Two Local Examples Reinforce Why Today’s Public Education System Will Never Achieve Excellence

The North East Independent and the East Greenwich Pendulum, our two local newspapers, carried two stories this week that reinforce, yet again, why public schools are structured in a way where neither teachers nor bureaucrats act in ways that lead to a level of excellence necessary to provide our children with a superb education and the ability as adults to compete successfully in a global economy:
The first had to do with the hiring of a high school chemistry teacher who twice – yes, twice – failed beginning chemistry courses. Here is an excerpt from the Independent:

The School Committee approved the appointment of a teacher Tuesday night that some board members fear may be unqualified.
In a 4-3 vote the board appointed Lesley A. Fastovsky as chemistry teacher at the high school even though Fastovsky’s transcripts from the University of Rhode Island show that she failed numerous chemistry courses as an undergraduate. The appointment is for one year only…
Committee member Sue Cienki, who carries an undergraduate degree in chemistry herself, said she is furious that a person who had so much trouble with chemistry will be responsible for teaching the subject to students in East Greenwich.
“I am absolutely infuriated by this,” she said. “I have a little trouble in having someone who could not pass a general chemistry class teaching in our district.”
Fastovsky’s transcripts drew ire from a number of members on the board. As an undergraduate, she twice failed Chemistry 101, the general chemistry lecture offered by the university, in 1989 and 1990. In fact, Fastovsky did not even complete the course at the university, instead taking the class at the Community College of Rhode Island in 1992 and transferring the credits to URI.
Fastovsky once again had problems with the subject in 1993, failing Chemistry 112, the second level offered at URI. She would take the class again the next semester, passing with a D.
Committee member Merrill Friedemann, who joined with Cienki and committee member Steven Gregson in dissenting on the vote, said she could not believe what she saw in the transcripts. With the committee making a number of appointments for the upcoming school year, she said many of the applicants had graduated with honors, making this hiring strange.
“All of the other applicants [for other appointments] came very highly recommended,” she said. “This one seemed like an anomaly.”
Faculty and administration members came to the defense of Fastovsky, asking committee members to look at the classes she took as a graduate student and how she has improved over the years…
Peter McLaren, the science department chair for the district, said that emphasis should not be placed on early grades, admitting that he has an F on his transcript as well. He noted that Fastovsky is certified to teach chemistry, having taken more than 24 credits in the subject after achieving her bachelor’s degree…
…Cienki was not swayed by these arguments. Looking at her transcripts, Cienki said Fastovsky may be qualified to teach other subjects, like geology, a subject in which she performed well in at URI, but maintains that she is not what the district should be striving for in its search for a chemistry teacher.
Despite Fastovsky’s achievements in her master’s work, Cienki said many of those subjects will not come up in a high school course.
“This woman couldn’t get the basics, which is what she is responsible for teaching to the students,” she said. “Now I want to sit in that class next year and see what she can get across.”

The second was presented in a story carried by the Pendulum that showed, yet again, how the teachers’ union contract allows manipulation of the system by teachers for their own benefits – regardless of whether that is best for our children:

…School Committee members Marilyn Freidemann and Sue Cienki were alarmed by the contractual policy which allows teachers on a leave of absence or sabbatical to bid on jobs opening up while they’re on leave. “It was my understanding, that we granted teachers sabbatical with the expectation that they come back to their original position,” said Freidemann.
Freidemann and Cienki were concerned over Cole Middle School science teacher Andrew Longo’s bid for East Greenwich High School biology teacher Tom Collin’s old job for the 2006-2007 school year, which means hiring a teacher to fill that position for one year until Longo’s leave of absence ends and he can take over. The head of the high school science department, Peter McLaren, recommended hiring Christopher Wren for a one-year biology position at the high school and Marcia Wicker for a 1.0 science position at Cole. This would allow Longo the high school biology position, starting August 30, 2006.
Freidemann and Cienki felt their hands were tied. “We’re trapped,” said Freidemann. “Supposedly, Christopher Wren is a wonderful candidate. Too bad we can only hire him for one year.”…
The committee could not approve Wicker and Wren without approving Longo. “If these people are not approved, there will be a collapse in the science department,” said McLaren…
According to McLaren, Longo, who is representing the East Greenwich school district at a widely recognized national science program, has gained “professional development, and a raised awareness of science, skills he can utilize in the classroom.” But Freidemann wasn’t having it. “It has nothing to do with what they’re bringing back to a different classroom. After being given sabbatical, they should come back to teach the grades they were teaching.”
Freidemann went on to condemn the purpose of asking for sabbatical. “Well, now we know why they want one. Clearly, it’s just for their own professional development.”
Longo, who was actually granted a two year leave of absence, has the right, according to union contract, to bid on any position while he’s on leave because of his seniority. As Cienki and Freidemann browsed through the contract, Ross was quick to understand how it works. “The contract is more protective of his right to return [not his obligation to]. And, as it’s constructed in protection of teachers’ rights, it allows them the means to bid on any position while on leave.” Freidemann agreed. “You’re right. And we need to change it.”
But there could be no changing of the contract that evening. So the heated discussion railed on…

