how many teachers cared so little for our concerns. It's pitchforks and torches time.


Jordano Delendo Est


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents shudder, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 11, 2014 at 10:55 pm

Anony Mouse wants us to believe that he or she doesn't know about any of the principals who have been run out of town, even though it has been nearly impossible for any PAUSD teacher or parent to ignore it, while implying that we accept his or her complaint about the dreaded principal that did all those whole-9-yards offenses. That just doesn't make sense. Sure, the system worked because he or she got what she wanted. Unfortunately, that doesn't mean the system the system worked, that just means it worked for the powerful PAEA. Then he or she encourages administrators to do their job. But what if doing their job is holding teachers to a set of standards that they have never been held to? That's not going to go well, and it hasn't. Fortunately, the failings of Charles Young and Kevin Skelly in the last three years have not caused the system to work for parents who have gone to 25 Churchill to complain. The system has worked for PAEA because they have power, the system even worked for the principals when they ousted Mary Frances Callan, but for the GoodForCommunity poster above, the system has not, and will not, work. Skelly made some huge mistakes but we didn't hear a peep from Anony Mouse or PAEA. Young made utterly incompetent errors in the Uniform Complaint Procedure and was given a raise. Again, nothing from PAEA. This is why this latest court ruling is so important. It doesn't blame teachers, it blames a system that is broken.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by village fool
a resident of another community
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:00 pm

@GoodForCommunity - How come the occurrences you mention, for example, were "let grown" for years?

(Let me try- By standing Delendo Est? first? then we take...)


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Anony Mouse
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 11, 2014 at 11:04 pm

I must apologize again. When I wrote that I didn't know about those other administrators that you cited, I should have written that I am restricting my postings to things that I have experienced personally. I apologize for the confusion. I know about those in the context of Weekly reporting that has occurred contemporaneously, but I have no personal knowledge.

Yes, I do want you to accept my complaints about that principal. I was there. Discount my reality as you wish

As for the alleged failings of Skelly et. al., the School Board has the ultimate say over their performance, not me or PAEA. As for PAEA, I don't speak for them, so I can't really say what they did or did not do over the last few years to protest the various incidents that have occurred.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by paly parent
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 12, 2014 at 5:01 am

Thank you Mr. Welch for putting California students first.

We have many amazing and dedicated teachers in PAUSD and also many very lazy ones who forget that they are in this job to educate, make timely corrections and provide student feedback. The current system protects far too many semi-retired lazy teachers who contribute nothing and only add stress to their students by taking months to update grades on Infinite Campus and forever to actually grade the tests.

I am so very glad that Mr. Welch is here for our kids.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Performance Reviews
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 5:51 pm

Anony Mouse,

Thank you for bringing up the issue of how would people get fired if non-tenured. You make an assumption that it would be up to the Principal's sole discretion, and what if you had a bad Principal. In the different jobs I've had, the way employees are rewarded and promoted for good work, and how one would get demoted or fired for bad work is through a job performance review. While job descriptions can vary, measuring performance can be a fairly standard process. It usually involves seeing the criteria where you clearly met your job description, the criteria where you exceeded what was required, and the criteria where you had challenges or weaknesses. I've always had reviews involving more than my boss, sort of like many other inputs providing corroborating evidence about my work - the boss is just one part of the review. With the elimination of tenure, I would imagine a fair performance review system would need to be in place. It would not be the whim of a Principal but objective measures.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Stop blaming principals
a resident of another community
on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:12 pm

Principals make the recommendation whether or not to keep a teacher,it gets kicked upstairs to Scott Bowers,and then the board approves the action. And no principal tan get rid of a probationary teacher without the superintendent knowing.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Oh Please
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 12, 2014 at 7:23 pm

This ruling is so long in coming - bravo to the students that brought this suit! Tenure has done nothing but allow poor teachers job security.

I'll never understand how it was passed in the first place - of all professions, teachers should have to perform well to keep their jobs, just like every other professional in every industry!

