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Sun Jun 3, 2012, 10:09 PM

Teacher tenure: a Fairfax schools firing case

Twenty-one witnesses testified in the case to decide whether Violet Nichols should be allowed to continue teaching in the Fairfax County Public Schools. The last sworn in was Nichols herself.

For days, she had listened poker-faced as Fairfax school officials picked apart her classroom performance, arguing that she was incompetent, intransigent and undeserving of her teaching position.

Now it was her turn to tell a different story: that she was unfairly attacked by a principal determined to see her go.

Such hearings are central to the job protections known as tenure. Once politically untouchable, tenure has become a target for politicians from both parties who call it an obstacle to improving public education.

more . . . http://www.washingtonpost.com/local/education/teacher-tenure-a-fairfax-schools-firing-case/2012/06/02/gJQAVt4l9U_story.html

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Arrow 27 replies Author Time Post
Reply Teacher tenure: a Fairfax schools firing case (Original post)
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 OP
southernyankeebelle Jun 2012 #1
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 #2
southernyankeebelle Jun 2012 #5
bluestateguy Jun 2012 #3
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 #4
YvonneCa Jun 2012 #24
Reader Rabbit Jun 2012 #6
Goblinmonger Jun 2012 #7
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 #8
rayofreason Jun 2012 #9
Goblinmonger Jun 2012 #10
rayofreason Jun 2012 #11
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 #13
rayofreason Jun 2012 #14
proud2BlibKansan Jun 2012 #15
rayofreason Jun 2012 #20
YvonneCa Jun 2012 #25
kwassa Jun 2012 #16
rayofreason Jun 2012 #19
kwassa Jun 2012 #26
HiPointDem Jun 2012 #17
rayofreason Jun 2012 #18
HiPointDem Jun 2012 #21
rayofreason Jun 2012 #22
HiPointDem Jun 2012 #23
kwassa Jun 2012 #27
mbperrin Jun 2012 #12

Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Sun Jun 3, 2012, 10:22 PM

1. I don't know what this case is truly about but I can tell you my son was in the Fairfax system

 

and he was treated well. He was in a special class where there were only 14 kids. His teacher looked like a student she was so little but the kids really respected her. When she was having a problem she would call me and we worked together. She was what a good teacher was suppose to be about. You can't find that today. We found out later after we moved to another state the teacher died 2 yrs later of cancer. What a sad day for that school system.

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Response to southernyankeebelle (Reply #1)

Sun Jun 3, 2012, 11:00 PM

2. It's really a sad story

You should read it. And it's not unusual. I could replace the name of the teacher and tell the same story about several teachers I know.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #2)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 06:27 AM

5. I read the article. I think it is something personal and nothing to do with her teaching.

 

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 12:31 AM

3. My hunch from what is presented here

Is that she had a falling out with the administrators, she is still an average to above-average teacher, and the administrators want to get her high salary off the books.

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Response to bluestateguy (Reply #3)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 12:48 AM

4. Sounds like they had a quota

Each principal was told to put X number of teachers on improvement plans and to terminate X number. That's not at all uncommon.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #4)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 04:56 PM

24. Exactly right. Happened in my district, too. n/t

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 01:23 PM

6. This is really depressing.

I hope she wins the right to do her job again. If not, I hope she sues the crap out of that district for wrongful termination.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 01:27 PM

7. Could be worse: could live in Wisconsin

 

where we no longer have tenure.

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Response to Goblinmonger (Reply #7)

Mon Jun 4, 2012, 01:52 PM

8. True dat

Although tenure hasn't helped the teacher in the story.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Fri Jun 8, 2012, 02:59 PM

9. There is a lot of info in the article....

...both for against Nichols, so it is impossible based on the story to come to a firm conclusion one way or the other.

One thing is a matter of public record - her $92,000/yr salary. Not bad for 9 months. Fairfax is a rich district, to be sure, but the fact remains that in many places teaching can lead to a financially comfortable life. This fact should be communicated to good students, who should be encouraged to enter teaching as a career. We need strong students with degrees in content (science, math, humanities) to become teachers now more than ever.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #9)

Fri Jun 8, 2012, 03:14 PM

10. What degrees does she have? How long has she been teaching?

 

How does that salary compare to a comparable level of education and experience in the private sector?

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Response to Goblinmonger (Reply #10)

Fri Jun 8, 2012, 04:30 PM

11. Compare to private sector?

The 30 yrs you might compare, but not the level of education.

She has a Ph.D., but (as far as one can tell from the article) always been an elementary teacher. That means that she got a degree in elementary ed. for which there is no counterpart in the private sector. In fact, many states have eliminated such degrees because they are not rigorous - they now require a content degree, plus ed. certification. What about the Ph.D.? Again, there is no counterpart in the private sector. The only private sector jobs that routinely employ Ph.D.s are STEM fields (plus financial companies). And there is no comparison between a STEM Ph.D. and an E.D., but

The salary scale for Fairfax County is easy to find.

http://va.aft.org/fcft/index.cfm?action=article&articleID=6433f015-facf-4dc6-854d-11e5401ea0bd

What you see there is that the lowest salary ($44,440) though lower that the median household income in VA of $60,363 (in 2010). But a home with two beginning teachers in Fairfax County getting the lowest pay would have an income of $88,880, far above the household median. And this is for 9 months work, not 12. And with 15 years experience with a B.A., a $70K salary would not be out of line.

