TEACHER LAYOFFS • "Last hired, first fired" will wreck what Hartford schools have built
Hartford Courant Editorial
May 22, 2010
His present troubles notwithstanding, Mayor Eddie Perez has made one hugely important change in Hartford. He hired and supported a school superintendent, Steven Adamowski, who performed major surgery on a school system that was barely registering a pulse.
Mr. Adamowski redesigned the system, closed failing schools and created choices for students and parents. His changes, along with those wrought by the Sheff v. O'Neill desegregation lawsuit, are perhaps the most positive occurrences in Hartford in at least a decade, if not longer.
With the prospect looming of teacher layoffs, it's vital this momentum continue. To that end, the state Board of Education should, at its June meeting, eliminate citywide seniority in favor of school-based seniority.
Hartford anticipates up to 180 layoffs this year, half of which could be teachers. Under existing rules, the last hired are the first fired, as newer teachers are "bumped" by more senior ones from any school in the district.
That might have made sense when the schools were more or less the same. But that's no longer the case. Mr. Adamowski has created an array of specialty schools with themes or methods that require teachers to have special qualifications or training. Principals of these schools have expended great effort assembling and training their staffs. To let anachronistic union rules break up these teams is not fair to the children.
In the best of all worlds, performance — not seniority or connections — would determine who stays in the classroom. A few states have moved in this direction. Hartford doesn't go that far. The city's school board asks only that seniority rules be applied within a school building.
It would be good if this could be negotiated (talks have been underway with a mediator this week), if the city and the teachers union could reach an agreement like the contract signed earlier this year in Philadelphia, which allows nearly all teaching vacancies to be filled by "mutual consent" of the teacher and principal.
But lacking that, the state should end citywide seniority. The step wouldn't bust the union, but would help kids.
Reprinted with permission of the Hartford Courant.
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