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Response to Plain Dealer article - February 2009

To The Editor:
The recent Plain Dealer article, “Strickland’s Plan Would Have Ohio Teachers Facing New Rules on Licensing, Dismissals” reported that State Superintendent Delisle stated that it took two years and nearly $200,000 to get a grossly ineffective teacher in the Cleveland Heights-University Heights District to resign. The PD report is both misleading and inaccurate and warrants correction.
First. The teacher referenced had received eight years of glowing performance appraisals from her previous supervisors and had been awarded a continuing contract (tenure).
Second. A new supervisor, with limited teacher evaluation experience, arrived on the scene and immediately issued evaluations that, from the Union’s perspective, were flawed and not an accurate reflection of the teacher’s performance.   This supervisor recommended that the teacher be terminated. The Union immediately took action in defense of the teacher. There were never complaints from parents about this teacher, nor any data or evidence that displayed that students were not achieving.
Third. The Superintendent and the Union signed an agreement to continue the teacher’s employment in a new teaching assignment with mentoring and co-teaching support and regular performance appraisals in place. If the teacher was successful in the new assignment, employment would continue; if not, the teacher would resign.
For the Superintendent to complain now about an agreement she negotiated and signed is like throwing a rock at a mirror because you don’t like what you see.
In confronting the issue of ineffective teachers, the Union is frequently, if not always portrayed as the protector of the incompetent, especially when it comes to tenured teachers who are deemed to be ineffective via evaluation systems that are flawed and subjective. Non-tenured teachers have virtually no rights when it comes to job protection or being non-renewed based on observations and evaluations. Unlike other professions, teachers are not evaluated by those who are practitioners. 
The Union does not hire, evaluate, or grant tenure. Nonetheless, the Union’s duty of fair representation is mandated by law. Thus a teacher deemed ineffective and recommended for dismissal, regardless of his/her level of competence is entitled to due diligence by the Union.
In many instances when a teacher is recommended for dismissal, the Union has advised the teacher to resign. This happens only after a careful review of the issues and evaluations that led to a dismissal recommendation. There are some cases that must be fought, but there are many more where we have found that a resignation and pursuit of a different line of work is in everyone’s best interest. 
In truth, an effective teacher appraisal tool in the hands of competent evaluators from day one and/or a solid peer intervention system is the best solution.    
Tom Schmida,
President Cleveland Heights Teachers Union
Local 795 AFT, AFL-CIO

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