Friday, April 27, 2012

PFT sticks with senority

From the Tribune:


Questioner said...

But is the PFT really sticking with seniorty- if PPS can get around seniority rules but designating less senior teachers it wishes to keep as "Promise Readiness Corps" members or put them in other protected positions?

There must be some precedent for this type of strategy in the labor/management history over the last century. The fact that the union is going along with this approach is a twist, but of course there have been other management friendly unions in the past as well.

Anonymous said...

From the article:

"The district's (PPS) reform efforts are funded in part by a $40 million grant from the Bill & Melinda Gates Foundation."

"We remain very committed to the work happening in Pittsburgh and stand fully behind Pittsburgh Public Schools," Gates spokeswoman Debbie Robinson said."

Broad Training and Gates Money are determining the fate of Pittsburgh Public Schools and the result has been devastating for 70% of PPS students.

Can there be any doubt about that?

Curious George said...

There is an mail-in election for PFT president going on right now. The ballots will be counted in mid-May.

I wonder if the current PFT staff will continue to uphold union seniority if they are re-elected.

Or will they begin to make concessions once the election is over?

Of course I am just speculating, but I find it interesting that Dr. Lane is still quite hopeful that an agreement can be reached.

Anonymous said...

it would be good to see projections of some type on what furloughs would look like if seniority were set aside for this round of human capital downsizing. who would make the determinations anyway? for the board (shealey) to being this forward and not have something to offer in terms of the effect and a timetable is irrespsonsible. how could this happen given the timeframe we are looking at anyway?

Anonymous said...

You can not tell me all these new teachers are more effective. All the PPS wants to do is save money by getting rid of more experienced and expensive teachers.

I hope this is the PFT's Munich. All our union has done is to appease the Ivory tower people. Its about time they stood up for the membership. Hopefully the Teacher's for Change slate gets voted in.

Anonymous said...

If Ms Shealey, the board, and Broad crowd really care so much about "the children" then she should devise a plan t "maintain the entact faculty" but asking one of the many sources of money coming in to please fund it-- for say 3 years. Lots of money coming in with long strings-- how about asking for something we want instead of running the schools by what the deep pockets want?

Anonymous said...

I for one am completely in favor of changing the archaic seniority rule. I cannot think of another field where you would keep your job just because you've been there for 30 years even if you are burnt out and not good at it anymore. My husband is one teacher who will probably be furloughed after 7 years of devotion to the district. His principal has tried to find a way to keep him over other senior teachers because he has been determined to be a highly effective teacher, but she has been unsuccessful thus far. His students and their parents have even petitioned the school board about keeping the more effective teachers and how these teachers have had such a profound effect on their lives. The board was sympathetic but essentially said their hands were tied. Then my husband received a voice mail last night from the PFT assuring him that seniority would always be the rule. What a pathetic excuse for people who supposedly are in the field of education to help children.

Anonymous said...

Or Ms. Shealey could have asked that the union and admin open discussions to make the Faison building exempt from furlough for three years. Not unreasonable.

Anonymous said...

Question: Was there something on the news about an Allderdice teacher today?

Anonymous said...

Anon 5:22 so what if he has 7 years in .What if it was he who had 20 years in and a person with 7 took his job ,how would he feel then so yes seniority is good for all who put the time and energy in .

In the Trenches said...

Anon 5:22,

Teacher seniority rules were in place in Pennsylvania long before teachers had union contracts. These rules were in the 1949 PA School Code.

So it's not a union thing, it's a dignity thing.

Perhaps your husband is the best teacher in the district. But without seniority rules, AT ANY TIME in his career he could be displaced by a younger and cheaper teacher.

He could be replaced by a teacher who is related to a school board director, or maybe by a teacher who is friends with the principal.

I've seen some of that happen in private schools.

I hope your husband doesn't get laid off.

But without seniority, why should the district call your husband back from layoff? Why not just interview some newer teachers? Surely they can find someone almost as good as your husband, but much cheaper.

And you should know that being rated "highly effective" actually means means very little. It's all very subjective. If your principal likes you, it's easy to get that rating.

I've seen favoritism, racism, and sexism in the PPS. That's no surprise, as those evils exist in some fashion everywhere.

Seniority rules help protect people from those evils.

Anonymous said...

Yes, and 5:22 what happens when your husband runs into a principal who doesn't like him? Gets a bad rating?

The district got rid of teachers this very year based on "performance." Why not just continue doing that?

If you think your husband should be able to make a career of teaching, rather than just something he does for 10.5 years and then is found to be lacking, it seems like you'd be looking for alternative solutions.

In the Trenches said...

To Anon 5:22 and Anon 8:53

Anon 8:53, you are so correct.

I know of teachers who got good ratings for years. Clever and innovative teachers who knew how to motivate students.

