Posted May 31st 2012 at 7:10 am by
in Education, First Person Policy

Firing Day at the Charter School

I just quit my job as a teacher in an urban charter school. Even though I still don’t have another job and I support myself entirely, it is the best decision I ever made. It is especially liberating this week while my colleagues – and after five incredibly stressful years on the education front lines, my truly beloved friends – wait for the June 1 ax to fall.

Every June 1, the exhausted teachers and staff at my school learn whether they will be rehired for another grueling year. Last year the school gave 43 staff and teachers the you’re-outta-luck-pal letters, including the entire three-man physical education department and the student support genius, Dany Edwards, who somehow made harmony out of the schools’ cacophony of crazy student behavior. This year the school’s three glorious new gymnasiums are largely unused because we have no gym teachers and Dany is dead of unknown causes. Whatever happened to this beautiful young man, firing him didn’t help him live any better or happier for his last few months on earth. And the kids he championed lost his tender, tough, hilarious and real guidance.

This post is dedicated to you Dany, one year after you ran from the building in frantic disbelief, waving your letter as you ran up and down Hyde Park Avenue, looking for people to share your grief. If they can fire you, they can fire any of us. Except they can’t fire me. I beat them at their game.

Dany Edwards, by Sean Flaherty
An image of Dany Edwards. Art by Sean Flaherty, who was also fired from this charter school on June 1, 2011.

The first thing you need to know reader, is that there is no job security at a charter school. Even excellent veteran educators, like the three physical education teachers who were fired one year ago, are vulnerable. Between them these men gave something like 35 years to the school. They offered serious nutrition education in their fight against childhood obesity. They miraculously coached kids who have hair trigger tempers through team sports without break-out fights. They taught the kids good sportsmanship and how to represent themselves, their families and the school during games at other schools. They taught yoga, which the kids actually used to calm themselves in class. And they worked the kids hard. Oh how I miss seeing the kids come to class from gym all red and sweaty and happy. This gymless year, the kids seem fatter and more out of breath as they huff and puff their way to the third floor.

Dany Edwards, by Sean Flaherty

Dany "Devs" Edwards. Image by Sean Flaherty.

To you Michelle Rhee and all you anti-union fanatics, you are wasting your time waiting around for superman. They already fired superman at my school. You see a union would have protected Dany as well as these three talented teachers who provided quality physical education to all of our 1200 students. Meanwhile, some not-so-gifted staff and teachers get to keep their jobs every June 1. At least public schools and their unions have transparent guidelines for tenure and enough respect to let teachers know they won’t be rehired for the next school year by March or earlier. June 1 is late to jump into the teacher hiring season. I suspect the administration keeps it a secret to the bitter end because they don’t trust us to keep working hard. They are suspicious and we are paranoid. It’s part of my school’s culture.

The second thing to know is that we work very hard at my charter school, completing endless tasks that are not designed to instill habits of critical thinking in our students. Rather we are driven like cattle to collect mounds of data, to divvy the data up into tidy and irrelevant skill categories, and finally to create individual action plans to remediate each student’s poor data points. We are required to write lesson plans that note exactly which discreet skills we will be working on during every minute of every school day while delivering scripted programs. It takes hours to make these plans and we don’t use them. Can’t use them. Because kids are unpredictable and surprises happen. Most of us work at least ten hours on every weekday preparing our rooms and teaching. We continue working on weekends. The building is open on Saturdays and during vacations and there are a lot of cars in the parking lot on these days off.

This heavy workload doesn’t even take into account the trauma and anguish of working with urban children who suffer all the indignities of poverty. One day last week I had to file three mental health emergencies for neglect – two for kids who reeked of urine and one for a boy who was wobbly with hunger. One of our school psychologists once explained that many of our students come to school afraid and then stay afraid all day, afraid that their home or family may not be there when they get off the bus. These are the kids who constantly disrupt the classrooms. If Dany had been allowed to continue his ministerial work, he would still be providing discipline, safety and love for these broken children. And he would be giving us teachers rock solid support without judgement in our struggle to keep these kids learning. The school psychologist said she prayed for the students’ safety every night. In case you are wondering, she quit before they got a chance to fire her.

