QUOLKE’S CORNER 6/22/11

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QUOLKE’S CORNER #97
RESPONSE TO MAYOR, CEO, AND BOARD CHAIR LETTER TO COLUMBUS
 
 
A letter dated June 20, 2011 was sent to Governor Kasich, Tom Niehaus (Ohio Senate Leader), and William Batchelder (Speaker of the Ohio House). This letter was signed by Mayor Frank Jackson, Board President Denise Link, and soon to be CEO Eric Gordon. The letter asks the Conference Committee working on the Ohio budget bill to restore teacher merit pay, evaluation for teachers and principals based on student test scores, elimination of seniority for reduction in force, and significant reduction in collective bargaining rights.
 
To say that I am disappointed with the Mayor and Mr. Gordon is an understatement. After working with Eric over the last 4 years I thought that he believed in working through issues collaboratively with all voices at the table. The Mayor has stated he is opposed to SB 5, but apparently supports the provisions of SB 5 when it comes to teachers. This letter once again blames the union and the teachers and asks the legislature to mandate work rules not only for Cleveland teachers, but teachers all over Ohio. One size fits all does not work for the vastly different school districts all throughout the state. If there are going to be changes, these changes should be made district by district with all voices at the table.
 
The letter urges support for the House version of the budget that requires teacher evaluation to be based (at least 50%) on student test scores. Also in the House version evaluation will include principal review, and student and parent satisfaction. The Mayor and Mr. Gordon want the legislature to develop an evaluation system for Cleveland. This is most frustrating considering the fact that the CTU and CMSD have been working for a year on a new Teacher Development and Evaluation System with national experts. Training for the pilot schools begins next week. We have been doing hard work to improve our profession. There is a local and national commitment of our union to ensure that there is a high quality teacher in every classroom, and yet as we are in the midst of this work our local leaders go to Columbus to change the law.
 
With Eric’s selection as CEO I thought that Eric would try to partner with the CTU, parents, and the community to make every neighborhood school a top school and improve student achievement and life-long learning for all children. The Cleveland Teachers Union has dealt with the hard issues through the collective bargaining process as evidenced by the Peer Assistance and Review Program, Schools Requiring Assistance through Academic Intervention Teams, and the new Teacher Development and Evaluation System. 
 
If the legislature and policymakers want to talk about improving teacher performance, it should be done in an open forum with all parties having an opportunity to provide input and suggestions. These are complex issues and do not belong in the state budget.
 
I am disappointed and I know many of you are too. As I get more information on this issue and the budget bill I will share it with you.
 
In Union,
 
David