The school where I taught for nearly twenty years, Huntington Park Senior High, is being reconstituted. This means that everyone--the administrators, the teachers, the clerical, maintenance, cafeteria, and security personnel, every one of them--has been given notice. If they want their jobs back, they must reapply, and the rules state that only half of them can be rehired.
Disruption for the students will be dire, especially those preparing for college. The Los Angeles School Board has apparently not considered what happened the year following a similar reconstitution imposed upon nearby Fremont Senior High. Many of its best teachers chose not to reapply, in some cases taking their expertise, programs, even grants, to other campuses. Sixty per cent of the classes wound up being taught by substitutes and temporary volunteers.
A former colleague told me yesterday that hiring interviews will be handled by four panels, each consisting of district officials, a parent, and a student. I don't know how evaluations can be performed fairly and uniformly by four separate panels, but apparently time pressure necessitates a decentralized approach. Huntington Park's new school year begins in just six weeks.
Of course most teachers will land on their feet. The district can't actually fire them without cause, so they'll either be reshuffled to other campuses or they'll stay home and collect their full salaries.
My greater concern is for the lower paid classified workers, many of whom live in the neighborhood and walk to work. If they must transfer to remote campuses, some will have to take buses, lengthening their day and perhaps turning their kids into latch-key-students, who are, almost by definition, at risk.
I don't wish to hyperbolize, but I think it is fair to say that reconstituting is a top-down attempt to force change upon a school's culture. There can be no line of argument for replacing the man who cuts the grass, vis a vis raising student achievement, other than desperate faith in authoritarianism.
All my life, I've been suspicious of anyone who utters such phrases as crack-down, no-nonsense, zero-tolerance, and across-the-board. Ignorance of nuance, indifference to root causes, and refusal to refine priorities, is hardly a virtue. In other postings I'll continue to share my experiences and comment upon the educational challenges we face, but let me say for now that executive petulance will solve nothing.
Smiling Tom by Robert Henri, 1924. Henri, an Ashcan School luminary, painted lots of children, often smiling, and of all races and ethnicities. It's evident that he genuinely liked them. I've rarely heard school board members, educators, or government officials speak of children except in the aggregate. By the way, this painting is to be auctioned at Christies next week with an estimated price of between three and five hundred thousand dollars. Click on the picture for a closer look...and let me know if you decide to bid.