Our workload is a favorite theme of the school’s superintendent and CEO. Charter school leaders love these business style titles. Dr. CEO often chuckles during all-staff meetings at how we charter school teachers work harder than they do in Boston Public Schools and get paid less for our troubles. Apparently he doesn’t know how insulting this is. Last December a group of administrators entertained us during a holiday party with a school version of ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas that included a verse about how little we get paid for our hefty workload. That was the last time I worked a ten-hour day and the moment I knew I had to quit.

The third and last thing for you to know is that psychological torture precedes the June 1 firing ritual in the form of annual performance reviews. It looks like our new principal has brought this final blow to a new level. I’ve talked to many teachers and they report the same experience. He begins the review with gracious smiles and copious thank-yous for our commitment and hard work. And then he trashes our performance. So many of us have “failed to meet professional standards,” you would think the school could barely function. Teachers are leaving their performance reviews convinced their June 1 letter will be very bad news. They have to sweat it out to June 1.

Dany Edwards, by Sean Flaherty

Dany Edwards. Image by Sean Flaherty.

The most disturbing part is that the principal already knows who will be rehired. And he knows which teachers have especially compelling reasons to stay one more year. But he keeps them guessing. He doesn’t even give them a reassuring wink or a thumbs up. Just a fake thank you. Another administrator asked me last week if people were freaking out, and then changed our plans for getting a drink after work on June 1. “I don’t want be out when people are all upset about losing their jobs.”

This week it feels like the school’s windows have been draped with heavy black curtains and the florescent ceiling lights are flickering. The kids are more difficult than ever and we don’t have Dany to let the sunlight in. No matter what happens Dany, I will never work in another charter school. That’s the least I could do.

Editor’s Note: The author of this post was terminated immediately and escorted out of the public charter school on the morning of June 4th, 2012. Although she had already given notice of her resignation, she wasn’t allowed to finish out the school year with her students and colleagues as is the school’s customary practice.

Post by Nancy Bloom. Art by Sean Flaherty.

Bloom also wrote We Need Problem Solvers, Not Test Takers for CoLab Radio.

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44 Responses to “Firing Day at the Charter School”

  1. Amy says:

    Nancy, I’m so deeply troubled by this post on so many levels. What are we doing in Boston or anywhere in this country? When did we decide that educating our youth is not a worthwhile endeavor? I hope you find some peace after leaving this broken institution and that you and all your talented colleagues land on your feet. I’m sad for the kids that will miss having you around, but this is not your battle to fight alone. It’s unfair that it should fall on the teachers to make everything “right” within a deeply messed up system that doesn’t value human development or well-being.

    Out of curiosity – do you think the charter schools completely undermine the education system?

  2. Thanks for this post, Nancy. Your post was sadly familiar to me, though I was a teacher at a regular public school. (My story is here: http://failingschools.wordpress.com/2010/06/25/my-story-part-1/)

    To the commenter asking about charter schools undermining public schools: the bigger issue, as far as eliminating great teachers, is that this happens everywhere unions (and thus, due process rights, the oft-maligned “tenure”) are weak. This is the stage being set for all schools, charter or otherwise, as corporate-driven education policy takes root.

    I became an education activist after this happened to me; I work full-time trying to make sure these stories– and solutions to prevent them– come to light. Please feel free to e-mail me– I’d love to chat about getting this and other similar stories to a broader audience.

  3. Nancy says:

    Amy I really think that charters are victims of the testing/ data mania in education today. And, as Sabrina points out, corporate driven education policy is undermining education in general. Nevertheless, I believe charters undermine teachers and cloud the real crisis facing children in poverty. From my experience, charters are so rigid, the children are almost forced to resist their oppressors. Rather than learn how to think independently and critically, or to challenge old ideas they are corralled into data pens and forced to comply. I also wonder if the money would be best spent on public schools. What do you think?