For comparison, the national average starting salary this year for a B.S. in Electrical Engineering is $48,700 - for 12 months of work.

The bottom line is that Fairfax County pay for teachers is really quite attractive overall.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #11)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 12:07 AM

13. Teachers do not work only 9 months

I'm so sick of hearing this I could scream.

We've replied repeatedly here on DU to this ridiculous false accusation. It's disheartening to see it posted yet again.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #13)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 12:15 AM

14. Fine, make it 10 months...

...but teachers do not work full time over the summer - unless they are getting paid extra for that.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #14)

Tue Jun 12, 2012, 01:30 AM

15. No they don't. They get to pay tuition to go to school.

And the long days they put in during the school year as well as weekends more than makes up for the time they don't teach in the summer.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Reply #15)

Sat Jun 16, 2012, 12:38 PM

20. The Bureau of Labor Statistics...

...numbers indicate that teachers do not work extraordinarily long hours during the 10 months that they are typically on contract (which includes about 4 weeks of vacation for holidays) when compared to other professionals.

http://www.bls.gov/opub/mlr/2008/03/art4full.pdf

http://teaching.monster.com/careers/articles/4039-when-where-and-how-much-do-us-teachers-work

More statistical evidence here.

http://www.bls.gov/ooh/Education-Training-and-Library/Kindergarten-and-elementary-school-teachers.htm#tab-1

I notice that in your arguments against my point that in many places teachers are actually reasonably compensated (though significant improvements to the compensation structure could be made), you have not cited any external evidence. Do you take issue with the BLS numbers, and if so, what evidence do you provide in favor of your position?

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #20)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 05:02 PM

25. Well then, the Bureau of Labor Statistics...

...would be wrong. Period.

You do know one can use numerical data to create and cite statistics for about any case needing to be made. In this case, it just isn't true. Twenty-four years of employment in the public school system is the source of my evidence.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #11)

Wed Jun 13, 2012, 06:21 PM

16. Fairfax County is the 3rd wealthiest county in the United States. The cost of living is high.

On an indice of the US median cost of living = 100, the cost of living in Fairfax = 151.

http://www.bestplaces.net/cost_of_living/county/virginia/fairfax

Fairfax is surrounded by the 1st and 2nd wealthiest counties in the US, Loudon and Falls Church.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/nathanvardi/2012/04/24/americas-richest-counties/

This teacher's salary buys far less here than it would in many places in the US.

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Response to kwassa (Reply #16)

Sat Jun 16, 2012, 12:26 PM

19. It is quite wealthy...

...but even there a two teacher household can do reasonably well (see the other post).

There are plenty of other places that are less expensive than Fairfax County where starting salaries are reasonable - like Houston, which has much lower cost of living.

http://blog.chron.com/schoolzone/2011/11/starting-teacher-pay-is-not-the-problem/

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #19)

Mon Jun 18, 2012, 06:09 PM

26. You make a very false argument.

You choose to assume a two-income household, when many teachers have only one. Secondly, there is child-care expense, which is high, if both parents are working. Single mothers who teach have it the worse, of course, as we live in a country where half the married population is divorced.

Houston has one of the lowest cost-of-livings in the US, so your argument is disingenuous. Should teachers all move to Houston?

I teach in Montgomery County,MD, across the Potomac from Fairfax. We have many of the same economic issues. Most public school teachers commute long distances from the northern exurbs because they can't afford housing here. This is a system with 11,000 teachers in a county with a population of about 900,000, covering a large territory. It is not an easy commute, either, as it is both long and very congested.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #11)

Thu Jun 14, 2012, 12:56 AM

17. it says here 2010 median household income in fairfax county = 103K & median family income =

 

$122K.

if there are two teachers in a household, that implies family income. so $88K is below median, either way, by 14 - 29%.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/demogrph/gendemo.htm#inc

you're comparing a national average starting salary for EE's to starting salary for teachers in one of the wealthiest school districts in the country & saying "ooh, look how much they make!" well, when you work for rich people, typically you make more -- same for ee's.

try comparing applies to apples.

according to this: http://www.nytimes.com/2011/05/01/opinion/01eggers.html

In real terms, teachers’ salaries have declined for 30 years. The average starting salary is $39,000; the average ending salary — after 25 years in the profession — is $67,000.

According to this: http://www.nea.org/home/12661.htm

According to a recent study by the National Association of Colleges and Employers, the teaching profession has an average national starting salary of $30,377.

And according to this: http://www.teacherportal.com/teacher-salaries-by-state

Teachers' starting salaries range from a low of $24K in North Dakota to a high of $39K in CT.


and this gives $40k to $69K for an EE with less than 1 year of experience:

http://www.payscale.com/research/US/Job=Electrical_Engineer/Salary#by_Years_Experience

and this says average ee starting salary = $61K.

http://www.cnbc.com/id/44008484/Highest_Paid_Bachelor_Degrees_of_2011?slide=5


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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #17)

Sat Jun 16, 2012, 12:24 PM

18. Quite true...

...that the household income of a pair of beginning teachers (22/23 years old?) would be well below the median household income....