All of this whining and subterfuge is from teachers who are now scared that they can't just keep coasting, or behaving badly, without actually facing repercussions. We have had many wonderful teachers in Palo Alto as well as another district, and we have also had some teachers who clearly knew they were immune from being held accountable. I look forward to seeing those teachers facing consequences now.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Former Gunn Parent
a resident of Charleston Meadows
on Jun 12, 2014 at 11:50 pm

I am happy to see this reform or overturn of teacher's tenure law. Both my kids are in college now, but I still remember a few lazy nasty teachers in JLS and Gunn. They are not interested in teaching kids at all but give stress and unnecessary pressure to kids. Students know who are the bad teachers, But no one will listen to them at school. A few bad teachers are very active in teacher's union. I see their names in Weekly a while ago making "speech" representing teacher's union. I still remember what happened to Joseph Di Salvor, JLS Principal. There are many great teachers in JLS and Gunn, but a few nasty teachers are ruining the reputation of good teachers. Get rid off the tenure law and fire a few bad ones will teach these half-lazy ones a lesson.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Crescent Park Dad
a resident of Crescent Park
on Jun 13, 2014 at 6:51 am

We lived through both McEvoy and Winston. To say Winston was forced out because he was too lenient is not exactly accurate. Insure that there were people who thought that...but come on, the guy had a bunch of sexual harassment issues. To sweep that under the rug in your argument is not honest at all.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by In the trenches
a resident of another community
on Jun 13, 2014 at 8:39 am

Hopefully, CA will follow the reform plan that Illinois put in place a few years ago. (See Web Link) It sounds fairly reasonable. Other states, North Carolina especially, are losing good teachers because of political overreach and a complete lack of respect towards teachers combined with really low pay. I also hope (hanging on to a lot of hope these days), that teachers will have a say in dismissing another teacher. We've all worked with a teacher we think is "bad" and the most we can do is document and submit our concerns to the administration. It is up to admin and the district office to follow through on putting the teacher on an improvement plan, and should the teacher fail that, remove the teacher. That doesn't happen because of lawsuits. Remove tenure and the now-fired teacher can still sue the district. That won't change, though the process may be quicker. I'm all for reform, but this emotional "pitchfork" reaction to experiencing a few bad teachers is not sound or reasonable. Removing tenure completely also puts a lot of power into the hands of the principal. I hope you like your principals.

The Vergara case fails to show how getting rid of tenure will result in having great, or even good, teachers in the lowest performing districts. Increasing pay isn't the solution, though it's a start. The working conditions in these schools and the emotional toll on the teachers are what keep teachers out of low performing schools. It's why Teach for America is often used. There are vacancies that districts can fill with fresh, idealistic (though ill-trained) teachers. These teachers can survive a two-year tour of duty, but beyond that, unless a teacher has a particular commitment to social justice, to the community, and to martyrdom, or perhaps a strong community of teachers (in which case you wouldn't have the same level of turnover), it's just not sustainable and most quit and many leave teaching altogether. Even in good schools, only about half of the teachers who start a teaching career are still in it after 5 years. It's not easy work. Perhaps master teachers from wealthy districts could do a two-year tour of duty at a low-performing school. Without a ton of structural support (truancy officers getting kids to school, a robust meal program, after school homework centers, supplies and books, heavy parental outreach), those same teachers are unlikely to produce amazing results because the problems and disruptions to learning occur beyond the school day and walls. Would Palo Alto parents be okay with donating their best teachers to low-performing schools for a couple of years? As with most social issues, the remedies for creating more equitable schools around the state are hardly simple and tenure is hardly the most serious impediment to these schools' successes. Treating lung cancer by changing your diet may make some impact, but not if you ignore the main issue of smoking. If we pretend that abolishing tenure will make for a surplus of great teachers, we're going to be disappointed. How are you going to attract young people to the teaching field is you're constantly bashing them?