  4. Cyd says:

    Nancy I think this is such an important post.
    I say this with a heavy heart, as a mom who is about to register my son for high school at Wilson, a DC public high school that Michelle Rhee unapologetically sunk millions of dollars into in order to attract White families to the public school system, with some success. And I walk through the beautiful building and marvel at the technology, the communal space, the athletic facilities and can’t help but think that this school looks exactly like the private schools in Boston I moved away from because I couldn’t afford them, and I wasn’t willing to put my son in Boston public high schools. One one hand I’m proud of Wilson, because the diversity rate there is better than any private OR public school I have seen with my own eyes, and I feel like ALL students there get a crack at an excellent education, seeded in tremendous resources. But then I think of the rest of the DC schools in other neighborhoods, and know that they are nowhere near the quality of Wilson- were they undeserving of such a rehab because of the neighborhood tax base?
    I know my story is tangential, but I’m thinking about my mixed feelings about Rhee: I despise her (and her ilk’s) emphasis on data driven results, yet I’m reaping the benefits of her overall vision by taking advantage of my amazing neighborhood schools- the one where my son is in kindergarten is equally wonderful, yet still nestled in an affluent DC neighborhood and still a favorite when it comes to resource allocation.
    The lack of equal access to quality education is an issue that should have far more urgency than it’s currently occupying, and stories like yours shine a bright light on the administrative failings that cripple our ability to educate our nation’s children. I appreciate your story, and hope that it get’s spread far and wide!!
    -Cyd

  5. I never knew Dany but now I do. And I am grateful for what he did for those children while he was alive. Thank you for writing about this. People need to know! I congratulate you for not giving them the opportunity to fire you. The least you could do keep is your dignity.

    Martha Infante

  6. Heather says:

    Nancy, You are so right. It was always so hard to work there knowing how wonderful the teachers were, but how little the administration cared about them. I laugh every time I see something on the news about the school promoting the wonderful opportunities and such because what they fail to reveal is that it is a school run by a man who suffers from megalomania ..thinking that he is god’s gift and that people are lucky to work for him. if only the “higher ups” didn’t take the amazing staff for granted. You are so brave to write this post!

  7. Gabe says:

    so well written, and true. it summarizes everything you have told me in the past few years. writing this post is entirely justifiable and necessary. hopefully it can finally shed some light on what’s actually going on.

  8. Kate says:

    Thank you Nancy for putting your feelings and observations into words. You are eloquent and truthful about a situation that is so serious. So many children suffering because the charter school system is hyperimposed on these wonderful students.

    Not only do the students suffer but the parents are hoodwinked into thinking that the charter school has the answer for their beautiful children to break out of the cycle of poverty and oppression they live in each day.

    It is a place where students get fed and sometimes clothed but their education does not address the hardships and realities of their lives. School is a big part of these students days. They are forced to sit still for endless hours each day and to spend sometimes up to 12 hours away from their parents and families riding school buses. Then they transition to sitting in classrooms preparing for standardized tests, being removed from the room for long periods if they simply break a rule, getting labeled as “disruptive” if they tap their pencil or wiggle in their seat, being told they are “misbehaving”, being suspended (to spend a day at home in front of a TV or playing video games), being demeaned by administrators and “kicked out” because the charter school “does not have the services that a disruptive student needs”. Ultimately the very students who need what a charter school could offer end up failing. How to fail is part of the academics at the charter school.

    It sometimes seems amazing that once a teacher is magically transformed into an administrator or kicked upstairs they instantly play the game of keeping the dysfunction going, instead of having the guts to buck the things that are oppressing the students and the educators. They keep the system of oppression going.

    Lastly teaching children who live in a country where Spanish is the second language to speak Chinese?

  9. Kim says:

    This gave me the chills when I read it. I have been a public school teacher for 21 years, and it sickens me to see what is going on. Thank you for being courageous and truthful. Best wishes to you in your job search!

  10. Scott says:

    Sadly, virtually everything you say is also true in public schools, certainly New York City. The union has become a rubberstamp. Fear and Loathing in the classroom takes the day while scared and hateful administrators cover their butts with the growing mountains of useless paper teachers are required to generate (or else). I can’t take the stench of inhumanity and the mockery that has been made of a once excellent system. PU. 8 years. I quit too.

