It's no wonder that North Adams Teachers will only speak off-the-record.
Read this and be a little disgusted.
¶ 5:18 PM
An interesting and disturbing article to say the least---however -I don;t see the tie into your perpetual tirade about the North Adams School System as being applicable---your complaint as I have read it many times is that NA teachers feel cowed about presenting criticisms about the way the shcolls are operated--- in the cases delineated in this article it was not about criticism of the school system----except maybe in the "poetry" case. Although a teacher's union official was quoted - there was nothing in the article that led one to believe that the teachers in question were protected by a union or by tenure-----The University of Colorado has tried to be very caerful in its firing of Ward Churchill-- by NOT challenging his rights of free speech--but instead has focused on his misrepresentation of himself in terms of credentials-- and plagiarism-----what surprises me is that given te liberal/leftist orientation of faculty--- that such measures would be taken for obvious liberal sentiments in the cases of the teachers identified in the article-----for all the criticism that I heaped on the Aceto administration in its efforts to re-constitute the curriculum--- Tom defended my right to be critical-- whether in e-mail wars or on my show---to his everlasting credit- Tom Aceto---honored the first amendment---maybe that was because I was tenured and had a union behind me (although most in the union disagreed with my position)---and maybe because he thought some of my criticicisms had some merit---Tom Aceto was never opposed to open dialogue----even though he may have had a final outcome in mind-------the teachers that are identified in the article--should never have been fired--or even disciplined---but I don't think that that goes to your eternal criticism of the North Adams School Board and the Mayor---chbpod
As for union protection, I believe that no NA teachers are protected before their 4th year teaching. Regardless, all teachers in their first 3 years are automatically "pink slipped" at the end of the school year and only recalled if the funds and the desire are present for fall.
Their reasons may vary, but in my conversations with many, many teachers regarding various subjects, not a single one has ever allowed him/herself to be quoted. Not one.
That's pretty standard--especially for for non-tenured-- and first few years teachers--don't rock the boat-- but surely any concerns can be raised through the union-- and can be passed on by that organization by representatives who are "untouchable"----most non-tenured teachers---actually most teachers-- no matter how long they have bgeen in any system----don't take their cases to the press---and one reason-- although certainly not the only one is they might be afraid of being misrepresented by the press that may have its own axe to grind---thus ---silence---that bodes well-- at least those teachers are atuned to critical thinking---chbpod
How appalling! She wasn't urging her students to take any particular action; she was just expressing her personal view. Teachers are people; they have personal views that should be allowed expresseion if phrased clearly as a personal opinion. We are losing our basic rights, folks!
An interesting quandary? Are our teachers and professors only to teach what is contained in the books that are allowed by the School Board Administrator, and not question the contents validity or offer, for discussion, other points of view? I was always under the impression that public schools were institutions that were to foster free thinking and expansion of thought through questioning. What this latest attempt seems to say is that teachers are not hired to teach, but only to pass on the views of the Head Administrator of the School Board and what he considerer's as the truth. Why does this form of teaching ring a bell? Can you say...China, North Korea, USSR, Hitlers Germany, Cuba, Venezuela! Are our Administrators so afraid of the other point of view that they try to silence it? That is not teaching that is dictating!
Public school teachers are certainly people. But the law proscribes that they, along with many other public employees are expressly forbidden from expressing political opinions while on duty. The key phrase is 'on duty'. The Hatch Act, passed, I think, in the '90's, makes sure all but a certain group of federal and other public employees can express their politics privately without fear of reprisal. But while 'on duty'? Never... Plus, it's difficult for us to understand out here in the blue, blue, foothills of western Massachusetts but there are many areas of the country where a casual negative reference to the war is taken very seriously. I'm sure many of the kids in that elementary school have moms and dads in Iraq and Afghansitan. "I honk for peace" sounds innocent enough to us but is without a doubt a very provocative statement in Indiana. That teacher would've known that. It is very disingenuous for her to sound so shocked about the reaction. Finally, I disagree with your opinion of the North Adams public school system. Like any public school system in former New England mill towns, there is a wide socioeconomic range of student in the North Adams schools. Superintendent Jim Montepare is, and before him Joe Rogge and before him Bob Maroni were, deeply and sincerely committed to making sure every single child who enters a North Adams public school is afforded the same opportunity to succeed and thrive. And a student can succeed and thrive in the North Adams schol system - most do. Bill Donovan
I don't like the scenario where a student asks an innocent and meanigful question of a teacher-- who must respond- "I can;t answer that question!: to see it turned around when the teacher asks the student "how much is two and two" and the student says- "I'm sorry I can;t snwer that question"----a lot of this has to be put in the context of the classroom---"I honk for peace" is not something that has anything to do with Algebra---but in a social studies class??? I think it's okay-----but my frame of reference is college teaching not K-12 and I know damn well that there are plenty of profs who let wear their political views on their sleeves------no matter what the class or subject matter is----not that I am using anything more that hypothetical----- but does an Literature Prof have the "right" to rail against the Bush administration (or any administration-- left or right) when they are supposed to be discussing John Donne?????-----I don;t think so---as far as my teaching is concerned---in class that is__ I have pointed out within a specific time contest- that contrary to lefist views that Bush launched a "pre-emptive war"--- he did--- but the assertion that the United States had never done that before-- au contraire mon frere----ask the Mexicans about 1846 and the Spanish about 1898---no we don't get into the pros and cons of pre-emptive war---just the facts--and of course the lefties can't be consistant (that never matters) in condemning Bush and pre-emptive war-- and still blaming Pearl Harbor on American Imperialism-------Pearl Harbor was not the first Japanese pre-emptive strike that launched a war---try the Port Arthur attack against the Russians in 1904---chbpod
Bill - I understand where you are coming from, but the issue is not one of using public resources for political purposes (i.e. Hatch Act), it one simply of free speech and whether it is checked at the employer's door. (If there was any overtly political act, it was the dismissal of the teacher by the district.) The issue is much closer to the attempted firing of Officer Robare by Mayor Barrett.
As for the North Adams Public Schools, I know and like many of the people who work for and are involved in the schools. Great things happen in the district every day.
But sincerity is not enough.
When fewer than 3 of every 4 kids who enter Drury in 9th grade ever graduate, I find it appalling that the powers that be hold up the obvious fact that all graduates must pass the MCAS, and a couple dozen kids go on to competitive colleges as "proof" that the schools are somehow wonderful.
If you boil the data down further and on track the Conte graduates entering Drury, the graduation rate drops even lower. (Check out the theory of economic integration in public schools and then look at the impact of Clarksburg and Stamford on the quality of the educational environment at Drury)
The only member of the "policy" end of the school system that tries to shake things up is John Hockridge. Although he and I have locked horns on the way extended day was handled, I think that his work on middle schools is crucial. He has my sincere support. Dick Alcombright has also mentioned some radical ideas in the past, but he is wedded to the McCann system and does not use his council seat to agitate for change in the NAPS.
Personally, I would go much farther than either of them, but that is a hornet's nest for another day.