Wednesday, May 2, 2012

PFT VP's position on seniority

From the PG:


Moe said...

Right idea, wrong messenger.

The author of the article, William Hileman, is part of the current PFT leadership.

That's the leadership that that stood by as senior teachers lost their positions because they weren't picked by the secretive PRC panels.

That's also the leadership that stood by as senior teachers were focused, then fired.

That's also the leadership that told fired teachers that the unionlawyers would not fight for them as it would "look bad" for the union.

And it's not like Hileman (or the PFT president Nina Esposito-Visgitis, for that matter) protested any of this.

On the contrary. Hileman and Esposito-Visgitis ignored any teacher who raised objections about the new policies.

I regret having to make what seems like a personal attack here. But it really bothers me that the PFT is now suddenly coming out in favor of seniority.

Could it only be because it's election time, and they are being challenged by a strong reform slate?

I suspect that is the case. And I also suspect that should the current PFT staff win reelection, it will be back to business as usual.

Anonymous said...

As a parent of children in PPS that values effective teachers, I expect the PFT and PPS to have the discussion about seniority and other important, difficult conversations in order to work together to create and implement equitable educational policies that provide positive outcomes for all students. I also expect that families and community members be welcomed to the discussions as we are partners in this process.

Since it doesn't benefit students and teachers for us (the District, PFT and community) to battle about difficult decisions, let's encourage and be a part of these discussions, regardless of how difficult they are, and take this opportunity as adults to model civility for our children.

With that said, Moe I agree it IS highly suspect that this seniority discussion began during a contested PFT election. Is there a political motive? Maybe. But, it IS true that 400 teachers will be furloughed using seniority as the only factor and great, effective teachers will be on the furlough list.

Ignoring the issue of timing and the PFT election for a minute, I'd like to add an element to the conversation that I believe has been overlooked.....the Teaching and Learning Environment, I like to call it more simply -SCHOOL CLIMATE.

I'm completely puzzled that teachers and PFT have not emphasized the fact that teachers CAN NOT be highly effective WITHOUT a POSITIVE SCHOOL CLIMATE and any measurements of teacher effectiveness MUST take into account the school-wide climate in the school they teach.

Poor school climates are filled with distractions and disruptions due to behavior issues and make it impossible for teachers to teach and students to learn.

In a poor school climate, where District wide behavior systems (including a tiered-based system of interventions and supports) are not available, how can a teacher be expected to improve his/her practice of managing student conduct?

The District (not teachers) has chosen NOT to teach students social and emotional skills and has placed all the emphasis on teaching ONLY academics even though for the past 2 years teachers overwhelmingly (28 schools) told the District, in the New teacher Survey, that managing student conduct is the #1 thing keeping them from being able to be highly effective.

The reality of our PPS student population, majority low income, makes school climate the most critical factor for student achievement yet it gets the least attention.

Many, many children entering PPS do not have basic social skills needed to enable them to learn. PPS students struggle with the ability to demonstrate appropriate behavior and instead of proactive measures aimed at teaching students skills they need to manage their own behavior and successfully interact with others, the District utilizes a system of punitive discipline.

The District must systematically teach, assess and provide interventions for behavior in the same way we teach, assess and provide interventions for reading! Could you imagine the outrage if students were suspended if they couldn't read?

The lack of a district wide system for behavior has created a PPS school climate crisis. Families are leaving the District (especially to go to Charter Schools) because they don't think their kids are safe.

If I was a teacher, I would insist that ALL PPS schools have a positive school climate- NOW! Demand that barriers to effective teaching be removed before value added measures are used to evaluate teacher practice.

Parents, we need to demand that classroom teaching MUST include the development of students fundamental social and emotional competence in addition to academics.

Therefore, until PPS has achieved the goal of positive school climates in all PPS schools and has implemented a district wide system of behavior systems, measurements of effective teaching are not valid.

Anonymous said...

Hileman is one of the few at the PFT that I respect. He has integrity and is smart. I've seen him go after principals and other central admins. He's the right messenger for this, actually.

Anonymous said...

Hileman, He was never elected

He's a snake oil salesman

He's only concerned with his own future

Anonymous said...

Anonymous May 2, 2012 11:05 PM states that Hileman is great and he stands up for the union. If he likes you yes. First hand with him he tells union people lucky you got a job. Has they get a CI on them.


Anonymous said...


Moe said...

anon 11:05

Yes, Hileman is smart, and yes, he has gone after administrators on occasion.