Then a new principal comes in, and all of a sudden good ratings become unsatisfactory ratings.

And to Anon 5:22, I believe you when you said that your husband is an excellent teacher.

Please believe me when I tell you that his rating could change in an instant should a new supervisor come in.

I would urge your husband to look hard for teaching work outside of the city. He should do that while he's still young enough to make the change.

Find a district that is stable, one that truly appreciates its employees.

Anonymous said...

Sound advice from 9:52. As sad as it may be, unless the current PPS central office changes soon, there is little hope for the Pittsburgh Public Schools. This administration is dismantling the district bit by bit, school by school, in a much more quickly devastation than could ever have been imagined.

We desperately need good people at all levels, but the incompetence at central office is clearly threatened by "good people.' More than "sad"---it is criminal.

In the Trenches said...

Let me add one more thing about teacher ratings. In today's PPS, a rating depends less on who the teacher is, and more on who is doing the rating.

An example:

A colleague of mine was doing a lesson that required the students to be placed in groups of four. Each group would work on problems together. This is called accountable talk.

One day a supervisor walked in and observed the class for all of 20 minutes. My colleague was then given a reprimand. Not enough accountable talk, he was told.

A few days later another supervisor observed the same class, working the same project, doing exactly the same thing.

My colleague received another reprimand. Too much accountable talk he was told. Not enough teacher imput.

But it got worse. The second supervisor put my colleague on an improvement plan (fail your improvement plan and you can get fired.)

My colleague told me that both he and his students were behaving exactly the same way on both days. He is both perplexed and angry.

It was the supervisor's arbitrary opinions that made all the difference.

My colleague is admired by his fellow teachers. He is a good teacher. What happened to him could easily happen to any PPS teacher, at any time.

Questioner said...

Maybe teachers should be evaluated by a panel of 3 individuals from outside his or her school.

Anonymous said...

If we have the money to make all observations not only long enough and with teams of three (these people tend to be paid more than the average teacher) and can get to all the teachers in the district at least once a year (senior teachers) or several times a year (newer teachers)...

then wouldn't that money be better spent on reducing class sizes, supporting extracurriculars, targeted one-on-one tutoring, and increasing class offerings?

In the Trenches said...

Questioner, your 11:02 suggestion is a good one.

The panel should be made up of one outside teacher, one supervisor, and - most importantly - one parent.

As it is now, a teacher is sometimes evaluated by groups of people. Five or more observers enter the classroom - all at once, like a parade - to evaluate the teacher. These evaluations are called walk-throughs.

But the walk-through members are all adminstrators or outside consultants. They are all from Bellefield, and they all have the same anti-teacher agenda. Their goal is to find something wrong, anything wrong.

It would be much better if an evaluation team represented all the stakeholders involved: the union, administration, and the parents.

And it's just as important that evaluations be objective, not subjective. Current evaluation points, such as "Are the students engaged in significant accountable talk?" are so vague as to be meaningless.

Anonymous said...

An earlier post on this thread mentioned the teachers for change slate... I am a PFT member and I am trying to gather some info before I vote, I am young teacher ( hoping to survive the cuts) and I know very little of the union. Can someone provide me with some info on the two slates... Or point me towards a non-bias source

In the Trenches said...

Anon 4:27

The Teachers for Change slate has info at:

I urgue you to visit that website.

If the current PFT staff has a campaign website, I'm not aware of it. Perhaps someone else here knows.

But I think that the bottom line is this.

If you are happy with the ways things are now, and if you think we're moving in the right direction, vote the incumbant slate. They are called the Committee to Continue an Effective Union.

But if you are unhappy with the ways things are now, and if you think we're moving in the wrong direction, vote Teachers for Change.

And if you have any other union questions, consider posting them here (moderator permitting) or at:

The Yahoo group requires a registration to sign in, read the blog, and post. It is worth the effort.

Good luck to you.

Questioner said...

Here's what Diane Ravitch has to say on the topic:

"What’s wrong with this argument? First of all, tenure for teachers is not lifetime tenure. It is not analogous to the job protection enjoyed by lifetime professors, which is almost beyond challenge. Teacher tenure means the right to due process, nothing more, nothing less. After a teacher has served satisfactorily for a period of years, depending on state law, an administrator decides whether the teacher should receive the right to due process. If administrators are awarding due process to incompetent teachers, then we have an administrator problem."

Anonymous said...