Here's another article that may be of interest in this conversation:
Web Link



 +   Like this comment
Posted by Bob
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 13, 2014 at 11:37 am

Assuming that this ruling stands, there will no doubt be some review of how teachers will be terminated in a non-tenure era. The claims by a few people about bad principals firing teachers who speak out would need to be reviewed in light of the current procedure. The teacher who has been posting has failed to answer my questions about whether, or not, the teachers in her school actually filed a grievance with the Administration at 25 Churchill. Presumably such a process exists, but it would be nice to review the teachers' current contract to see if this process is spelled out. Obviously, the contract will need to be updated to comply with State law—so whatever protections needed to allow teachers to complain about bad principals would need to be reviewed at that time.

It would also be nice for there to be a way for parents to complain about bad teachers. It would seem that there have been quite a few less-than-golden teachers hired by the PAUSD over the years—so it's time for parents to have a well-documented way to identify teachers who are not working out.

And since there are a number of states that do not offer tenure, it would seem to be a non-brainer to review the termination procedures from school districts in those states to see what kinds of protections exist that otherwise might be afforded by tenure.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by palo alto parent
a resident of Embarcadero Oaks/Leland
on Jun 13, 2014 at 1:28 pm

@Bob - your comment about parents being able to complain about bad teachers brings up one of my favorite things we do in PAUSD. Parents can fill out a non-anonymous feedback letter that goes directly to the teacher. Not to any supervisor, but to the teacher. Its up to the teacher to share it with their supervisor! Its kind of like doing your own performance review! In addition, the Instructional Supervisors in middle and high school are simply teachers who take turns handling the administrative stuff, they aren't real "department chairs" like in college.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Mark Weiss
a resident of Downtown North
on Jun 13, 2014 at 3:10 pm

Mark Weiss is a registered user.

Why don't we take the free market approach to its logical extreme and sell off the future earnings of our children to the highest bidders, perhaps utilizing the latest in pragmatic computer game theory algorithm and then let the market decide how to optimize their investment in little Isabel and Brandon?

Tune that Clasp! Rah, rah!

We can do Better than you can yet imagine!!!!


 +   Like this comment
Posted by musical
a resident of Palo Verde
on Jun 13, 2014 at 4:31 pm

Mark, I think the future earnings of our children are already spoken for.


 +   Like this comment
Posted by Parents shudder, too
a resident of Another Palo Alto neighborhood
on Jun 14, 2014 at 11:48 pm

Relevant comments from Kathleen Ruegsegger, Kevin Skelly's secretary, on Pleasanton Town Square:

"Gene (Kevin?), Everyone from students to parents to teachers to principals and up through the district office knows who the bad teachers are, but it is way too easy to get tenure and way too difficult to get rid of those who burn out early, don't opt in to professional development, coast through their last few years . . . "

Her words, and no, I don't think the Kevin is Skelly, but comments on tenure are interesting.


Don't miss out on the discussion!
Sign up to be notified of new comments on this topic.

Email:


Post a comment

Posting an item on Town Square is simple and requires no registration. Just complete this form and hit "submit" and your topic will appear online. Please be respectful and truthful in your postings so Town Square will continue to be a thoughtful gathering place for sharing community information and opinion. All postings are subject to our TERMS OF USE, and may be deleted if deemed inappropriate by our staff.

We prefer that you use your real name, but you may use any "member" name you wish.

Name: *

Select your neighborhood or school community: * Not sure?

Comment: *

Verification code: *
Enter the verification code exactly as shown, using capital and lowercase letters, in the multi-colored box.

*Required Fields

Local picks on 2015 Michelin Bib Gourmand list
By Elena Kadvany | 5 comments | 3,109 views

WUE makes out-of-state tuition more affordable
By John Raftrey and Lori McCormick | 2 comments | 2,823 views

Ode to Brussels Sprout
By Laura Stec | 18 comments | 2,419 views

Go Giants! Next Stop: World Series!
By Chandrama Anderson | 1 comment | 1,823 views

A Surprise!
By Cheryl Bac | 0 comments | 1,019 views