But Hileman and his follow PFT staff members are all failing at their most important function: protecting the membership.

Teachers need time to establish themselves in a building. But now teachers are being moved from building to building for arbitrary reasons. If the secretive PRC panel doesn't like you, off you go.

The union staff doesn't even question this! They don't even ask for a simple explanation.

And anon 7:20 is right. Good teachers are getting CI's (critical incidents) filed against them for no good reason. And the union really is saying just shut up, you're lucky you've got a job.

Sure, administration has the right to tell a teacher to just shut up. Administration is the employer. But it's the union that is saying that, to dues-paying members!

And worse, teachers with 10, 20 years of service are being fired. These are teachers who have received good ratings all their careers!!! Then a new curriculum comes in, and all of a sudden these teachers are being focused and fired.

These good people do not deserve that fate. Their lives are ruined. They've got mortgages and they've got kids in college, but now no work.

It was the union's DUTY to represent these people. But the union - Hileman included - did nothing, and continue to do nothing.

As I mentioned in an earlier post, it is the union's position that it would "look bad" to fight for these teachers. If Hileman disagrees with that policy, he has certainly said nothing about it.

So I'm not impressed that Hileman might have met with some principal over a lunch schedule dispute, or something like that.

He and the rest of the PFT staff are failing miserably where it really matters.

Anonymous said...

The calendar says May 2, 2012. Everyone needs to back away from the issue of seniority-based furloughs to avoid another debacle the size of the Westinghouse Single-gender academy disaster.

We can't declare 2012 the year of the effective teacher and this is not a one-shot evaluation. You can't say all young teachers are at peak effectiveness and will remain so throughout their careers. Life happens and impacts quality performance. Babies are born, eldercare becomes an issue, daycare worries arise, and working on a master's distracts even the most effective teacher. Older teachers too could become less effective with aching joints and an eye toward retirement. What newbies and seniors have in common is the ability to become more effective.

Sorry to say this can't be decided now for the 2012-13 school year and should probably be part of the next oontract negotiations.

PPS Teacher said...

Excellent post, Anon May 2, 10:50 PM!

Let me say that again. Excellent post! You should run for school board, or at the very least send your post to the newspapers as a letter to the editor.

When we teachers informally discuss/dream about how to improve the Pittsburgh Public Schools, high on our list is school climate.

Without orderly hallways and orderly classrooms, nothing else really matters.

Sometimes individual principals will address this issue, but it is never discussed where it really matters, at district-wide meetings.

It's as if the concept of school climate doesn't even exist! At the district-wide meetings we are told about the latest teaching methods (fads, actually), and how we must implement them.

But no one talks about school climate, or discipline, ever.

And here's why. It takes courage to address school climate. Central administators simply don't want to be bothered. It's much easier to endlessly tweak the curriculum, then blame the teachers when the scores are low.

Anonymous said...

You know, someone mentioned Gates money. I hate to get off track but I wonder how Gates feels about technology buying from the competitor, IE IPads.

Anonymous said...

Hi Moe. Respectfully, it's disingenuous to say the union did nothing about the recent firings. Several were grieved. Some were won by the union and others were not.

Moe said...

Anon 10:10

Several of the Pittsburgh teachers that were fired in the last year are friends of mine. I trust the word of each and every one of them.

In every case, the union did nothing to help them. Nothing! As I posted above, one of them was told that it would "look bad".

I am happy to hear that the union did grieve a couple of the firings.

But, respectfully, I must tell you that that doesn't change my feelings one bit.

Every PFT member pays dues. Those dues are like a retainer.
It is the DUTY of the union to defend each and every member.

It is like having a lawyer on retainer, but more so. You can switch lawyers if you want to, but you can't switch unions.

No other union would abandon a member to the wolves like the PFT does. Not the UAW, not the USW, none of them would.

So it really doesn't matter if the PFT is grieving 10% of the firings, or 50%. They are not protecting all of their members as they should.

It's like having a lawyer on retainer who doesn't bother showing up for your trial. It is indefensible, and a disgrace.

Anonymous said...

10:50 PM Parent, You are absolutely 100% correct that school environment should be the #1priority in our schools. If you refer to prior blogs, you will see that this issue has been addressed several times.

