stephanie jones

Archive for the ‘politics’ Category

Reggio Wish #2 – Ateliers and Aesthetics

In aesthetics, anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, creativity, critical literacy, Education Policy, literacy, politics, Standing up for Kids on December 4, 2012 at 1:59 am

Ateliers and Aesthetics

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 “When we speak of aesthetics we speak of our bodies. From this point of view we can have a better understanding of what is meant by art. The work of art is to create antennae. Antennae which perceive all that is intolerable, discomforting, hateful and repugnant in the universe that we ourselves have created.” (Vecchi, 2010)

Vecchi writes about the radical move Loris Malaguzzi made when he positioning the atelier – and the atelierista – in Reggio schools. The atelier’s central location also positions it as the lifeblood of a school, a space where all things flow out and flow in. This conception of aesthetics as central to human life and necessary for children’s daily experiences is so different to see in person than the way the arts sometimes get integrated into projects even in some Reggio-inspired schooling and writing in the U.S. Arts-integration is sometimes reduced to making things, painting, drawing, or even a dramatic performance. Rarely do I hear educators articulating the fundamental purpose of aesthetics (or “art” as we usually call it) in education as “creating antennae” for our full bodies to perceive the beautiful and mundane and unjust in the world.

Inviting a non-educator artist to play a central role in curriculum and pedagogy is brilliant. Too often in educator preparation programs, the focus is so narrowly aimed at all the wrong things – controlling bodies (aka classroom management), controlling minds (aka disciplinary knowledge), and controlling futures (aka assessment, labeling, and tracking). A serious commitment to aesthetics and its role in life would mean not only inviting non-educator artists to the table and school, but also immersing future educators in antennae-making through deep and full-bodied engagement with aesthetics.

I wish for children, youth, and teachers to live their daily lives in schools saturated with the sensibilities of artists to make sense of the world, and surrounded by massive amounts of diverse materials through which to make that sense. This would no doubt create problems in the fundamental ideology of U.S. schooling and society, however, where most people believe there is one right answer and one right way – or at least “best practices” – and the ambiguity that comes along with art-making and living through aesthetics would challenge that ideology to its core.

Vecchi writes, “An aesthetic sense is fed by empathy, an intense relationship with things; it does not put things in rigid categories and might, therefore, constitute a problem where excessive certainty and cultural simplification is concerned” (Vecchi, p. 9). We are certainly in a time and place where “excessive certainty” and “cultural simplification” are highly valued, and ambiguity and aesthetics are deeply suspect. How might we individually begin to make ourselves more pliable? If I settle into a body/mind/way of being that embraces ambiguity, uncertainty, and a creative sensibility that cultivates my antennae of the world, what impact would that have on the people with whom I interact every day? What impact will it have on me? On the world? What if children and youth and teachers were encouraged to cultivate such uncertainty? I wish for the collective courage to take such a worthwhile risk.

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Be on the Right Side of History – Vote No on Georgia HB 797

In democracy, discourse, Education Policy, politics on October 16, 2012 at 3:54 pm

Another essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective…

Be On the Right Side of History: Vote No on House Bill 797

An essay by the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

As Georgia citizens, stakeholders, and voters we sit at a crossroads in deciding the long-term health of our public education system. Opening the floodgates to for-profit charter schools across the state of Georgia will have devastating long-term effects on our state’s public education. Vote No on House Bill 797 this November, but don’t do it because we want you to. Vote No because you know the facts.

Some Facts

Voting No will not change the authority of local school districts and the state to approve charter schools. Charter schools will still exist, and they will still be approved. If passed, the constitutional amendment will shift more authority to the state for approval with strings attached to state funds that will flow to those charter schools when we aren’t even fully funding our existing public schools.

On May 3, 2012, the Governor Deal signed a bill that will restore the state’s power to approve and finance charter schools without local school district approval. The legislation, however, needs voter approval in November because this bill – HB 797 – is a constitutional amendment.

The governor signed the bill at Cherokee Charter Academy, in Canton, Georgia, a school that received in excess of $1,000,000 in state funds as start-up capital. That is a million dollars just to get started, in an era of austerity when public schools are forced to furlough and lay-off teachers, shorten the school year calendar, and cut crucial support for media centers and the arts. If our state can’t afford to fully fund our public schools right now, why would we invite for-profit charters in and promise them dollars we don’t have? This, alone, should cause an eyebrow or two to be raised.