  11. Matthew Smith says:

    This is all too familiar. In Florida, the governor has taken away tenure for anyone hired after July 1, 2011. I was Non-reappointed at the end of my last “probationary” year, which would have allowed me tenure this past school year. Unfortunately, my principal loved “Waiting for Superman” so much he screened it at a weekend professional development. I think that this may well be the future of free education in America. The staff themselves will eventually quit being abused, and the remaining teaching staff will be willing to check all the boxes at the expense of the child. Those who can afford it, will buy their education, those who cannot, will languish. And thus begins the second gilded age.

  12. Peter Ford says:

    This principal seems to be a horrid person for whom to work, who seems to have no clue as to the value people bring to their mission of serving young people. I suspect very soon this school will suffer serious population shortages as the word spreads that the ‘good’ teachers’ don’t stay. That parents even choose this school speaks also to their lack of trust in the neighboring regular public schools.

    If I were living in this neighborhood I would counsel people to avoid this school at all costs.

  13. PTH says:

    Thank you for sharing this truth. More people need to wake up to what’s being lost – intentionally destroyed – by the privatization/testing-uber-alles movement. Keep writing.

  14. teacher kh says:

    We have been trying to report this for over a decade, but cannot be heard above the propaganda with which administrators fill airwaves. Corruption is what is behind all of this. I explained it in a book – White Chalk Crime: The REAL Reason Schools Fail. Charter schools are merely a greater opportunity to rob us blind with no intention of educating our children. Teacher abuse is the glue that keeps this sordid game going because it renders teachers too terrorized to speak of what is going on. Join us at EndTeacherAbuse.org and read more at WhiteChalkCrime.com. Without an education on what is going on, you won’t know who the bad guys are. You will think Michelle Rhee is participating in something other than White Chalk Crime when that is the only game in town. Hope to hear from you and others who care as much as we do about exposing the truth about our schools.

  15. Nancy says:

    It looks like we have the energy and passion to create a real movement. My question is, how do we do it? What exactly can we do to affect change?

    To Peter – the teachers in my school are huge talents and good friends. One of the greatest things about my job is the love we teachers and staff have for each other. I’m going to miss them and my beautiful students.

  16. Lee says:

    This problem has existed at every charter school I’ve ever worked at: good teachers are fired, sycophants are re-hired. And it’s all helmed by a megalomaniac administrator.

  17. Zakia says:

    Hi Nancy, we never worked together, but I used to work at the same school. I left because I was unhappy with the administration. I was friends with Dany. I miss him. However, I have to say that I don’t think that this blog is an appropriate way to show your support for him. I don’t think he would appreciate it, as his friend, I know I don’t. It feels like you are using his name to make sure people know what school you are talking about and because you want to honor him. Maybe I am wrong, but this does not seem respectful to me or lie something my friend would have wanted.

  18. Zakia says:

    *like something my friend would have wanted.
    Sorry for the type-o.

  19. Frederika says:

    Perhaps teacher-led schools are one answer. Both for regular community schools and for charter schools. My colleagues and I are talking more and more about this.

  20. Charter schools in CT started out as teacher-led labs of innovation. Now they are managed by outside companies. It is a shame. Thank you for your story.

  21. UrbanLad says:

    Good job. Great post. Don’t leave the profession. Do educate the parents, students and neighborhood activists about attending this “school”.

  22. [...] it out. Their latest post is a repost from a Boston blog, CoLab Radio, titled Firing Day at a Charter School by Nancy Bloom—the charter school teacher who had the nerve to quit rather than waiting around to [...]

  23. Dave says:

    My kids attend a regular BPS school in Roslindale and as far as I can tell, the environment you describe is nothing like what we have. I do know that when schools were closed last year, we had to lay off some good teachers to absorb teachers from those schools.

