"A child's learning is the function more of the characteristics of his classmates than those of the teacher." James Coleman, 1972

Thursday, January 26, 2012

Tennessee State Board Set to Further Demoralize Teachers and Open the Floodgates to New Lawsuits

Update 9:34 AM Jan. 27:  Last evening the State Board of Education pulled the "Scarlet Letter" reprimand action item from today's agenda.  

The commentary below was provided Knoxville, TN educators who prefer (for now) to remain anonymous:

In light of the planned action by the State Board of Education (download pdf from state website here complete with red ink), Knox County educators are bracing for the next shoe to fall from the Haslam/McIntyre(Broad)/Huffman nexus of destabilization, deprofessionalization, and corporatization of public education in the state of Tennessee.

Already, teachers in Knoxville schools administered by quislings from McIntyre’s Leadership Academy are reporting increasingly Orwellian levels of administrative surveillance regarding teacher activities both on and off the clock, with explicit threats of reprimand for any number of murky, undefined “unprofessional” or “unbecoming” activities.

Rumors abound regarding the intent and extent of McIntyre’s office, as well as what offenses might bring a reprimand. [Thus far the State has provided no list of offenses that might yield a public reprimand].  One version  to have teacher’s driver’s licenses flagged in order to be informed of possible moving violations committed by KCS employees, as well as of intentions of certain administrators to rid the teaching pool of staff members whose personal, private life choices, or physical appearances may conflict with the values held by fear-fanning politicians or moneyed individuals in the larger community.

Not only do we have the punitive, unproven, critically-flawed, multi-million dollar Milken Brothers TEAM evaluation system (combined with Broad-Stooge McIntyre’s pet project of pay-for-performance APEX program) to marginalize, demoralize, deprofessionalize, and ultimately drive out seasoned, professional educators (those most likely to speak out against the wrongs currently being perpetrated against their students and communities in the name of “reform”), we now have the beginnings of a 19th-century throwback policy by which public school educators can be censured, publicly humiliated, and blacklisted without the benefit of due process for as yet unspecified indicators of “unprofessionalism” and “moral turpitude.”

By using that most dog-eared page from the reformer’s playbook of “getting tough on teachers.” while simultaneously pandering to the most intolerant and prejudiced segments of the local population with the hot-button, evangelical issue of “morality,” McIntyre has demonstrated his commitment to diligently promote the Business Roundtable’s agenda by any means necessary.

Which leaves the educators of Knox County to wonder: What will be the NEXT reason that some Knox County teachers--most likely tenured veterans near the top of the pay scale--will find themselves “out of alignment” with McIntyre’s “vision,” and acted against accordingly?  A speeding ticket?  A bankruptcy? Holding hands in public? Unsubstantiated allegations related to a divorce or custody dispute?  Complaints from a disgruntled parent?  Being seen consuming a glass of wine at a restauraunt?

Welcome to the New Dark Ages, brought to you by this generation's efficiency zealots and supporters of plutocracy.

Local story by WATE reporter, Hana Kim:
6 News Reporter

KNOXVILLE (WATE) - The State Board of Education could pass a new rule this week that would allow it to publicly reprimand a teacher for misconduct.

However, the initiative is creating some fear that teachers' personal rights would be infringed upon.

If the board passes the agenda on Friday, it will give the board the option to publicly reprimand a teacher for bad behavior. That reprimand will be on the teacher's record permanently so that every school district in Tennessee could find out about it.

School districts are required to turn over a teacher's case for evaluation if there's a misconduct problem.

The board can either suspend or even revoke a teacher's license, depending on the case. The state says a public reprimand would be something in the middle, given out for an offense that is not worth a suspension, but still frowned on.

General Counsel Dannelle Walker deals with most of the state's licensing cases and came up the initiative.

"We have pretty much a small hammer and a big hammer. We want to have like a screwdriver to make it a little bit better, and we are not pulling out the big hammer for such small offenses," Walker said.
However, the initiative is stirring a lot of confusion.

Sherry Morgan, president of the Knox County Teacher's Union, says there isn't a clear definition of what violations would warrant a public reprimand.

For example, could a bankruptcy, a domestic issue or a first time DUI offense be enough for a reprimand?

"They have their professional life. They have their personal life, and are they going to infringe on their personal lives? I honestly think it could ruin their careers," Morgan said.

"It's not going to be frivolous or arbitrary," Walker said. "It has to be in precedent of what we've done before."

Walker says teachers would not be unfairly targeted for bankruptcy or minor issues. . . .

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