Without the approval of local districts, Georgia will open its educational system to a stampede of charter school corporations and real estate brokers who see this bill as a cash cow. These out-of-state corporations are funneling dollars into Georgia right now to get this amendment passed, and if we pass the amendment, we will funnel those dollars and many more right back into their corporate pockets.

How well do charter schools perform?

Most charter schools simply do not do as well as their public school counterparts, and according to research most students would be better off going to public schools.

Why would politicians be willing to “sell off” our public good – state education – and turn it over to other interests? Michael Klonsky claims that powerful conservative forces are pushing for less regulation over charter schools, and more teacher evaluations tied directly to student test scores. These moves by the Georgia legislature will result in the overall weakening of Georgia Public Schools. Pushing professional educators to the sidelines and moving corporate interests into public education is a huge mistake.

Corporate interests?

Yes, behind this move to make it easier to establish charter schools is the existence of for-profit charter school organizations that are ready to move in and use state and local funds to manage charter schools. In some states, new charter schools receive start up funds at a time when public schools are having to furlough teachers and administrators and cut jobs and services just to meet the budget.

According to a report by Dick Yarbrough, charter schools appear to be about money and politics and influence peddling. He wonders why, with the Georgia Department of Education reporting that charter schools don’t perform as well as traditional public schools and their graduation rates are no better, the Georgia legislature is so bent on changing the State Constitution to allow charters to be created by an appointed state commission. The Supreme Court of Georgia ruled that doing so is unconstitutional – which is why we are now faced with a vote that would change the constitution.

Charter schools in other states do not compete favorably with traditional public schools. Why this big push for more charter schools?

Answer: For-profit charter networks

As Yarbrough reported, the Miami-Herald did a study of charter school operators in Florida, and found that it is nearly a half-billion dollar business, and one of the fastest growing industries in Florida. According to the newspaper report, charter school industry is “backed by real-estate developers and promoted by politicians” and “rife with insider deals and potential conflicts of interest.”

In Florida, management companies run almost two-thirds of charters. The management companies charge fees that sometime exceed $1 million per year per school. On top of such fees, these management companies frequently own the land and/or the buildings where the school is housed, and charge either the state or the local school system rent.

Would the state use taxpayers’ dollars to fund McDonald’s?

Let’s think about this in terms we might better understand given our limited experience with for-profit schooling: Imagine McDonald’s receiving money from the state to build its restaurants and open the doors; after its restaurants are built the state gives McDonald’s money for every customer that walks in the door; then state money has to go to pay the annual fee to McDonald’s to pay for its accounting and human resources management; and since McDonald’s owns the land or the building where the restaurant is housed, it charges the state rent.

What if the result of this kind of business model? McDonald’s (or the privately owned and run charter school) accumulates more and more money from taxpayers, leaving them with a good they can no longer call their own and no longer have control over. Would we ever put up with McDonald’s siphoning off taxpayer dollars to this extent? Would we amend the constitution to allow this to happen at the state level with no local approval?

No.

Vote No on the Charter Bill Legislation in November and tell Georgia Legislators that we don’t want to end up like Florida. Tell them we don’t want the locus of control of public school districts outside of local elected school boards, and placed in the hands of for-profit charter schools run by corporations that don’t understand or care about local needs.

Our political leaders have turned what started out as a good idea—the creation of charter schools to meet particular local needs—into a political battleground where money takes precedent over education. Lurking in the fringes of this battleground are corporations that see public education as a new market in which to make bets and money – on the backs of our Georgia children and youth.

Be on the right side of history in November, and on the right side of our children and their futures. Vote No on House Bill 797.

Still not teaching about the strike?

In class-sensitive teaching, democracy, discourse, Education Policy, politics, professional development resources on September 12, 2012 at 11:52 am

Thanks to JT for sending this along…

 

Not teaching about the striking teachers yet? See the real faces behind unions and the fight for public education:

Click here for interviews on-site interviews with teachers.

