The Reynoldsburg School Board held its first public meeting since the district’s teachers voted to authorize a strike two weeks ago. As with the previous meeting, the venue was packed with teachers, students and community members, all opposed to the boards contract proposals. They had a simple message - the community deserves better.
In two packed board meetings now, not a single person has come forward to express any support for the 4 members of the Reynoldsburg school board pushing this extremist agenda. But instead of listening to the mounting chorus of objections to their plans, they continue to spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on out of town lawyer and strike breaking firms like Huffmaster, which the board voter 4-0 last night to hire in case a strike occurs.
The teachers, members of the Reynoldsburg Education Association, issued a statement August 8 after authorizing their bargaining team to call a strike at its discretion. Their 10-day notice of intent to strike, said the teachers, is a “continuation of our fight for the schools that Reynoldsburg students deserve, including a reasonable class size limit and a means of addressing the unprecedented teacher turnover in our district.”
Parent Debbie Dunlap, who has three children attending Reynoldsburg schools, said community backing of teachers has increased. “The support continues to grow. We hope the board members are truly hearing. We keep reminding them we are the stakeholders. And we’re not a few; we’re many.”
The teachers and the district failed to reach an agreement after meeting with a federal mediator this month. There is no word on when the mediator will be called back. The current contract expired July 31.
Since January, 54 teachers have left the district, including four whose resignations the board approved tonight. The total represents 20 percent of the district’s teachers. Twenty-eight teachers left during the same period the year before. The district has 6,200 students.
Parents of students are growing increasingly critical of the board’s refusal to heed community input.
In a letter to the school board, parent Beth Thompson wrote:
I firmly believe that this contract proposal will push high-quality teachers far away from Reynoldsburg; the very same teachers who have pushed our students and schools to become a model of innovation and to earn marks like Excellent and Excellent with Distinction in recent years. Basing a teacher’s pay increase on merit is an insult to teachers who collaborate, who we love and who treat our children with love and respect. This proposal disrespects the level of commitment these teachers have brought to our children for years.
Teacher and REA spokesperson Kathy Evans told local news station NBC 4, “Of course we don’t want to strike, but our students, teachers and community deserve a contract that invests in classroom priorities and builds a strong foundation for student learning.”
Students returned for the new school year August 13. Teachers, said Dunlap, continue to pour their energies into their students, regardless of the board’s actions.
“It has been very, very stressful for teachers,” said Dunlap. “But what has happened time and time again is teachers telling us, ‘Thank you. We couldn’t do this without your support.”
Dunlap said parents have been “awakened,” and she predicted community support will grow moving forward. “This momentum will not stop, even with a new contract. What happens here will affect not only our children but other children in Ohio and across the country, as well as educators.”
The Dispatch recently published an op-ed titled "Rethinking teacher pay", a piece so terrible it could only be a product of ideology or ignorance, and one would hope that one of the largest papers in the state isn't ignorant. But we ought to examine the facts.
The Reynoldsburg City School District, site of many innovative projects in recent years, is in the middle of what may be its biggest experiment yet: exploring whether a well-run school district and its teachers can come to terms on a teacher-compensation plan that is meant to reward talent richly, even as it eliminates certain guarantees on which teachers have relied for decades.
By "certain guarantees" the Dispatch means healthcare. Obfuscating the radical nature of this "innovative offer" by the Reynoldsburg school board in the very first paragraph isn't a good start. We'll also draw reference to the fact that the district, thanks to its teachers, is rated A on the latest report card. This will be important later.
Instead, teachers would get a pay increase — or not — based entirely on their performance rating under the state’s new teacher-evaluation system. Those who come with especially good track records or fill critical needs or take on projects beyond their basic jobs could be eligible for bonuses of up to $30,000. Instead of a health-insurance card, teachers would get a lump sum of cash with which they could decide what kind of insurance policy to buy.
Merit Pay - based upon a flawed evaluation system that is under constant flux. Who wouldn't want their pay determined by a students test score from a single test on a single day - and then have those test results subject to a secret, constantly changing formula - applied unevenly throughout both a district and statewide? Even the Gates Foundation has called for a delay in the use of evaluations for these kinds of purposes.
Furthermore, while the Dispatch references up to $30,000 - the typical increase is far, far less. Indeed, the $30,000 isn't a performance based pay rise at all, but instead a bonus for teachers who perform jobs beyond the classroom - hardly something new. Extra pay for extra work.
On the issue of health insurance, the district has yet to specify how much of a cash lump sum educators would receive, and if this would be pro-rated based upon family etc. How attractive of a district would Reynoldsburg be to teachers with families if the provision of healthcare was denied? How long would experienced educators stick around?
Reynoldsburg teachers say they already have sacrificed, by forgoing scheduled raises and agreeing to larger class sizes during a financial crunch.
Say? Why doesn't the Dispatch report this as a fact, for it surely is. This is not a he said/she said proposition. This isn't an issue that can be cast as teachers simply wanting step increases.
Most of all, she wants to attract and retain top talent by offering premium salaries. She can do this only if she is freed from the table of longevity-based increases that long has ruled school districts.
How on earth does the superintendent expect to attract any talent by offering no healthcare, and only arbitrary and potentially capricious pay increases based on secret student test based systems? The true fact is that a record number of Reynoldsburg teachers are now leaving the district after hearing of this folly
The graph above shows attrition in the district this year to over double previous years. This "innovative proposal" isn't attractive and wishing it to be so isn't going to make it so.
As more and more children come to schools without the support from home that bolstered past generations of students, schools have struggled to find ways to overcome the challenges. Of all the things schools can do and provide, an effective teacher has proved to be the most important.
Remember when we said we would come back to that "A" rating? Reynoldsburg, with its traditional pay and benefits structure is already providing an excellent education for its students, which includes a growing number of challenged demographic groups. Not to sound like a status quo supporting anti-reformer - but if it''s not broken what are we looking to fix?
In most professional fields, people are recognized for superior performance and their salaries reflect it. If education can find a way to elevate teaching to that level of regard, children could benefit immensely.
The trouble with this corporate point of view is that it simply isn't supported by the evidence. Study after study, trial after trail, deployment after deployment proves that merit pay in the education system doesn't just fail to life student performance, it damages the system by created a greater incentive for cheating, teaching to the test, non-collaboration and diminished workforce morale.
You can read a pretty good synopsis of some of the issues here at Frakonomics.
We began by asking if the Dispatch was ideologically or ignorantly predisposed to supporting the Reynoldsburg school boards hair brained scheme - after going through their missives step-by-step it seems like it is a little of both
16 Superintendents, along with community members, joined together and commissioned a poll to gauge the publics perception on a range of education policy topics. The results should give corporate reformers serious pause. You can see the entire survey results here.
Despite the focus on teacher quality by politicians and corporate reformers, citizens continue to see that school funding is the biggest problem schools face. Indeed, they view teacher quality as the least problematic area to be concerned with
Citizens reject other corporate and political reforms too. When asked what the most important indicator of school quality is, the newly revamped report card comes in dead last. Citizens just don't find it relevant.
Further blows are cast, as citizens continue to reject the use of high stakes testing, recognizing that it is not healthy for students and not appropriate for evaluating the quality of teachers.
Profiteers have little to cheer about as citizens reject the use of tax dollars for being used to support charter schools and private schools.
Finally, it is very clear who people view as the real problem - politicians.