To the rookie teacher- I hope you last out the cuts too! Right now it is all too easy to say--gee, seasoned teachers should leave and make room for new blood. Trust me the veterans felt that way at some point. Bottom line is - as was said before, you need a union to fight for your rights so that when you have say 9 years in- you arent downrated to make room for a cheaper 2 yr teacher- before you hit max salary. The dues they take out are serious money. Make sure that you are getting a good deal for your bucks. For me, that is TFC-- but I've seen the other side go from a strong, fair union to a group totally on the side of administration. Our union never supported weak teachers,-- no matter what administration says. My advice to new teachers- demand and read your contract- you are the best assurance that you will not have your rights trampled. Many times I've seen things done in schools -- and then when you point out it is a blatant contract violation- administration goes OH, or we grieve it- that is what building committees are for--many have gone before you relying on -ooo my principal respects my work, etc--they can be gone in a heatbeat as others have said. Half the people in my building "just wanted as contract" and now are shocked at what was in the last contract because the couldnt read those details to be worked out. Perhaps this seniority flack will wake up the masses that the union has to do for its money than follow Roosevelt around and say-- isnt Gates wonderful?

Anonymous said...

As far as reading the contract when negotiations are going on, honestly, we don't get to read all the print. We see/hear what the hot topics are and that's it.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, I am going to ask you and others like you again to pose this question:

Just why do we have so many administrators?

Every individual department has people NOT in the classroom. I'm not even addressing the offices on Bellefield here. Every department!

How can we justify laying off/furloughing even ONE teacher to keep people NOT in the classroom employed?

Why is no one asking this question? Why is no public interest group pushing for answers?

Do not tell me that all of these individuals are paid via grant money, as is floated by some. That's an outright, absurd lie.

NOT ONE TEACHER--NOT ONE--should be furloughed. Cut administrators by the dozen. They are laughing at this entire process.

Education comes down to teachers and students in the classroom. Then it comes down to the support of parents. Period. There is no way what we are seeing should be allowed to continue.

When will some parent group of courage ask these questions and not settle for propaganda? It is your tax dollar going to scores of individuals who have nothing to do with the educational process (and we are also talking about a great many corrupt individuals, as well, but that's a story for another day).

Questioner, you run this site. You have some clout. Now use it.

Teachers are not and never have been the problem. You have a great many morally and ethically bankrupt people making big time decisions that will affect kids.

Have some gumption...and go after them. These are NOT good people.

Questioner said...

PPS is claiming a 40% reduction in central office since 2004.

True? Are some positions that were previously central office still in existence but somehow not in the central office? Or, was the number of lower paid staff members (secretaries, etc) reduced by 40% but the savings applied to higher salaries for other individuals? Or, is work previously done by central office now being outsourced to consultants? Maybe we need to compare central office plus consultants and outsourcing in 2004 to central office plus consultants and outsourcing in 2012.

Anonymous said...

Q, you are not digging hard enough:

1. The school district has spent almost as much defending the Fadzen claim as it did legal services period when it was staffed by two in-house attorneys;

2. The school district did not contract with the New Teacher Project to supplement HR staffing a decade ago. That's what, a cool million a year?

3. In the last 12 months the district contracted with Two Bell LLC (a powerhouse formed the same day they started working for PPS) and members of the crew that drove Detroit Public Schools into the ground. But hey, what's $400,000?

4. The district spends more with on-call Communications & Marketing Consultants than the entire public relations budget a decade ago. It's always nice to bring your old business to the table, eh (Veritas)?

5. Curriculum & Learning was much more of an in-house effort before the rise of Judy Johnston, the Institute of Learning and Anita Ravi, et al.

Instead of starting in 2004, measure from the point in 2005 when Andy King was Superintendent. Then add FTE equivalents for all of the 2011-12 consultants that were not previously outsourced. Then graph that result against enrollment decline and the number of schools open.

Anonymous said...

Questioner, do not fall for this ploy from the propaganda geniuses at PPS. Reduction? What a complete joke. I have been with this district for three decades and we have never had the number of people employed who have nothing to do with classrooms and students.
PPS would make such a claim and then laugh privately in stating that they pared down the number of secretaries and custodians, like teachers, people who should NOT be furloughed.
Ask questions. Be a pain in the ass. Contact Andy Sheehan. He has kids in PPS. Ask him to dig and not fall for the propaganda. Ask to see the books. Ask to get a listing of all employees and where they are employed.
Ask how the administrative offices of any single academic department can have as many as 8 or 10 people who aren't in the classroom. Ask how the professional development department can have so many employees.
Ask. Prod. Probe.
Get media involved and implore them to look beyond press releases.
The amount of corruption going on in this district, especially at the administrative level--is astounding.

Anonymous said...

As teachers are being displaced & laid off,and terminated. The over bloated administration grows even larger. There are two principals that are moving up to administration. The one from Carrick, J. Murphy is going to HR too work as a Rise expert. This is because principals are not putting enough teachers on improvement plans. Apparently she has shown the abilty to get rid of teachers.