The Most Important Education of our Time? The Servant Economy and Jeff Faux

In class-sensitive teaching, classism, corporations, economics and economies, politics, poverty, social action, social class on September 9, 2012 at 8:11 pm

I have posted before about the book The Servant Economy by Jeff Faux, but wanted to share this BookTV video with anyone out there who wants to watch it either in conjunction with reading his book or as some strange version of cliffnotes (warning – he doesn’t talk much about the details in the book, so the talk doesn’t “replace” reading in any way, but is interesting nonetheless).

Click here to watch the video

The overwhelming evidence that our country’s jobs are declining and that pay for jobs is stagnant at best and in a sharp downward trend at worst may be the most important education issue of our lifetime. I don’t mean, by the way, that we need “more education” so people can get “better jobs” – I mean, that we need a broad and deep economic education from K-12, into higher education, and in all communities so that we understand the consequences of income inequality and can envision our country’s dark future if we don’t demand something different.

This is not about political parties. Jeff Faux says this well in his talk, and I regularly say this to teaches and principals I work with (though I’m not sure they believe me). Both U.S. political parties have opened the floodgates for global trade, enacted policies bad for U.S. workers, and – this is important – both parties are owned by corporate interests. The last point is one Jeff takes on in his talk – instead of proposing several potential action items, he proposes one: get corporate money out of politics. He suggests that we do this by organizing locally and state-by-state to propose a constitutional amendment that would reform campaign finance.

This is about money. And for some reason, it seems to me, that “money” is left nearly entirely out of curricula at all levels beyond learning to “count” money and occasionally some word problems in mathematics. But money has literally become the engine running our political, social, and economic engines of our country. He (and it is mostly a He) who has money gets to influence the policies governing what our social and political futures will be.

How can we begin the critical conversation about money and influence in elementary, middle, high, and postsecondary school? In community non-profits? In doctor’s office waiting rooms? In unemployment lines? At the park, library, playground and schoolyard?

Let’s at least start talking about it – and if folks will either read or watch videos of some of the most prominent economic voices of our time to educate ourselves about economics and the economic reality we’re living right now, we will at least have some of the language necessary to open up the conversations. And then we can also ask ourselves why most of us have no idea how to think of such things and have such discussions, why social class and any economics education beyond the “basics” of exploitative capitalism are not a part of curricula, and what we’re going to do to change it for our own collective good.

 

How do you Rage Against the Machine when you are the Machine?

In anti-bias teaching, class-sensitive teaching, classism, corporations, critical literacy, democracy, justice, politics on September 7, 2012 at 5:45 pm

Paul Ryan’s claim that one of his favorite bands is Rage Against the Machine was met with some criticism from the band’s Tom Morello.

Morello’s poignant op-ed in Rolling Stone responded to Ryan’s claim and pointed out what should have been obvious to Ryan – Ryan advocates  for the Machine that chews people up and spits them out, takes care of the elite rather than the masses, and manufactures -isms of every kind (racism, sexism, heterosexism…) that feeds hatred and divisiveness. “The Machine” works to destroy collectivity and solidarity among people who constantly get the short end of the stick because of the very kind of policies that Ryan supports.

How can he rage against the machine when he is the machine? Listen to the Lyrics, Ryan. Music is political, man, and if you haven’t figured that out by now, you are more lost than we thought you were.

And how can teachers rage against the machine from the inside?


Don’t be the teacher, and don’t teach the curriculum that is the subject of this song:

Take the Power Back 

 

 

Hedge Funds for Education? The next economic (and moral) crisis starts here…

In classism, communities, corporations, economics and economies, Education Policy, government, high-stakes tests, NCLB, politics, Standing up for Kids on August 8, 2012 at 2:36 pm

Thanks to PAGE for sending this out.

I hope to comment on this before too long – but until then, educators, families, and politicians better think seriously about whether they want our collective children and youth to be the primary victims of the education equivalent to the mortgage corruption and resulting crisis.

Remember the words prime, subprime, mortgage “products,” underwriters, hedging, hedge funds, adjustable-rates, asset-backed commercial paper, insolvency, credit default swap, derivatives, foreclosure, bankruptcy, too-big-to-fail, leveraging, negative equity, mortgage-backed security, short sales, and others? 

What lexicon will be created to describe the crisis of hundreds of millions (and billions?) of private and venture-capital dollars pouring into formerly-known-as-public education once it creates a false financial bubble and then a real meltdown?

