Monday, February 03, 2014

Our Way or the Highway

If there is a worse school board in the United States of America, I don't know where it could be. The Medford School Board is engaging in open warfare with the teachers' union, the Medford Education Association, and is working overtime to undermine public support for the overworked and outrageously undercompensated teachers there. Many of the people on the board are backed by the privatizer group Stand for Children, which should be called "Stand ON Children." This billionaire-hedge fund crook-backed outfit has even infiltrated relatively small school districts like Medford.

Diane Ravitch wrote about this outfit a couple of years ago on her blog:

Stand for Children believes that experience is unnecessary in teaching. Like Michelle Rhee’s Students First, Stand for Children holds that inexperienced teachers are just as good if not better than experienced teachers. Stand threatened a ballot initiative, backed by millions of dollars in spending, to destroy teachers’ seniority and tenure. The Massachusetts Teachers Association could not match the spending of the hedge fund managers who want to destroy teacher unionism and it capitulated.

Let’s be clear: Stand for Children and its kind want to put an end not only to teachers’ unions but to the teaching profession. They want teachers to be evaluated by test scores, despite the overwhelming evidence that doing so will promote teaching to standardized tests and narrowing the curriculum, as well as cheating and gaming the system.

Several, if not all, of the Medford School Board members were backed by the local chapter of this group.

You should read the evaluation the board did on retiring superintendent Phil Long last year. The evaluation can be read here. About three of the board members, two of them with legal backgrounds and one a retired principal--the retired principal having since been defeated for re-election--were contrary just to be contrary. There was no real thought put in there but excuse after excuse to downgrade him. Not that Long has been perfect, but he's far better than that worthless school board.

What really got the minority group on the board pissed off is they claimed he was "insubordinate" when he refused to make $300,000 in cuts to operating costs in the "support services" department of the district. Now the term "support services" in education usually refers to special education services, which should be the LAST thing cut, and in fact in Medford it is grossly underfunded in special education. Special education resource teachers can have as many as 35 students on their caseloads, when they shouldn't have more than 20. I was horrified when I saw how huge the caseloads were, and that work cannot be delegated to teacher assistants. Long refused to make the cuts, I suspect for legal reasons, if I am correct about "support services" being special education services and support, and this gang of three last summer blindsided the full board when they moved to terminate his contract. They failed, of course, but these people did untold damage to not only Long but to the school district overall with their showboating antics. Long shortly thereafter announced his retirement from the district at the end of this school year.

The audio of that infamous school board meeting is on YouTube. The board is a disgrace and an embarrassment.

Now that the MEA has voted to strike if no agreement is reached by tomorrow night, the district, meaning the board, is working overtime on spinning like a top, wasting thousands of dollars in taxpayer money on paid ads in the local paper:

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