Meeting with the Superintendent

I wish I could tell you all that today’s meeting with Dan McMinimee was enlightening or that we’d reached some amazing accord.  I think there are just those times when two people are on two planes, and I’m not sure where we go from there.

As you know if you read my letter to him, I was specifically interested in discussing the fact that the district is evaluating teachers with a tool about which a neutral third party said, “The totality of the evidence at the fact-finding hearing establishes that teachers in different schools are treated differently in their evaluations. To a significant extent the District’s evaluation process lacks the degree of inter-rater reliability necessary to make valid salary distinctions.”

He tried very hard to move the discussion toward his belief that raising the bottom salary to $38,000 and capping the top at $81,000 was fair.  Well, okay, um…that sounds like an OK range, but a) I didn’t ask about that, b) this pay scheme was concocted without teacher input, c) I have no idea how anyone moves up it, and finally, d) with as little respect as this board has shown, I rather imagine that if they manage to do away with the collective bargaining unit, that cap will drop like a rock.  Zero trust in this board.  Zero.

So I came back to the flawed tool—my issue.  Remember?  I told him I was concerned that there had been no respect for the process.  He said the board had followed the process.  I pointed out that they had declared their intention not to follow the fact-finder’s recommendations before they’d even made their case—hardly a sign that they were following the process in good faith.  He said he had no control over this, which is true.

He said no system was perfect, that the same student might (and probably would) get two somewhat different grades from two different algebra teachers in the district with the exact same work.  I asked whether he thought that perhaps the district had presented this argument to the fact-finder.  It just made sense that this obvious argument had been part of the fact-finder’s considerations.  He said he didn’t know; he wasn’t there.  So he wasn’t at the fact-finding, but we should just believe that the District’s findings were better, and they found the evaluation tool just fine?  Given what I wrote in the previous paragraph, you can see the trust issues.  I’m supposed to trust people who don’t even pretend to negotiate in good faith?

I got the general message that a lot of this was outside of his control.  If the school board comes across as disrespectful, that’s not his fault.  To be fair, that’s true.

But there are message problems, and that was why I’d written.  He had said they’d ignored the fact-finder in order to put effective teachers in every classroom.  What do effective teachers have to do with the fact that the tool to measure this is significantly broken, in the opinion of someone who’d heard both sides and didn’t have a horse in this race?  We also talked about the messaging from last summer’s panel discussion.  I’m going to have to look at the video from JUC, but he insists that in July he had not meant to imply that only the teachers had refused to negotiate in Dougo, that it was both sides.  I would swear he flat-out said the teachers had made certain items non-negotiable.  Not both sides, the teachers.  It was today, when I’d pressed him on it, that he conceded that the district had some responsibility for the break-down.  When I said he had trivialized a non-negotiable item (on both sides, he admitted today)—the words “a teachers’ association” vs. “the teachers’ association,” comparing such an important distinction to the color of a car, he insisted he hadn’t meant to trivialize it.  Again, I’ll review last summer’s recording, but I could swear he demonstrated the supposedly unreasonable recalcitrance of the teachers’ association by how impossible they were being over “a single word, ‘a’ vs ‘the.'”

So maybe we at least cleared that up.  Kind of.

For the record Jeffco: Just evaluate me fairly and train my evaluators well.  Work with the teachers’ association (which works with teachers) on a fair compensation package.  If adjusting pay to evaluations is super important, OK, we’ll talk about that, although I’ll tell you now, I won’t work harder for more money.  I work to be the best teacher I can because my students deserve it.  That’s it.  Pay notwithstanding.  I’m not afraid of accountability or hard work.  If me “documenting” how hard I work becomes more important to you than how good a teacher I actually am (as happened in Dougco), your priorities are a mess.  I’m cool with $38,000 for young teachers, and I’m not stupid enough to think I’ll ever hit $60,000/year, much less $81,000.  Whatever.  Just don’t frame me and my colleagues as the root of every problem.

For the board: Enough with the secret agenda.  If you want to mess around with negotiations until the contract expires so you can get rid of the association and treat teachers however you please, if you think that would be so good for kids, say so.  Stop hiding.  Don’t waste money on a negotiating and fact-finding process you have no intention of following.  If you’re so certain teachers do not deserve even a modicum of respect, say so and say why.  Make your case and try to convince the public (though after tanking with the fact-finder, I can understand your reluctance).

In a few weeks I’ll be teaching Ben Franklin’s pursuit of moral perfection.  We’ll talk about the difference between a rule like “don’t lie,” which can be manipulated so that one is not technically lying, and a moral, like “be sincere,” which is what it is.

Be moral. Be sincere.

About admin

Paula is an author of historical fiction as well as a wife, mom, and teacher.
This entry was posted in Education. Bookmark the permalink.

9 Responses to Meeting with the Superintendent

  1. Matthew landon says:

    Paula, I had the same conversation today, strangely enough…
    Thank you for sharing your experience.

  2. Shelly Seymour says:

    I thank you for your valiant well-spoken efforts from the bottom of my heart.

  3. Samantha Prisbrey says:

    Thank you Paula, for saying what we all want to say. No one got into this profession for the money. We’re all here because we love kids. But give us a break and help us feed our families. I work probably 60 hours a week, quite often more. We are worth it, the kids are worth it. Step up to the plate school board.

  4. Terri Straut says:

    Thank you for taking this on so directly and for articulating the complexity so well. You are a rock star. You are appreciated. I encourage you to publish your recent posts beyond your blog. We need to share teacher’s stories more broadly to engage the community. As a parent, please know that I stand with you all. It is a very sad and dark time in Jeffco.

  5. Thank you! Some teachers are an administrator’s quota as evidence for low standard scores. Also, favoritism is a problem.

    We must continue to question the whole process!

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *