Monday, November 19, 2007

Who Needs Tenure?

Well, it appears Andrew Trees does. By all accounts a fine teacher, Mr. Trees has just been fired from the prestigious Horace Mann Academy after having released a satirical novel about "Academy X." It appears Mr. Trees is adored by his students, and he's received positive performance reviews. Still, the administration didn't like his book and Mr. Trees, though he is filing a lawsuit, appears to have little recourse:

David Reis, who specializes in employment law for Howard Rice Nemerovski Canady Falk & Rabkin, a San Francisco-based firm, said the language quoted from the faculty handbook about job protection might be sufficiently vague to allow the school to defend Mr. Trees’s dismissal. “The easiest argument for the school is to say the book and the firing are completely unrelated, that the guy just wasn’t a good teacher and we have evidence of that,” Mr. Reis said. “Or they can say there’s nothing to prohibit us from firing someone who writes things about us that we don’t like.”

Of course, tenure would have precluded Mr. Trees' problem entirely. But there are other implications here. Would Mr. Trees have received positive evaluations if the administration had known he was working on this novel? Wouldn't the people who fired him for it have found fault with him whether or not there was any?

When Klein and Bloomberg start rattling swords about getting rid of bad teachers, I have similar apprehensions. Frankly, I have no sympathy for incompetent teachers. On the other hand, I think the administration adores bad teachers. They provide a handy scapegoat, and according to the Times, this administration sorely needs one.

Is it beneath the integrity of this administration to fire those who criticize them? When Bloomberg faced opposition on one of his school boards a few years back, he simply fired two dissenting members. That's one of the perks of mayoral control, apparently.

Would they fire you because you complain there are 4600 kids in a building designed for 1800? Would they fire you for speaking to the press? Would they fire you for complaining about the ice on the floor that your students keep slipping on? Would they fire you for raising a fuss when they assigned your class to an auditorium with 15 other classes? For raising a fuss when they assigned you to teach in a bathroom?

You betcha they would, if you gave 'em half a chance,
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