October 23, 2009

Gist: No More Seniority-Based Teacher Hiring

Marc Comtois

Rhode Island Education Commisioner Deborah Gist has quickly become a breath of fresh air, indeed (via 7to7):

Dropping a bombshell on Rhode Island's teacher unions, state Education Commissioner Deborah Gist announced Friday that districts must abolish seniority as a method of assigning teachers.

Gist, in a letter to all superintendents Thursday, said the Board of Regents' new Basic Education Plan, which takes effect in July 2010, requires that highly effective educators work with students who have significant achievement gaps.

"In my view," she wrote in a press release, "no system that bases teacher assignments solely on seniority can comply with this new regulation."

The state has 12,000 public school teachers who are represented by one of two unions, the Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Care Professionals or the National Education Association, Rhode Island.

The Rhode Island Federation of Teachers and Health Care Professionals has already promised to take Gist to court, claiming that she has exceeded her authority under state and federal law.

I think Gist is willing to fight them on that. No more seniority, pushing for higher teacher standards, taking a hands-on approach....Gist has been impressive so far.

UPDATE: Gist talked to Dan Yorke and explained that this is not a "bomb" and she is doing nothing more than explaining an aspect of the Basic Education Plan that everyone should have realized. Further, she thought it unfortunate that union leaders were trying to use it as a wedge issue between herself and teachers. (Incidentally, lest we forget, Gist was a teacher of the year....).

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Finally! "Bumping" is such a toxic practice and I have seen for myself how hurtful it can be to good teachers, students, and schools. Now a principal can hire a good teacher and not have to worry that the new recruit will just be bumped out at the end of the year by someone who is less dedicated because, due to layoffs, that less dedicated individual is now in need of a job. Maybe this will be the first step towards getting rid of the "dead weight". Trust me - good teachers are more than happy to see bad teachers go.

Posted by: Tabetha at October 23, 2009 3:03 PM

I just heard that union pig Bob Walsh on the radio talking about this issue. Is he so stupid, that he thinks everyone who actually works for a living doesn't understand that seniority is a STUPID way of dictating who gets what job??
"Hey Bob, you know that heart operation you need - we got the guy with the most seniority doing that one on you. He's 96, his hands are a little shaky; his eyesight isn't that great, but he's in a union, and guess what - he's got seniority - and he's operating on you."
How do you like it now, you jack@ss??

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at October 23, 2009 4:52 PM

"Education Commissioner Deborah Gist announced Friday that districts must abolish seniority as a method of assigning teachers."


It's absolutely the right thing to do.

Nevertheless, big time Whoa.

Posted by: Monique at October 23, 2009 5:08 PM

Let's just watch now as Walsh and his "Igor"(Crowley)start spewing hate and venom at Deborah Gist and anyone else who doesn't kiss their asses.Marcia Reback,usually not as vile in her comments as the other two,is now apparently petitioning for membership in their "F**k the Public Club".
How can Walsh expect anyone to believe he gives a tinker's damn about the students and how well they learn?He knows as well as anyone how seniority empowers slugs who are just there for the big check,bennies,and pension.
He cares most about his fiefdom.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 23, 2009 5:44 PM

is there anyone other than old teachers and union leaders that want seniority??

how do you defend seniority????

Posted by: john paycheck at October 23, 2009 5:49 PM

Fantastic. Maybe there's hope yet.

Posted by: riborn at October 23, 2009 6:37 PM

Someone please tell me this is still RI and I didn't wake up in Oz!

Posted by: Roland at October 23, 2009 11:36 PM

Begging everyone’s pardon; has anyone looked at the RIDE RI Basic Education Program that is on line?

Its seems that everything is covered including how much each school should spend in some areas per student and most all standards are referenced to a State of RI General Law! Who is running the local schools and local school budgets?


As for the teachers, union and seniority issue Rhode Island Education Commissioner Deborah Gist brings forward I think Monique is absolutely right with a “Whoa!”

A teacher friend tried to explain this to me; if a job opens up the union seniority kicks in for current employed teachers if no takers outside teachers can apply for the job but everyone must still be interviewed and their credentials are checked with recommendations, letters of reference and it is up to the principal, department head, superintendent to interview and recommend to school committee for hiring the teacher.

Now you also have end to the year when teachers retire or quit and there is an excess of positions and teachers. Those positions not filled are sent to the “pool” by school superintendent’s office allowing in service teachers to bid and bump for open positions in another or same school within the district as long as they have the proper credentials to teach the subject (say a teacher is teaching third grade but really likes 1st grade and a job opens up in an other school they bump by seniority at the “pool” but once they left their classroom they are also subject to bumping and can be bumped into no job or a grade they really don’t like).

Now what I understand Gist is indicating is that seniority should not be the primary reason a teacher gets hired or moves around the individual city and town educational system. Proper credentials, subject matter expertise, are they highly qualified and what is their classroom track record? If the No Child Left Behind regulations were properly enforced by administration this would not be a problem. If the teacher can’t meet the minimum NCLB requirement then they should not be in the system to begin with!

