And the saga continues… Providence will be sending another round of notices to its teachers, this one no later than May 17.
Most teachers—about 75% of the 1,926 dismissed – will get letters rescinding their dismissal and welcoming them back to their positions for the fall. These teachers are deemed Category 1 by the plan adopted by the Providence School Board. These are teachers whose positions have not been eliminated for 2011-12. The message to these teachers: you’re in the clear, all is well, no hard feelings.
Another chunk of teachers–roughly 120– fall into Category 3. These are teachers dismissed for a cause other than the financial woes of the city and district, as well as teachers who hold temporary certification or who are on some type of leave (e.g. worker’s compensation) with no plans of returning. Message to this group: sorry, no room at the inn, you didn’t make the cut (here’s why—explanation of cause must be included).
Then there’s the odd Category 2, which includes a few hundred teachers whose positions are either still open or whose positions are slated for elimination due to closure or conversion or reorganization. These teachers, including all of those at the transformation—formerly known as restart—schools, will either get a letter rescinding the dismissal (if the job is open) or saying the dismissal remains in effect (if the job is gone). The latter group can participate in the district’s match process—faster and more automatic hiring system than the current criterion-based system, but still designed to support “mutual consent” over “forced placement.” In Providence, the match process is run through a web-based portal where principals place vacancies, teachers place applications and both, respectively, rank applicants and vacancies by preference. The computer spits out matches. After round one of match-making, outside applicants become eligible for hire, along with other unmatched teachers, via the criterion-based hiring process.
Whether or not the matching process works, Category 2 strikes me as a big problem for the city’s school improvement plan. With four schools in transformation and another cohort slated for improvement in the next round, the city needs to be attracting talent to these “lowest-performing” schools. Singling out these schools by giving them more flexibility and support might make sense but singling out the teachers at these schools for dismissal and hiring purposes works only as a disincentive. One Category 2 teacher (at a transformation school) told me that she didn’t mind because she knew she would get her job back since she did a good job and was needed. That’s probably true for many of these teachers. But it doesn’t change the overall message to Category 2 teachers: in exchange for committing to work in these schools, you get less security and more risk.