Editorial: “A New Principal Pushes for Change”

       We have read your article entitled “A New Principal Pushes for Change. Then the Investigations Start.” It is our belief that no educator should removed from their position for frivolous reasons. Being an educator is a challenging job. We appreciate principals that support, inspire, and work to help our teaches and students meet their dreams and potential.

      Improving schools is a complex undertaking, and there are many opinions about how this should be accomplished. There are no quick, simple, solutions to this problem. Blaming the poor performance of a school on one aspect, or one group, is far too easy and too simplistic to bring about the desired results. We believe this tactic is over used in the NYC Public Schools.  According to your article, that is exactly what these principals did. Mr. Zeimer, Ms. Elvin, and Mr Tavaras were attempting to remove “low performing teachers” and they were “attempting to shake things up.” For that action, you claim, they were removed from their positions.

     We think you should take another look at this situation, as it is not unlike the situation in your own profession. It is no secret that newspapers are not selling in the same numbers that they once did. There are many factors that have brought this about: competing forms of media, life style changes, polarized political views. If a new editior were to attempt to improve readership only by firing writers, you would  probably see his actions as misguided and ultimately ineffective. We would agree with you.

     However, this seems to be the one and only action that these principals took. Your article states that they rated their teachers poorly, and you surprisingly seem to embrace this practice. Within a very short time, Ms. Elvin rated 16% of her staff ineffective, and 35% developing, which is over fifty percent of the staff. She doled out the low teacher ratings quickly, and your article does not describe any other action she took.

     It is our position that there are other effective ways to turn schools around. New programs could be implemented, teachers could be given training in these new programs, and grants could be written to obtain additional resources that the student population sorely needs. We also believe that principals should model the lessons that they wish their teachers to execute in the classroom. Did these principals attempt any of these actions?

      We would  be extremely interested in finding out if other actions was taken. In your research, you should also ask for copies of directives that Klein, Walcott, Farina, and Carranza sent to principals telling them how to raise the bar in their schools. Were these chancellors able to offer valuable insight into running a school? Reading these memos would also help you to determine if the principals were following their chancellor’s directives. (By the way, if you get any of these, please send us a copy!) You should also find out if any memos were sent discussing educational methods. What new programs were adapted? What training did these principals arrange for their teachers? Did they model lessons?

      We look forward to your answers in your next article. However, if you are looking for additional stories to write,  you should investigate the treatment of teachers in the NYC Public Schools. It has been our experience that teachers are unfairly treated when they seek to advocate for special services for the children in their care. In addition, teachers have been targeted for speaking out against the misuse of public tax money, for participating in union activity, for criticizing inappropriate testing, and for asking their principals to follow the education guidelines set by New York City and New York State. That is the story  that is really overdue, and we hope to read this story in future issues of the New York Times.

 

 Source: “A New Principal Pushes for Change,” New York Times (June 2018), link.

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