I hope folks are paying attention – 200,000 jobs in the financial sector were cut this year alone. Those economic geniuses are now eyeing our education system for replacing those jobs and more. So where will educators be? Replaced by hedge fund managers and financial magicians keeping our eyes on the rabbit while money is shuffled under shells.

We thought NCLB was bad, greasing the hands of the publishing industry like never before? We ain’t seen nothing yet…

“KEEP YOUR INVESTMENT DOLLARS OFF OUR CHILDREN AND EDUCATORS’ LIVELIHOODS!”

 

Private firms eyeing profits from U.S. public schools

By Stephanie Simon
 
 
 
NEW YORK Aug 1 (Reuters) – The investors gathered in a tony private club in Manhattan were eager to hear about the next big thing, and education consultant Rob Lytle was happy to oblige.
 
Think about the upcoming rollout of new national academic standards for public schools, he urged the crowd. If they’re as rigorous as advertised, a huge number of schools will suddenly look really bad, their students testing way behind in reading and math. They’ll want help, quick. And private, for-profit vendors selling lesson plans, educational software and student assessments will be right there to provide it.
 
“You start to see entire ecosystems of investment opportunity lining up,” said Lytle, a partner at The Parthenon Group, a Boston consulting firm. “It could get really, really big.”
 
Indeed, investors of all stripes are beginning to sense big profit potential in public education.
 
The K-12 market is tantalizingly huge: The U.S. spends more than $500 billion a year to educate kids from ages five through 18. The entire education sector, including college and mid-career training, represents nearly 9 percent of U.S. gross domestic product, more than the energy or technology sectors.
 
Traditionally, public education has been a tough market for private firms to break into — fraught with politics, tangled in bureaucracy and fragmented into tens of thousands of individual schools and school districts from coast to coast.
 
Now investors are signaling optimism that a golden moment has arrived. They’re pouring private equity and venture capital into scores of companies that aim to profit by taking over broad swaths of public education.
 
The conference last week at the University Club, billed as a how-to on “private equity investing in for-profit education companies,” drew a full house of about 100.
 
 
OUTSOURCING BASICS
 
In the venture capital world, transactions in the K-12 education sector soared to a record $389 million last year, up from $13 million in 2005. That includes major investments from some of the most respected venture capitalists in Silicon Valley, according to GSV Advisors, an investment firm in Chicago that specializes in education.
 
The goal: an education revolution in which public schools outsource to private vendors such critical tasks as teaching math, educating disabled students, even writing report cards, said Michael Moe, the founder of GSV.
 
“It’s time,” Moe said. “Everybody’s excited about it.”
 
Not quite everyone.
 
The push to privatize has alarmed some parents and teachers, as well as union leaders who fear their members will lose their jobs or their autonomy in the classroom.
 
Many of these protesters have rallied behind education historian Diane Ravitch, a professor at New York University, who blogs and tweets a steady stream of alarms about corporate profiteers invading public schools.
 
Ravitch argues that schools have, in effect, been set up by a bipartisan education reform movement that places an enormous emphasis on standardized test scores, labels poor performers as “failing” schools and relentlessly pushes local districts to transform low-ranked schools by firing the staff and turning the building over to private management.
 
President Barack Obama and both Democratic and Republican policymakers in the states have embraced those principles. Local school districts from Memphis to Philadelphia to Dallas, meanwhile, have hired private consultants to advise them on improving education; the strategists typically call for a broader role for private companies in public schools.
 
“This is a new frontier,” Ravitch said. “The private equity guys and the hedge fund guys are circling public education.”
 
Some of the products and services offered by private vendors may well be good for kids and schools, Ravitch said. But she has no confidence in their overall quality because “the bottom line is that they’re seeking profit first.”
 
Vendors looking for a toehold in public schools often donate generously to local politicians and spend big on marketing, so even companies with dismal academic results can rack up contracts and rake in tax dollars, Ravitch said.
 
“They’re taking education, which ought to be in a different sphere where we’re constantly concerned about raising quality, and they’re applying a business metric: How do we cut costs?” Ravitch said.
 
 
BUDGET PRESSURES
 
Investors retort that public school districts are compelled to use that metric anyway because of reduced funding from states and the soaring cost of teacher pensions and health benefits. Public schools struggling to balance budgets have fired teachers, slashed course offerings and imposed a long list of fees, charging students to ride the bus, to sing in the chorus, even to take honors English.
 