    As a parent, unfamiliar with the day-to-day challenges in the classroom, I struggle to understand where I and other parents could help. I agree MCAS is pointless and evaluating teachers based on the kids they are required to teach is wrong. I am concerned about the increasing amount of homework assigned to kids because someone thinks more busywork=more learning. It bothers me that my tax dollars go to bus kids to these charter schools (that my kids have no statistically significant chance of attending) instead of going to my school where the money could be used to retain teachers, create a library, give the science teacher more than a wheel-around cart, and provide more paraprofessional support to the existing teachers.

    I hope your post sparks some constructive discussion. It sounds like your school needs an intervention.

  24. [...] Click here for the full story [...]

  25. [...] far as I’m concerned, Rhee and Murdoch own this tragedy, via CoLab Radio. I just quit my job as a teacher in an urban charter school. Even though I still don’t have [...]

  26. [...] on C&L regarding Michelle Rhee’s devastating war on public education. First she pulls a long quote from a CoLab Radio article: This year the school’s three glorious new gymnasiums are largely unused because we have no gym [...]

  27. Anon says:

    I just wanted to say that I’m sorry all this has transpired. I, too, spent 4 years at a charter school only to meet the same fate every June. I’m so glad I’m out. I consider myself a survivor. I will say this: once I left, things only got better. I miss some of the cool and creative people I worked with, but I NEVER AGAIN will work at a charter school and I will continue to tell people how ill-managed, poorly designed, and outright insulting it was to work there and be treated that way. Even after 10 years of not working there, I’m still too afraid of posting my real name for fear of retribution. Our principal was a total liar. Even when I left, she continued to spread lies about me to my new admins of the school I left for. What nerve! Luckily, they didn’t believe her.

  28. Daniel says:

    One thing I think it’s worth pointing out here is that the strategy doesn’t work. I might be willing to tolerate a little tough human resources strategy and occasional hard feelings on the part of staff if it lead to great achievement.

    But it doesn’t; the school’s test scores are dramatically worse than Massachusetts as a whole and about the same as Boston public schools on average.

    One could argue that such low scoring is the fault of the teachers. And on some level it probably is. But the school has been around for 17 years; if administrators haven’t figured out how to educate students effectively by this point, there’s not much that “annual performance reviews” and firing teachers is going to do.

  29. Christina says:

    Thank you for writing such an honest post. It takes a lot of courage to speak publicly about such wrongdoings. It’s what we’re all taught to do and it’s what we teach our children to do; that’s because it’s the RIGHT thing to do. YOU WERE RIGHT TO SPEAK OUT.

    Shame on the administrators for dismissing you early and not allowing you to properly say goodbye to your students and colleagues. Shame on them for not doing more to support their teachers and students. And shame on them for repeatedly practicing such cruel dismissal practices.

    I would be honored to have you as my son’s teacher any day!!

  30. I lost my teaching license for a year after working at a Gulen charter school. They are nasty places where little or no learning goes on and everyone is miserable.

  31. Aine Sheehan says:

    I don’t know how I feel about this. I love and admire all the *good* teachers I have had in my schooling career, but I understand the argument for wanting to get rid of underperforming teachers. I am a graduate of a BPS High School and now attend a top 25 Liberal Arts college and this summer I am working in Philadelphia on getting children in my area better college access. But the problem at least in Philly is that the public schools are extremely underperforming and 64 schools are planning to get cut in the next 5 years. I don’t understand why teachers can’t adapt to a professional attitude, like that of Doctors or Lawyers, rather than that of a Union. Some of my favorite and best teachers were BTU but I have seen more than my fare share of teachers who just sit there and do nothing because they have tenure. It is extremely difficult to get fired if you are part of the union, and I don’t think that was a beneficial part to my education. I understand the need for job security, but those teachers and employers you described knew they were going to work for a charter, knew they had no job security, and understood that they could get fired for any reason. It is the same as any executive position, or even somewhat similar to if a doctor commits malpractice. He is not protected by a union; he gets sued and his license taken away if found guilty. Why can’t something similar to that happen in Public Schools?