But back to Monique’s “Whoa!” is there a little working outside of one’s authority as I can not find in RIDE RI Basic Education Program where it dictates.

Don’t get me wrong, I’m all for accountably in education but after reading the document with almost each standard related to a RIGL how each teacher will teach each subject!

Posted by: Ken at October 24, 2009 1:25 AM

Mike C.'s viciousness is expected and proves why workers need union protection. Joe B. usually rises above the personal attack (at least against me.) Since the Commissioner is not talking about removing teachers who are not performing, but merely possibly preventing them from using their seniority rights to transfer to open positions, I as surprised at the vigor from her defenders, other than the standard if I disagree with her, she must be correct. When you all figure out that the alternative to seniority transfers among those certified for a position will be the return of political influence to the transfer process (about the time you read the front page of tomorrow's ProJo), you might get a glimmer about my point of view and how seniority stops political influence in placement decisions in its tracks (unions, however, don't have any say over the initial hiring decision.)

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 24, 2009 1:52 PM

Mr. Walsh, unions do have a say in initial hiring decisions. Their members serve on the committees that hire new teachers. They just don't have full say. Such will be the case with transfers. Committees will determine which teachers are best for vacant positions. Those committees may include teachers, parents and other community leaders as well as administrators. I fail to see how this will bring back the era of bosses doling out jobs based on politics. And with administrators being held accountable based on published NECAP scores, what principal would not want the best teachers in his school?

Posted by: mikeinri at October 24, 2009 8:21 PM

What are turd you are, Bob Walsh,
My viciousness?? I'm merely stating reality. You choose to engage in deception and lies, merely to maintain control and justify a failed system. Is that nice? At this point, I'd try anything different, since your union has been proven to be one massive failure and fraud perpetrated against the students in this state.
Your vicious slurs against a competent, intelligent Education Commissioner is typical of a union pig, afraid someone might pull the trough away. Really, Bob, just who do you think you are kidding??

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at October 24, 2009 10:48 PM

MikeinRI - it is not by contract that that participation in hiring interviews occurs, although I think it is generally a fine idea as long as the participants are trained appropriately. The final decisions, however, are generally not made at that level.

MikeC - you prove my point once again. I should use your best quotes on a recruitment brochure, occasionally needing to delete the expletives, of course.

Posted by: Bob Walsh at October 25, 2009 7:28 AM

Mr. Walsh, are you aware of any districts that do not use committees of parents, teachers, and administrators to evaluate and recommend candidates? Which districts?

And again, with published NECAP scores readily available to the public, what principal would not want to hire the best teachers for his school? The politics-will-infiltrate argument is a weak one.

Posted by: mikeinri at October 25, 2009 8:26 AM

Come now, Bob. Just what are you talking about? What are my best quotes - those stating that nobdy needs a union if they are worth their salt??
Just what would you put on your recruitment brochures, Bob - "join our union - if you're a lazy pig, we want YOU?"
I'm sitting here watching the Patriots, and I'm thinking of Bob Walsh's retarded defense of seniority. If Walsh's stupid logic was used in the NFL I'd be sitting here watching John Hannah, Steve Grogan and Steve Nelson limping around the field. Oh yeah, Bob, you're a f'n genius, pal.
And just think - you're the head of the union teaching our children. Unbelievable!

Posted by: Mike Cappelli at October 25, 2009 3:12 PM

At my old workplace, there was a saying: The company is the best advertising for the union.
The wonderful part about Mike is, nobody even has to pay him for making such an effective case why unions should exist.

Posted by: rhody at October 25, 2009 6:58 PM

Bob-I don't know if I made much of a personal attack,but I am really pissed off at what you said on the radio the other day.
I know exactly what the tradition of seniority ebing the determining factor in assignments leads to.I am not a teacher,but in my former occupation it too often meant burnt out slugs occupying critical positions that they had no intention of treating seriously.
Personal capabilities as proven in practice are more important than merely being there longer than someone else.
When I was assigned to Providence it turned out the most senior agent in the suboffice was a useless turd who was frankly hazardous to work with due to incompetence,cowardice,and impairment due to alcohol abuse on a long term basis.
In Chicago some of the most senior agents were assigned to a squad with very important responsibilities and they were in a number of cases lazy slugs who preferred coasting to any serious attempt to do a credible job.
less senior agents with more energy were kept out of that squad when they would have done a great deal of good there.
This is why I am unconvinced that the educational well-being of the students is of paramount importance in the view of Crowley and yourself.
Teachers should be assigned where their abilities match the specific requirements of the task most closely.

Posted by: joe bernstein at October 26, 2009 12:23 AM

Why does seniority have to be the defense against political influence? Why can't qualification?

(waiving my hand): I know, I know... because the union doen't really want to end political influence. They just want to shift it in favor of the union, so they can reward their most stalwart followers and dumb the rest of the system down. A lot easier to do favors when your pet thug doesn' t have to measure up.

Put me on that brocure too, please!

p.s. tell Lou Rainone, next time he goes to Subway, don't park in the handicap space. lazy s.o.b.

Posted by: The Ultimate Arbitrator at October 26, 2009 12:38 PM
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