Also HR has creating a anouther new postion they posted this week.
How many people are needed in HR if we are laying people off. They are being hired to help get rid of teachers.

Get rid of Lane and her crew or we will be the next Philly or Detroit.

Save Our Schools for the Children, not over paid do nothing administrators and consultants.

Anonymous said...

The school board made the decision to close Faison and restaff it last year. Did they not see at that time the potential/likelyhood that layoffs would occur in the near future? They are so shortsighted!!!!So now they are using Faison as an example of a school that will be hard hit by layoffs. Does anyone mention that along with the closing of Faison that the low scores were thrown out and they get to start again? The district benefits by getting a reboot.
Bottom line-anyone losing their job is awful.
The whole opinion being put out to the public is that the new teachers are the best. No, they are just less expensive.

Anonymous said...

If Faison wants to argue to keep some of their newer teachers, they should be able to do so under the fact that they were opened as a "pilot" for a school that was going to have some teachers reworking the curriculum during the first year and then implementing it in the second year.

I'd say that they specifically could argue to stay intact for the year (or lose a teaching slot, but based on subject area/grade/etc.

But that was and is supposed to be a special situation, not the same thing that's happening elsewhere.

And, rereading this article:

Why look at that! They have a principal, a vice principal, AND a director. Three administrators many kids? 450?

Anonymous said...

Where is that money saving plan that the Alumni group put out before? I bet if PPS would have follow that, if even a little bit we would not be in this situation now. Lane lacks the abilty to lead us of of this crisis. We need Government intervention and we need it now.

Anonymous said...

It certainly could be argued that Faison is not the only situation that deserves a TEAM of highly-qualified and committed teachers. There are other schools with principals, vice-principals, multiple directors, and an overwhelming majority of displaced teachers who did not choose to be there (and worse, do not want to be there). So, what is the task of all of these "administrators" ? To change their minds? To get rid of them? It creates an impossible environment for good education to take place for the students who need it the most--those who didn't get into Obama, Sci-Tech, CAPA.

The situation in PPS education is out of control. These "vulnerable" children do not have a chance to get a good education, let alone one with "equity" and "excellence."

It is all about adults and what they want or don't want and if they don't get it the students pay the price. Where is the leadership, the professionalism, the wisdom, the commitment, the autonomy, the strength of character to change the situation on behalf of Pittsburgh's children?

Anonymous said...


Anonymous said...

Caps Lock anon:

You're about a year behind the times! The grant for the Teachers Academy had two parts -- the outside money (40M) and what was to be PPS' match of the same amount.

By the end of last year it was clear that there was no way we could pay for our part and also clear that there was NO WAY that we needed to be training new teachers when there were already enough teachers with more cuts on the way.

All of the new, to be certified teachers were cut loose (why they thought this was needed in the first place is still a mystery). The teachers chosen to be the trainers are in place at Brashear and King and were to be training already in place teachers who wanted/needed help.

But even that (which was set up in a weird way and would have taken teachers out of classrooms in pre-PSSA weeks) seems to have vanished. Now those teachers are (in addition to teaching) being trained in RISE evaluating, just as prinicipals have been.

They are going to be part of evaluation teams, hopefully adding the perspectives of real teachers with current classroom experience to the ratings.

Anonymous said...

Seniority!!! What the Post Gazette and the Foundations are missing is the fact that the school district has a lengthy, lengthy history of not playing fair, dirty politics, fraud, and lying to name a few short comings. Seniority is one way to keep them straight!

Oh, that can't be, well let's take a look. Residency. One employee fired or forced out because he didn't live in the city and he was not part of the inner circle. Board secretary part of the inner circle allowed to live outside the city.

Criminal Records - Teacher with multiple felony drug arrests allowed to keep her teaching job. That can't be you say, au contrare. Her mother also a board employee and personal friends with Spolar. Legal justification for teacher keeping her job, Ira Weiss states arrest occurred in Maryland, so not applicable!

I guarantee you 20 teachers with 30 years experience would get bumped before this convicted teacher would be touched.

Think Spolar and the district's B.S. extends to layoffs and furloughs, take a look at the hirings.

Spolar in spite of numerous more qualified candidates, hired the brother of a Board Member. Oh did I mention Spolar accepted a hand drawn social security card, a bogus address and the hew hire by the way was a convicted drug dealing felon? He was quietly let go when Spolar's own employees threatened to go to the media.

Did I also mentioned that Spolar waived the background check on the Board Members brother? Isn't that in and of itself illegal???

Weiss said, "No" but what do you expect from a solicitor who has been arrested on Federal Charges, tried and convicted and who was involved in "BonusGate", caught taking taxpayer money for no work. It was Weiss' law firm who tried to get a key central administrator to alter a state report (perjury) as a favor for a state senator.

Yes, we teachers will trust them to play fair.