    I know that, unless I become a teacher, I will have no job security (especially now) and I think it is extremely odd that teachers at charter schools feel like they have a right to job security because of seniority, when they know perfectly well their employer can act however they wish (like any other job)

  32. Keeppubliceducationpublic! says:

    I hope folks will attend this discussion this Saturday June 9 in Roxbury to discuss the privatization and attack on our public school.

    Don’t let Walmart* tell
    us how to run our public
    schools: A community
    forum responding to the
    corporate attacks.

    Increasingly, venture capitalists and deep-pocket
    corporate foundations are moving aggressively to
    remake our schools in their image.

    Join us for a discussion of the Stand for Children
    ballot initiative, charter schools, and ways to keep
    corporate influence out and keep community
    input – and quality – in our public schools.

    Co-sponsored by TAG-Boston, Citizens for Public Schools,
    Union of Minority Neighborhoods and MA Jobs with Justice

    For additional information, contact MA JWJ: 617.524.8778

    *The Walton Family Foundation of Walmart

    Saturday June 9th , 2012

    10 am – 12 noon

    Roxbury Community College

    Academic Building Room 121

    (www.tagboston.org)

    Light refreshments provided. Afterwards, march with us in the Pride Parade.

  33. Jon says:

    Knowing some of the players in this drama, I found Nancy’s piece and many of the responses deeply interesting and trenchant.
    I would like to address Nancy’s spot-on observation and question: “It looks like we have the energy and passion to create a real movement… how do we do it? What exactly can we do to effect change?”
    While I’m not a Leninist per se, I’ve always thought Lenin’s statement in What Is To Be Done (1902) to be true: Without a revolutionary theory, there can be no revolutionary movement.” It’s really quite an academic statement and something academics and educators cannot afford to neglect. True in a number of venues, it is a truism to note that, e.g. in the sciences, non-Euclidean geometry provided the mathematical tools for Einstein and that the latter’s Special and then General Relativity theory made predictions that were only sometime later confirmed in practice. The theory of this major revolution came first; of course, it also had to be demonstrated true in the sense of articulating how reality works.
    Kate provides a clue when she writes: “…once a teacher is… transformed into an administrator… instead of having the guts to buck the things that are oppressing the students and the educators…” he or she “keeps the system of oppression going.”
    Kate sees, I believe, that there is an inexorable connection between being an administrator and being an oppressor. This is not a question of personalities but of hierarchy (I make this as a theoretical point, I should note, and not as a personal one—I have had more than one opportunity to become an administrator and have intentionally not taken them). While a few persons who become administrators may fight against becoming oppressors of teachers, the hierarchy into which they are admitted makes this very difficult. However most do not fight against it and readily succumb to the axioms underpinning all hierarchies, i.e. that those “above” are smarter and more expert at what they do they those “below” them and therefore justified in dominating them, in, as the root of “dominate” has it, ruling them.
    Hierarchies are command-obedience systems in which those “above” seek only compliance with their stratagems, not creative and critical thinking from those “below” them. As we all know, whether bureaucratic (as in most contemporary organizations including schools and school systems) or, e.g. racialist, those ruling legitimate their rule with some meritocratic ideology (managerial expertise; racialist theory).
    I submit, first, that critical and creative thinking is, at once, fundamental not only to what we as educators do in every conceivable discipline or subject area, but to what we as thinking human beings, in the sense of being homo sapiens, do (and, as studies of other species have made clear in the last twenty years or so, what many other species do in ways appropriate to their ends as well—i.e. the hierarchy of species with humans on top is breaking down as well, and not only in cognitive areas but in moral as well—e.g. in empathic interactions).
    I submit, second, that this fundamental critical and creative thinking is inimical to hierarchy because hierarchy precludes its practice by its command-obedience, “above-below,” top-down structure.
    Genuine critical and creative thinking and interchange requires and entails a lateral structure in which all viewpoints on any subject are entertained by all, (empathically) “inhabited” by all, and critiqued by all. This genuinely educational mode of being is morally structured by humility, by self-abnegation insofar as it requires listening, questioning, understanding and the willingness to accede to intersubjective agreement as the social criterion of (tentative) truth.