Thanks for the School Committee members for speaking out and protesting this tolerance within the public school system for mediocrity and manipulation.
And that begs the ongoing question: Why does our society tolerate this ongoing and actively defended mediocrity by public school teachers and bureaucrats?


ADDITIONAL INFORMATION ON EDUCATIONAL ISSUES:
EAST GREENWICH NEA TEACHERS’ UNION CONTRACT NEGOTIATIONS
In a nutshell, here is what I think the negotiating position of the East Greenwich School Committee should be on some of the key financial terms of the contract.
Other postings include:
Background Information on the East Greenwich NEA Labor Dispute
The NEA’s Disinformation Campaign
East Greenwich Salary & Benefits Data
More Bad Faith Behavior by the NEA
The Debate About Retroactive Pay
Would You Hurt Our Children Just To Win Better Contract Terms?
The Question Remains Open & Unanswered: Are We/They Doing Right By Our Children?
Will The East Greenwich Teachers’ Union Stop Their Attempts to Legally Extort Residents?
You Have To Read This Posting To Believe It! The Delusional World of the NEA Teachers’ Union
So What Else is New? Teachers’ Union Continues Non-Productive Behaviors in East Greenwich Labor Talks
“Bargaining Rights are Civil Rights”
The NEA-Rhode Island’s Pathetic Attempts to Manipulate East Greenwich Residents
What’s Wrong With This Picture: 800 Applicants for 14 Teaching Jobs & the NEA Says There is a Problem
OTHER RHODE ISLAND PUBLIC EDUCATION/UNION ISSUES
In addition to financial issues, management rights are the other big teachers’ union contract issue. “Work-to-rule” or “contract compliance” only can become an issue because of how management rights are defined in union contracts. The best reading on this subject is the recent report by The Education Partnership. It is must reading.
Other editorials and postings include:
ProJo editorial: Derailing the R.I. gravy train
ProJo editorial: RI public unions work to reduce your family’s quality of life
ProJo editorial: Breaking the taxpayer: How R.I. teachers get 12% pay hikes
Selfish Focus of Teachers Unions: Everything But What Is Good For Our Kids
Tom Coyne – RI Schools: Big Bucks Have Not Brought Good Results
The NEA: There They Go, Again!
A Response: Why Teachers’ Unions (Not Teachers!) Are Bad For Education
“A Girl From The Projects” Gets an Opportunity to Live the American Dream
Doing Right By Our Children in Public Education Requires Thinking Outside The Box
Debating Rhode Island Public Education Issues
The Cocoon in which Entitled State Employees Live
Are Teachers Fairly Compensated?
Warwick Teachers’ Union Throws Public Tantrum
Blocking More Charter Schools Means Hurting Our Children
RI Educational Establishment: Your Days of No Vigorous Public Oversight & No Accountability Are Ending
BROADER PUBLIC EDUCATION ISSUES
The Deep Performance Problems with American Public Education
Freedom, Hard Work & Quality Education: Making The American Dream Possible For ALL Americans
Parents or Government/Unions: Who Should Control Our Children’s Educational Decisions?
Now Here is a Good Idea
Milton Friedman on School Choice
Issuing a Call for a Higher Quality Public Debate About Education
Is Merit Pay for Teachers a ‘Crazy Idea’?
Reporting False Performance Data Under No Child Left Behind: Why Are We Surprised At Dishonest Behavior By The Educational Bureaucracy?
Lack of Merit Pay Reduces the Quality of Teachers & Our Schools
Will We Measure Educational Performance by Inputs or Outputs?
Paycheck Protection: Allowing You to Keep Your Own Hard-Earned Monies
“Shut Up & Teach”

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Anchor Rising
15 years ago

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