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Doug Mann LPN, LNC

Re: Sharon Henry Blythes' comments #2

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A response to Dave Tilsen, former MPS director

Dave Tilsen writes: "I agree with Mr. Mann that this is a
terrible situation that results in the district losing the
best probationary teachers over the summer. I just
would like to point out that right now very smart people
have spent a lot of time trying to solve this problem..."

"...Given the rather arcane bidding process, and the
ability of teachers to retire or not retire at any time,
with the resulting fact that buildings are not sure what
teachers they will need to fill from probationary
teachers in July..."

[Doug Mann] By late June the board should have an
estimate of the quantity of teaching jobs in every
licensure area which need to be filled before the start
of the fall term. By late June the board also has a draft
budget that includes estimates of student enrollment
and of revenues under various scenarios.

It is true that teachers have the ability to retire
or not retire at any time. However they ordinarily can't start
collecting their pension or take a teaching job with
another school district unless they give notice by
April 1 of the calendar year they retire.

And the possibility that some teachers will retire without
giving proper notice is not a very good reason to send
lay off notices to low seniority teachers. Think about it.
How do you figure you might need to lay off a low-seniority
due to the possibility that a high seniority teacher will
decide to retire without giving proper notice?

I recognize that it is preferable for the district to err
on the side of sending lay off notices to too many teachers,
rather than too few, in order to hedge its bets. If the district lays
off a teacher without giving notice by June 30, the district
has to pay most of the teacher's salary during the upcoming

However, sending off lay off notices to 608 teachers
when you plan to recall about 450 of those teachers
goes way beyond what is needed to hedge your bets.
That is what happened in 2004. And in 2005 lay
off notices went out to 575 teachers, and again
a large majority were recalled or replaced. There were
only about 1,700 positions budgeted for fiscal year

The district saves tens of millions of dollars each year
with its revolving door for low seniority teachers. That is
a pretty strong motive for jacking up teacher turnover rates
by sending off so many lay off notices. There is no law
that requires the district to do that.

Dave Tilsen writes: "Doug's offhand comment that eliminating Teacher
tenure and seniority would solve the problem is a little naive..."

[Doug Mann] Dave Tilsen is putting words in my mouth.
I have repeatedly advocated the preservation, not the elimination
of teacher tenure and seniority rights.

As I noted in "Why we can't wait,"

Completely stripping teachers of their seniority and
tenure rights is the ultimate solution to the inequitable
distribution of teaching talent recommended by the
Bush administration. That's also a method of
"corrective action" required in the "No Child Left Behind"
federal education bill of 2001. The Congressional
leadership of the Democratic and Republican Parties
supported that bill.

The NCLB solution to dysfunctional public schools is,
in reality, to downsize the public schools, isolate and
weaken the teachers unions, to transform teachers unions
into company unions or get rid of them, and to eventually
end public education as we know it.

Under NCLB, the options for a majority of low-income
and nonwhite students in urban public schools are
being narrowed to 'poor-performing' public schools
and semi-public charter schools. The charter schools
do not have as much public financial support as
regular public schools and generally provide
instruction of lower quality than is provided by the
better public schools. Under NCLB, high performing
public schools are not an option for the majority of
low-income and nonwhite students in dysfunctional
school districts.

Whipping up support for NCLB-inspired changes in the MN
teacher tenure law was an objective of the teacher
realignment of 2004. Most of the realigned teachers accepted
the realignment, and the district reportedly backed off of plans
to realign teachers who challenged it, so its legality was never
tested in the courts.

And we should not forget Dave Jennings vision of eventually
replacing all of the district run schools with charter schools.

During the administration of Thandiwe Peebles, the board tried to
rally public support for NCLB-inspired changes in the MN Teacher
Tenure Act and teachers contract. The district's leadership
acknowledged that the teacher's contract, as written and enforced,
has contributed to a situation the district's least experienced
teachers are heavily concentrated in schools that serve students from
poor neighborhoods.

I am for modifying the teacher assignment system so that
inexperienced teachers are more evenly distributed throughout
the district's schools. However, I am opposed to disturbing
teacher tenure and seniority rights more than is necessary
to set aside "teacher in training" positions in schools
that do not have their fair share of inexperienced teachers.


Teacher Tenure Act & the Strand Decision

Topic: Teachers

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