The time is ripe, they say, for schools to try something new — like turning to the private sector for help.
 
“Education is behind healthcare and other sectors that have utilized outsourcing to become more efficient,” private equity investor Larry Shagrin said in the keynote address to the New York conference.
 
He credited the reform movement with forcing public schools to catch up. “There’s more receptivity to change than ever before,” said Shagrin, a partner with Brockway Moran & Partners Inc, in Boca Raton, Florida. “That creates opportunity.”
 
Speakers at the conference identified several promising arenas for privatization.
 
Education entrepreneur John Katzman urged investors to look for companies developing software that can replace teachers for segments of the school day, driving down labor costs.
 
“How do we use technology so that we require fewer highly qualified teachers?” asked Katzman, who founded the Princeton Review test-prep company and now focuses on online learning.
 
Such businesses already have been drawing significant interest. Venture capital firms have bet more than $9 million on Schoology, an online learning platform that promises to take over the dreary jobs of writing and grading quizzes, giving students feedback about their progress and generating report cards.
 
DreamBox Learning has received $18 million from investors to refine and promote software that drills students in math. The software is billed as “adaptive,” meaning it analyzes responses to problems and then poses follow-up questions precisely pitched to a student’s abilities.
 
The charter school chain Rocketship, a nonprofit based in San Jose, California, turns kids over to DreamBox for two hours a day. The chain boasts that it pays its teachers more because it needs fewer of them, thanks to such programs. Last year, Rocketship commissioned a study that showed students who used DreamBox heavily for 16 weeks scored on average 2.3 points higher on a standardized math test than their peers.
 
 
SPECIAL ED AS A GROWTH MARKET
 
Another niche spotlighted at the private equity conference: special education.
 
Mark Claypool, president of Educational Services of America, told the crowd his company has enjoyed three straight years of 15 percent to 20 percent growth as more and more school districts have hired him to run their special-needs programs.
 
Autism in particular, he said, is a growth market, with school districts seeking better, cheaper ways to serve the growing number of students struggling with that disorder.
 
ESA, which is based in Nashville, Tennessee, now serves 12,000 students with learning disabilities or behavioral problems in 250 school districts nationwide.
 
“The knee-jerk reaction [to private providers like ESA] is, ‘You’re just in this to make money. The profit motive is going to trump quality,’ ” Claypool said. “That’s crazy, because frankly, there are really a whole lot easier ways to make a living.” Claypool, a former social worker, said he got into the field out of frustration over what he saw as limited options for children with learning disabilities.
 
Claypool and others point out that private firms have always made money off public education; they have constructed the schools, provided the buses and processed the burgers served at lunch. Big publishers such as Pearson, McGraw-Hill and Houghton Mifflin Harcourt have made hundreds of millions of dollars selling public school districts textbooks and standardized tests.
 
Critics see the newest rush to private vendors as more worrisome because school districts are outsourcing not just supplies but the very core of education: the daily interaction between student and teacher, the presentation of new material, the quick checks to see which kids have risen to the challenge and which are hopelessly confused.
 
At the more than 5,500 charter schools nationwide, private management companies — some of them for-profit — are in full control of running public schools with public dollars.
 
“I look around the world and I don’t see any country doing this but us,” Ravitch said. “Why is that?”

Woman…in song and video

In feminist work, gender and education, mothers, politics, professional development resources on June 23, 2012 at 9:52 pm

Woman, John Lennon

I am Woman, Helen Reddy

Fabulous parody of Lady Gaga’s ‘Bad Romance’ – Women’s Suffrage

Single, Natasha Bedingfield

 

 

EmpowerEd Georgia is Tracking the Cuts

In democracy, Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, Standing up for Kids, teacher education resources, Uncategorized on May 29, 2012 at 4:43 pm

Cut Funding to Media Centers, Cut Funding to Society?

In class-sensitive teaching, democracy, Education Policy, politics on May 12, 2012 at 7:05 pm

Another great essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective (teachinggeorgia@gmail.com)

Invest in Media Centers, Invest in Society:

The Work of a Media Center Paraprofessional

An Essay from the Teaching Georgia Writing Collective

 

“If America can increase funding for libraries and librarians, I can only think that America has found one important way to rebuild itself.”

