There is a lot of discussion in our nation now about tenure and its effect on teacher quality, including the Aug. 20 column by Frank Bruni of The New York Times. New York, California and many other states have tenure, and the discussion is important for them.
The discussion is moot here because tenure does not exist in public education in Vermont. Certified public school teachers in Vermont must maintain their certification by taking part in a rigorous program of study and evaluation every five years. The only way to have senior teachers in Vermont is by having them maintain their certification and having their administrators evaluate them effectively. Vermont appears to be a leader in how its teachers maintain their professional stature.
Are there “bad” teachers in Vermont? There are people in all walks of life who would be better suited in another career, but the way to steer someone out of a profession in which they aren’t being effective is through consistent evaluation by a trained skilled administrator.
As president of the Rutland Education Association, part of my job is to ensure that the contract between the REA and Rutland City Public Schools is upheld. My job is not to defend individuals as much as it is to be sure that their contractual rights are not violated. When an administrator follows the procedures in the contract to remove a teacher from his or her position, the REA cannot intervene.
The union, which is often portrayed in a negative light in discussions of tenure and seniority, does not want ineffective teachers in the schools. The union is constrained by contracts and legal responsibilities to ensure the rights of its members and nonmembers alike who fall under its umbrella. When the contract is followed, weeding out ineffective teachers takes place.
I work with talented, creative, caring, professional colleagues. We teach as professionals who strive to be the best through study and working together. We teach because we care about our students and their families. We teach because we believe in public education as an important part of shaping our future as a community and as a nation.
ELLEN P. GREEN
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