The Song Remains the Same
As teachers, we shouldn’t comfort ourselves too much into thinking much has changed in the LAUSD teacher purge department since Deasy’s drama-laden departure. A substitute teacher told me a story yesterday that sounds all too familiar. She subs a lot in the South Area of LAUSD and met a twenty -year veteran male teacher who had been displaced from his long time high school and …wait for it…was placed at Muir Middle School in South LA in a co-teaching position in which he was not the lead teacher. Shortly thereafter, he was visited by an admin who of course found major flaws in his teaching. He is fighting the observation but we know how this story ends- it’s how it has ended for countless of mostly male, veteran teachers displaced from usually a high school and then placed in a tough middle school in the South Area.
How does this happen with seniority in place? If a school goes into Small Learning Communities the school can use many different creative strategies to displace veteran teachers. Once labeled “displaced” it can be difficult to find other employment through interviews in the district. Sometimes, displaced teachers are lucky and land one long -term sub job after another, keeping all their pay, benefits and seniority in place. But once the district human resources catches on, the teacher is “placed” in a permanent position, almost always in the South area at schools like Muir, Drew, Carver, Obama Global Prep and Audubon middle schools. It’s somewhat ironic that at schools with the toughest to teach populations, the administrations of these schools are often the least supportive and most vigorous in ridding their schools of veteran teachers. Is it any wonder these schools usually have the most openings for teachers?
This purging of veteran male teachers occurs about a year or two before they qualify for fully paid health benefits and before year 25 when their pensions would be a bit higher. These teachers in their prime are then forced into retirement at a low pension (2000 dollars a month or less) and unless they worked summer school most years or had other extra work will only have a small amount in their supplementary Cal Strs accounts. They are then forced to scramble for extra work subbing in public or private schools, or as one purged science teacher did, as a solar panel installer. The science teacher was a textbook case. He worked at a well -regarded high school and was displaced after twenty years, ended up at another high school where he was promptly given a below standard Stull. Of course he panicked but remained level -headed. He signed up for a retraining program to install solar panels and sure enough, despite doing everything his administrator asked of him, was given a second below standard Stull. He was out.
It’s tempting to relax after the Deasy era but this purging is ongoing. But the district may be screwing itself in the long-term, even with declining enrollment. As openings emerge in other districts with higher pay and a lower cost of living, LAUSD will find itself in the same quandry it has found itself in before- hiring “teachers” off the street with emergency credentials. It seems clear that the district isn’t as concerned with quality teaching as it is with saving money and racial politics. One thing most of the targeted teachers didn’t do was consider employment in other districts after their first bad informal evaluation. One strategy a targeted female teacher used was to go out on stress leave before her Stull evaluation meeting. She had about 70 sick days and used them up and then retired. This preserved her “meets standard” status in case she ever wanted to return to teaching in another capacity or in another state. This continuing use of the South area as a stage for ridding the district of veteran teachers is something our union has been ignoring for years. It’s important for teachers to protect themselves using the leave process or any means necessary to avoid a negative evaluation. It is the reason why saving your sick days- something I have never done- is a vital tool in helping teachers protect themselves by at least giving themselves a cooling off period to decide what to do without losing pay. Unfortunately in LAUSD, when it comes to the treatment of veteran teachers, the song still remains the same.