    I submit, third, that this inherently anti-hierarchical nature not merely of being an educator or teacher but of being human in the sense of pursuing-truth-with others is found at the two major roots of western civilization—Athens and Jerusalem.
    In the former I would cite the paradigmatic teacher, Socrates, as we come closest to him in Plato’s Apology. The “historical Socrates” we find here clearly understood his mission of interrogation of those who pretended to know what they didn’t as an invitation to dialogue (while noting that there seemed to be a class dimension to their pretension) and that the latter was nothing less than divine activity, insofar as he construed himself as a “gift from the god” to Athens.
    In the latter I would cite the “historical Jesus” of the Q Sayings Gospel—especially the sort of trans-individual self underlying the sayings associated with “love your enemies,” those involving free giving of self and resources with no thought of reciprocity (also legitimated as the activity of the God of Jesus).
    I’m not attempting to argue for a theology here but to point out that at the root of western (and, I believe, in many archetypal eastern traditions as well) culture is an anthropology, grounding a theory of education that is radically egalitarian and therefore non-hierarchical. I do believe its praxis is also non-violent.
    So, this is a brief sketch of a theory not merely of who we are as teachers and educators but, more fundamentally, of who we are.
    I should add that I am not appealing either to the authority of Socrates or Jesus to legitimate this theory. I do believe that their models are not on paradigmatic and complementary at the roots of western culture, but that they can be justified, indeed verified, by independent descriptive analyses of our “selves” as social (e.g. as given by Husserl’s late research manuscripts on intersubjectivity, by recent evolutionary biology dealing with Darwin’s conundrum of cooperation—arguing that such is a product of natural selection and perhaps even more fundamental than cooperation [including neuro-biological work on empathy and so-called mirroring neurons], to say nothing of a spate of recent animal ethological research and theory).
    If we accept, as I think we should, Michael Katz’s thesis in Reconstructing American Education (his study of the genesis of the Boston Public School bureaucracy) that hierarchical school system organization is an historical artifact and not a “natural” phenomenon, then we may argue that such hierarchical bureaucracies cannot produce genuinely human beings at any level and that, therefore, they must be abandoned, most fundamentally, as organizational falsehoods, as historical lies (which, albeit, are deeply entrenched and part of a larger network of such organizations, indeed of an economy, which socializes persons—all of us to some extent—into a false understanding of ourselves, of who we are, of what it means to be human).
    If I have been sufficiently clear in this brief sketch to persuade anyone, then I think the task is to persevere in following Lenin’s dictum to evolve a theory of our revolution and, at the same time, to work out how educational (and other) institutions would express and manifest this theory. While it seems to me to be true that the charter school movement is an onslaught from the right to privatize the public sector (this is not a politically partisan statement; while I voted for Obama, I am deeply troubled by his Department of Educations’ tying Race to the Top money to removing caps from charter schools and the general support in his administration for the latter; this is why I think we must also create a political alternative both to the Republicans and Democrats), current public schools systems are “domination systems” as well, as Kate points out; perhaps their one virtue is being somewhat mitigated by their teachers being unionized (hence the rationale, e.g in Wisconsin, for the onslaught on public sector collective bargaining).

  34. Paul M says:

    Congrats on quitting before they could fire you. It takes a lot of courage. I recently gave my notice to end a 15 year career because I know longer believed in the direction of the organization. I am starting over. I will be going to college to earn a degree. I will have the support of my wife, a public school teacher, and my two children. I really feel we as a society need to stop taking jobs just to work. If no one works at these places they will not succeed. If the good ones like yourself stand up and say I will not accept this; these places fail. They will no longer have the opportunity to fail the children and communities they are supposed to enrich.

  35. RH Manager says:

    For those who believe that teachers should have the same systems as doctors and lawyers, I’d agree if it were possible for an individual teacher to strike out on their own as an entrepreneur. Unfortunately, that’s not the nature of education.