It used to be students, staff and parents had a clear understanding of expectations, pro-active actions, intervention responses, and clear, consistent, consequences for students who continually interrupt the teaching and learning process as well as the orderly environment in our school. Teachers and the school in general were able to meet the needs of students. Unfortunately, the majority of our schools are no longer led by principals who understand that the structure of the learning environment is paramount to advance student learning outcomes. It should be noted that the PPS philosophy of safe schools was gone with the wind when PPS hired MR and now Lane. Mind you, MR never taught or served one day as a school principal and Lane's classroom experience was in the primary grades and curriculm. She never served one day as a principal. Now our schools are feeling the reprocussions of their inexperience and the PELA program they designed to train new leaders was remise in including the value of school organization and management in relation to student behavior and academic achievement.

I worked for several principals in the past most of which are retired but they knew the value setting the tone in the school. Now teachers are being held accountable for student discipline one class at a time with minimal to no administrative support in setting school wide expectations for student behavior. We have a district Code of Conduct but the breakdown is the failure to implement by principals.

As for furloughs, seniority must count. What PPS may want to negotiate with the PFT is the need to consider an appropriate placement of teachers into specific schools. Yes, I'm sure it would be difficult to relocate to a new school but maybe some honest dialogue between the employee, principal, PFT Reps and Human Resources could place teachers in a school that is a best fit for the employee to impact student achievement. I'm sure some may say, it's not right for teacher x to be transferred to an easier assignment but maybe another carrot could be salary differential for those who are placed in our most challenging schools?

Those teachers who are most successful in moving student achievement, assign them to a challenging school and offer them a monetary incentive. Those schools that are deemed less challenging, well those teachers compensation would of course be decreased.

As salary increases year by year and/or performance, so could salaries vary at the onset by school assignment. We do want to place a majority of our most successful teachers at our most challenging schools? So consider doing away with building seniority and only maintain system wide seniority. Those close to retirement could be afforded shall we say an easier assignment with less compensation as they continue to move towards retirement. Those who have high value added scores, offer them the opportunity to transfer to or remain at a more difficult assignment and provide additinal compensation for doing so. Two purposes are now served. Teachers who are rated as struggling but not unsatisfactory in a current assignment have the chance to move to another school where he/she may be successful and continue to work toward retirement and those who are highly successful move to where the students need them most and are compensated for doing so at the onset with the expectation of earning a bonus for increasing student achievement scores.

Anonymous said...

It absolutely boggles my mind how Upper Administration continues to be in a rush to point the finger at teachers for the academic struggles that occur in the PPS. What about the ineffective, incompentent, PELA molded principals that cannot lead a school! True, there are a number of terrific principals at certain buildings. However, there are many principals that have NO control over their buildings and these pricipals are permitted to use every excuse in the book as to why their buildings are struggling. These principals blame the teachers and get away with excuses because upper administration will never admit that these PELA trained principals lack "people" skills, an understanding of effective instruction, and the ability to accept input from teachers! These PELA trained principals were molded and have ruined a number of schools in the district.

Anonymous said...

You know, someone mentioned Gates money. I hate to get off track but I wonder how Gates feels about technology buying from the competitor, IE IPads.

May 3, 2012 7:09 PM

I was wondering if the pro-mac (which makes no financial sense) ruffeled The Gates Foundation too. They expect payback.

Anonymous said...

Why can't they come up with a scoring system for deciding who gets furloughed. You could earn points based on senority, attendance,observations etc.... That way you would get credit for senority but it wouldn't be the only factor involved.

I do agree with the person that wrote that all central administration is concerned about is teacher and principal "training" and curriculum. I think they have principals out of their buildings more than they are in their buildings. It's not hard to figure out that teaching the basics of reading, writing and arithmetic in a standard format has worked for decades. It's only been the past decade or so when scores have bottomed out. Lets think about what has changed...hhhhmmmm...could it be discipline and a lack of parental involvement. At this point every time you discipline a child the parent is on the phone defending their childs behavior. That's crazy....when I was a kid if the teacher said something negative to my parents my parents took their word for it, not mine and I got beat. Parents don' even make their kids do their homework and it's so bad that some parents don't even get out of bed in the morning to help their kids get ready for school.

A good percentage of these parents are on welfare and get all kinds of government help so they don't work and raising their kids is their ONLY job.

We need to hold parents accountable just as much as we hold the teachers accountable. Kids should be removed from homes that don't value education. These parents get increased welfare for each child that the have so what do you think their main motivation is for having kids???? Let's say it's certainly not to have a family but to make additional income...

Enough said.....