-Stephen Krashen

            Stephen Krashen, along with many educational scholars, insists that investing in our libraries and librarians is crucial to building a strong and just America. Research points to high quality school libraries and librarians as key to high achievement for students, especially those from families struggling economically. But when budgets are tight, libraries (or “media centers”), librarians, and Media Center Paraprofessionals can too frequently be perceived as unnecessary costs in schools.

The Clarke County, Georgia school district joins others across Georgia cutting funding for Media Center Paraprofessionals. But most people may not even know what a high-quality media center and media center specialist does for student achievement, much less what the job of a paraprofessional is in the media center.

So what does a Media Center Paraprofessional do?

A Media Center Paraprofessional does research-related activities. She assists students, teachers and parents in finding books, resources, and materials. She also pulls books supporting standards-based lessons for teachers, leads instructional centers during lessons, and assists in creating resource lists and developing the media center collection to meet the needs of students and teachers.

A Media Center Paraprofessional carries the heavy burden of maintaining the media center collection. He shelves hundreds of books each week; processes, labels, and shelves new materials; repairs damaged books and materials to keep them in use; inventories all books and materials; creates inviting displays of new materials; and discards unsalvageable materials, runs a variety of reports important to the maintenance of the media center, and tracks overdue notices.

A Media Center Paraprofessional is a supervisor. She supervises the library while the school library media specialist teaches, participates in mandatory meetings or repairs technology. And while the librarian/media specialist coaches students for exciting events such as the Battle of the Books or the Helen Ruffin Reading Bowl, the paraprofessional takes the lead to make sure the media center is open and available to students and teachers. She works one on one with students, assists with small group instruction when classrooms have lessons in the library (some librarians see thirty or more classes each week), and she supports students while the media specialist focuses on collection development, writes grants for more materials (thousands of dollars of grants were written by Clarke County Media Specialists last year) and plans inservice training for teachers.

As if the Media Center Paraprofessional has any spare time given her or his extensive responsibilities with students, teachers, and materials, she or he also provides critical technical support for teachers. And outside the Media Center, they help to supervise and support students all day during breakfast, lunch, car, bus, or hall duty and in computer labs.

Cutting Media Center Paraprofessionals from the Clarke County School District – or anywhere else in Georgia – is risky business. Beyond losing the most basic hands-on contact and support of children, youth, and teachers, this loss could result in limited implementation of initiatives for 21st Century Schools. These educators are central to a school’s ability to provide technical support and professional development for teachers.

Maybe folks don’t care about that fancy-sounding initiative, but they might recall that special feeling you get when you find those just-right books and wait patiently in line to check them out for the week, or that just-right software program or website for your project. The daily work of the Media Center Paraprofessional makes sure that the school library is still that extraordinary place where books, materials, technologies, and all kinds of fascinating resources are displayed to pique students’ interests and support teachers’ learning and teaching. And importantly, they provide encouragement, smiles, and comments on your latest great finds.

Public library usage is up across the State of Georgia, something our state can be proud of. Economic times are difficult and having access to information and resources is an important goal for any democratic society. Cutting funding for school libraries in this critical time of making sure all students have access to the materials, resources, and technological innovation they need to be the best they can be just doesn’t make sense. Surely there are places to cut the budget that wouldn’t impact so directly on the daily lives of children and teachers.

Let’s make sure children have access to the best public school libraries now and help them build library habits that will positively affect their achievements in school and their experiences in life.  And as young children and our youth are building strong habits, we adults can invest in our libraries inside and outside schools – one important way to re-build our communities and invest in a better society.

The War Against Teachers

In Education Policy, Neoliberalism and Education, politics, professional development resources, Teaching Work on March 6, 2012 at 4:58 pm

A former student contacted me today. She’s a first year teacher and says she feels “super unsupported” and that her school wanted to dock her pay 1/4 of an hour for being tardy.

I wonder if the school is going to pay her overtime for the hours she spends at home preparing to teach.

First furloughs and now docked pay?

The war against teachers (and teaching, but that’s another rant) has really reached an unbelievable low.