    For those who think that charter schools are a way of offering choice to people stuck in a bad situation, I’d suggest that we find a way to replace a more severely failing institution first… let’s have the option of being represented by a “charter congress.” Imagine what would happen if we could reallocate our tax dollars, time and energy to a different congress instead of focusing on fixing the problems of the current congress. It is a fundamentally more similar argument than that of comparing schools to other private institutions.

  36. barrington says:

    I’m very sorry to hear this Nancy. I just did an interview for a friend writing about pi luv schooling in Boston. My own school is embroiled in a struggle for survival. Thanks for remembering D in this way. Our kids all deserve better.

  37. Lee says:

    Teachers can’t “adapt to a professional attitude like doctors or lawyers” because no one, except teachers, consider teaching to be a professional status career like doctors or lawyers. We know we’re professionals, but the world looks at us and sees babysitters. The world looks upon us a corps of bleeding heart chumps who are in it for the betterment of society rather than the money (how many doctors and lawyers can say the same?). They see us and see people who can be exploited.
    Additionally, what I never see addressed is how this at-will employment helps or hurts students. Yes, it’s easier to get rid of bad teachers. It’s also extraordinarily easy to get rid of teachers who are simply not liked by their administrators. Our most vulnerable kids need the security of knowing that their teacher will be there.

  38. JohnR says:

    Another response to the “teachers should be treated like doctors/lawyers” argument: it’s apples and oranges. What determines whether a doctor or a lawyer is ‘good’ or ‘bad’? Can you apply the same criteria to a teacher? Are the underlying assumptions the same? Are the conditions of employment similar? I suggest that this argument is flawed. It’s rather like saying “Unions are unnecessary because Formula-one racing drivers aren’t unionized and they manage just fine!”

  39. [...] from CoLab Radio, a project of the MIT Community Innovators Lab. Posted May 31st 2012 at 7:10 am by Nancy Bloom [...]

  40. Shelly says:

    As a parent of 2 students currently attending this school I am very sad and upset. sad because my little girl feels ” her favorite teacher turned her back on her”. one thing I refuse to do as a parent is pull a blanket over the eyes of my children. My children will know the truth. Nancy has done so much for my daughter that words cannot begin to express the gratitude my husband and I have for her. She will be missed, but she will move on, and keep moving on. She is a talented teacher who is honestly a teacher because she cares.

  41. Andrew says:

    I’m studying to be a Special Education teacher, and this story should prove why charter schools are not the answer. EDUCATION IS NOT MEANT TO BE RUN LIKE A BUSINESS! Education is for children, their families and the people. What really makes me crazy is charter schools take public money, but they can choose not take children with special needs or ELL students unlike traditional public schools.
    If we want to save our public schools, then all teachers, parents, children, and child advocates need to band together, and push back against this corporate takeover of education. It may come to the point where we all need to storm our state capitals,the US Department of Education,and demand a seat at the table when it comes to policy that affects our children. Arne Duncan needs to be replaced by someone who has actually had a career in education, and will put an end to high-stakes testing. Please sign this petition to get rid of our Secretary of Education:http://dumpduncan.org/

    The time has come to regain the respect for this profession that has been lost, and we need to start moving towards a better education system, which will be in the best interest of our students,parents, teachers, and everyone who is involved in preservation of public education!

  42. [...] Firing Day at the Charter School. [...]

  43. Aristomenes says:

    This is similar in kind to what happens — charter or not, union or not — anywhere education is turned from the Socratic Method (or some pedagogic creed) to the Business Model of churning out identical widgets on a schedule, supervised by Quality Control. That is the point at which teachers become the problem for an enlightened but challenged administration trying to deal with the spanner in the works (the lousy teachers), the rectification of which would solve all school “failures”. Ms. Rhee is now an unfortunate influence in my neighborhood (Greater Sacramento), and while my union sucks out loud, it is a protection of sorts … when the contract is followed at all (a legalism the local Board doesn’t seem overly concerned about).

    I grieve for your loss. We’ve had our own, as well (a faculty suicide, among others). Such losses are systemic, part of the calculation. Until all education becomes local (closing the DoE and its ilk, and halving the size of the district office, unionizing charters and making them open-booked non-profits), we and our students will face more of the same.