Monday, March 05, 2007

Workin' in the Coal Mine Charter School

I just received an email from an articulate young charter school teacher. I'll withhold names for now, but I'll link to this story when it's covered more fully elsewhere. She writes that she'd hoped to be part of "something grand," but she faced a great deal of disappointment, even during the first few weeks.

She'd taken a leave from the DoE to try this out. She was concerned about her pension. Her new employers told her not to worry, because she could simply continue contributing toward it while she worked their school. When she arrived, however, she found that not only had they made no such arrangement, but the school's management had not even researched TRS.

An English teacher was absent for two days, and returned unaware of the new copy policy, requiring 48 hours notice. After violating the policy, the teacher received a severe dressing-down. After a long day of complaints being tossed about every which way, both this English teacher and a math teacher tried to resign. Instead they were fired, and forcibly removed from the building.

A biology teacher complained that the facilities did not meet state standards for laboratories, and was fired:

In 24 hours the school had lost 3 teachers. Students would leave, more teachers and staff would leave and by February the students would have had 2 math teachers 2 Spanish teachers 2 English teachers, 3 biology teachers and an assortment of substitutes

This occurred in a school that had a total of six teachers. During her brief stay, my correspondent observed violations in special ed. regulations. She sent me a copy of her complaint and of a letter from the state affirming it.

Shortly after this complaint, she was fired, ostensibly for insubordination (of course, as an "at will" employer, they needed no reason whatsover). She asked me for advice on whistleblowing in charter schools. Here's what I told her:

My very best advice for you is to actively seek a position in a public school, where you will work less time, get paid more money, have superior medical benefits, and vastly superior job protection.

She said that was precisely her plan. If anyone has better advice for her, the comments form is now officially open.
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