This is from the Clayton News Daily (Georgia) about HR policies impacting teachers:

Goree: BOE’s personnel policy unfair to employees

By Jeylin White (174)
As of Thursday, March 1, 2012 
© Copyright 2012 Clayton News Daily
#During Monday night’s board of education meeting, school district officials presented several updates on the operation of the school system, but sparks seemed to ignite among board members over the district’s personnel policy.
#School Board Chairperson Pam Adamson and Board Member Jessie Goree clashed when Goree alleged that the board has undisclosed plans to dock the pay of teachers who are tardy too often, or even fire them.
#Adamson told Goree that her concern was not an item that was on the agenda, and was, therefore, not up for discussion. In the middle of Goree’s response to Adamson, her microphone was apparently turned off. According to Goree, it was turned off because board members are “turning their backs on addressing the needs and concerns of district employees.”
#Adamson, however, could not be reached for comment for this article.
#Another Goree concern is that –– according to her –– teachers and other district employees “are not being compensated for working more than 8 hours a day.”
#“I think that is just totally disrespectful to our employees,” said Goree. “We just shouldn’t treat people like this.”
#The current personnel policy, Goree said, allows Clayton County School Superintendent Edmond Heatley to make district employees work longer than an 8-hour day without monetary compensation. Goree added that the current policy is not treating school system employees fairly.
#Her complaint is that teachers and district employees are being forced to attend meetings after school hours, attend weekend events, and that it’s mandatory for all principals to attend board of education meetings, which are held twice a month, in the evenings.
#She stressed to board members that teachers are already overworked and underpaid, especially for the amount of responsibility they carry.
#“It’s more and more demands we keep making on [teachers] without taking them into consideration,” she said. “I understand that, when you take on a job as a principal, it’s a 24-7 position, but we’re not going to compensate principals for working on a Saturday? “It’s bad enough that we [have] principals [sitting] at board meetings on Monday night’s and then they have to be at work by 7 a.m., [the next day.]”
#Sid Chapman, president of the Clayton County Education Association, agreed with Goree. Chapman said the extra hours teachers have to work are excessive, and he said he’s not even sure if the current personnel policy is legal. If fact, he added, the district could be in violation of Georgia’s labor laws.
#“Teachers are being treated very poorly,” said Chapman. “I don’t see where in the policy you can terminate teachers for tardiness.”
#He said the reason why teachers are not coming forth with their concerns is because of fears of retaliation, or of losing their jobs. “The overall feeling is [teachers] are fed up and ready to leave,” he said. “It’s a very oppressive and toxic environment.”
#Goree said she is flooded with phone calls and e-mails from teachers and district employees expressing their concerns about the current working environment. She said teachers are telling her they cannot wait for the school year to be over, so they can find other jobs.
#Clayton County Public Schools Chief Human Resources Officer Doug Hendrix said the district is not in violation of any labor laws. According to Hendrix, fair labor standards list school system employees as exempt employees.
#“[In] our work in education as a profession, there are going to be things we do outside the normal hours,” said Hendrix. “School system employees having to work extra hours is something that comes with the territory.”
#Goree added that her discontentment extends to the personnel policy dealing with teachers’ resignations. She said the board can reject, or deny, an employee’s request to take family medical leave, or to resign from a position, if they need leave to take care of a sick family member. “How can you reject someone’s resignation?” Goree asked the board, at Monday’s meeting.
#Heatley responded by saying that certain criteria must be met before an employee is able to break his or her contract with the school system. He said the contract does not keep employees from leaving their jobs, but it will mean that they have abandoned their jobs.
#Chapman added that there is a lack of consideration for illness, and that the school district is unsympathetic to employees who are having medical difficulties. As a result, he said, they could be terminated. “This [policy] needs to change,” he said.
#“What is it that we are not understanding when we’re reading these policies?” Goree asked. “We have some hard-working people, who work for the school system. Teachers and administrators will do what they need to do to make things work.”
#Since Superintendent Heatley has been in office, Goree said, the personnel policy has changed several times. Her concern is that, when changes are being made, the immediate supervisors, who oversee employees, are “being taken out of the decision process.
#“Everything goes through [human resources,]” she said.
#Hendrix said he would not make a comment on Goree’s comments, or those of any other board member. “They’re the board members, It’s their policy, and they decide what the policy is going to be,” he said.
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