But the median age in Fairfax is 37.3.

http://www.fairfaxcounty.gov/demogrph/gendemo.htm

Someone that age who started at age 23 would mean 14 years in the system. The salary for 14 years with a BA is $63,555, so that a home with two teachers would have a household income of $127,110 - more than the median in one of the wealthiest counties in the US. Not too bad.

And they can do other things during the summer to add to their income. So all in all, not such a dire financial portrait as many would paint. And it is the general sense that teachers are very poorly paid that keeps many from considering teaching as a career. That plus the caps on salaries at the high end.

http://blog.chron.com/schoolzone/2011/11/starting-teacher-pay-is-not-the-problem/

We need to recruit stronger students into teaching, and pointing out that in many places teaching can pay reasonably well is important. We also need to figure out how to pay math and science teachers more than other areas or you will lose those teachers to industry. Finally there must be a way to evaluate teachers on the quality of their teaching and pay them accordingly, while getting rid of bad teachers (i.e., "rubber rooms" in NY). To have a system like DC public schools that spends upwards of $28K per student per year while turning out a miserable education for the students is unsustainable public policy, apart from being a disaster for the kids. Good teachers should be paid more and bad teachers paid less and/or weeded out.


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Response to rayofreason (Reply #18)

Sat Jun 16, 2012, 05:08 PM

21. Yes, *if* two teachers started in Fairfax at age 23, and *if* they lived together or were married,

 

they'd have an income above the median household income, and slightly above the median *family* income, which is the income of married couples & families.

I doubt that's the norm, but I'm not sure why you find it so problematic. Or rather, I am pretty sure why you find it so problematic.

As for the rest of your post, it's standard education deform boilerplate & bears no relation to reality. I'm tired of arguing with idealogues who a) don't know what they're talking about and b) don't care to know, because they're fixated on destroying public schooling and destroying unions.

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Response to HiPointDem (Reply #21)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 10:02 AM

22. My point is...

...that the standard view that teachers are miserably underpaid is simply not correct. By perpetuating the myth we drive potentially excellent teachers away from even considering teaching as a career.

With regard to "fixations", I cannot understand how anyone who is concerned about providing quality education to all children cannot be less than appalled at the state of many school systems. Perhaps there are many people who don't care because it is easy to get away from the problem and not have it impact their own children. The wealthy often just send their kids to private schools. Others just choose to live in places where the public schools are excellent (my case). But what about someone who is not so fortunate as to be able to pick and choose? We can do much better. While I have great concerns about measures that have a high statistical noise when applied to an individual teacher (these "value added" evaluations are particularly bad as a singular measure), I refuse to accept that there is no reliable mix of methodologies that can be used to evaluate teachers and teaching.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #22)

Sun Jun 17, 2012, 12:54 PM

23. in fact, teachers are miserably underpaid in some states compared to their education. i quoted

 

you the figures, but you seem more interested in proving that teachers are living high on the hog when they are in the best of circumstances making middle-class incomes.

of course we can do better. but the remedies of the education deform crowd have nothing to do with wanting to do better. nor do your posts, i think, as they are focused on teachers. teachers aren't the problem. teachers are not the reason that low-income schools underperform middle-class schools.

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Response to rayofreason (Reply #22)

Mon Jun 18, 2012, 06:28 PM

27. Teachers are evaluated, and the idea that they are not is false.

The idea that some objective system currently exists, or can possibly exist in the near future, to evaluate all teachers under a single system is pure fantasy. Most of what any teacher does is not measured, or measurable, at this time. Most curricula is not currently measured.

At this time, no reliable, and I stress that word reliable, mix of methodologies exists. If it does, it hasn't been scientifically measured yet and proven to be scientific.

Most teachers are on regular evaluation schedules. There is immense subjectivity to these evaluations. The evaluators are usually principals and vice-principals, who may or may not be expert at teaching certain content areas, or in teaching at all. My experience with a few bad principals tells me that the system is still very flawed. Schools, unlike most business operations, are like small de-centralized businesses with little oversight from the central office. This makes them like little kingdoms, subject to the whims of the leader. That is the greatest problem, and also a great argument for teachers' unions as protection from those whims.

Unless there is a massively ramped-up system for teacher evaluation utilizing both much more money and personnel, it will not happen in a responsible way. Testing right now consumes big chunks of instructional time.

And teachers rightly fear being held responsible for life circumstances of students over which they have no control, which greatly impact the student's readiness to learn in the classroom. The idea that simply improving teacher quality will overcome poverty and difficult live circumstances is the great farcical notion of the so-called reform movement.

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Response to proud2BlibKansan (Original post)

Mon Jun 11, 2012, 11:27 PM

12. I see that Virginia school management bastards are no different from their Texas counterparts.

Become a union rep and get run off - seems to be clear. The panel of 3 certainly thought so in the article.

It would be nice if a virus could be developed that created an irresistible urge to retire in bad administrators.

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