Sunday, April 29, 2012

Fw: Pass the word

From: "Ed McManus"
Date: Sun, 29 Apr 2012 15:22:19 -0400
Subject: Pass the word

TLC Supporters,
In my 33 years teaching in the Pittsburgh School District I recall funding problems and anti-public school governors.  Before Governor Corbett we had Tom Ridge before Ridge we had Dick Thornburgh.  I’ve learned to accept criticism from some in the public as part of the job.  What I don’t recall is a time when the Pittsburgh School Board and its administrators have been so emboldened to publicly criticize teachers and openly attacking negotiated rights.
In the last seven years many hard won contractual rights have eroded.  We now have an eleven step salary schedule, merit pay, and a different pay scale for new teachers.  This year an unprecedented number of teachers were rated unsatisfactory and over one hundred teachers were “exited” from the district.   
The district is now projecting over 300 furloughs and is mounting a very public assault on our seniority rights.  The district is advocating the RISE evaluation system, the collaborative program developed by the district and current union leadership and funded with Gates money, to determine teacher furloughs.
A colleague was commenting the other day on whether the district would have had the nerve to even jokingly broach the seniority subject with Al Fondy.  Not a chance.
We need a strong voice representing a strong united union.  I think Mark will be that voice.

Ed McManus
Secretary Pittsburgh Federation of Teachers 

Get the word out
I have again attached a link to an interview Nina gave on KDAK radio and Mark’s e-mail to Mangino after the interview.


I just finished listening to the last 30 min of your show tonight and was disappointed that I was unable to call in (Although you did give the number while Nina Esposito-Visgitis was on I did not make note of it). 

I am a teacher in the Pittsburgh public School where I have taught math for the past 22 years.  I wanted to suggest to the inherent flaw in your reasoning about which teachers should be furloughed is the thought that all teachers are equal.  You supported that notion by pointing out that since it is difficult to fairly evaluate teachers then we can conclude that all teachers are doing the same job hence we should get rid of the “expensive” ones i.e. the older more experienced teachers.  I would grant you that if all teachers were equal that there would be some financial sense to your logic.  However all teachers are not equally effective.  Evaluating teachers presents a similar challenge as evaluating police officers, doctors, dentists, and others who work with the public.  We cannot evaluate the effectiveness of our police officers based upon their crime rate.  We cannot evaluate doctors based upon their patient’s survival rate.  If a doctor tells a patient to take their meds, exercise, eat right, quit smoking, etc… and the patient does not do these things and dies is it fair to blame the doctor?

Even with the difficulties of evaluating teachers, there is an undeniable connection between experience and effectiveness in all professions.  Particularly in education where approximately 50% of all new teachers leave the profession with in the first 5 years.  This simple fact underscores the value of experience.  It means that teachers with more experience have adapted to the infinite challenges that students and society present, challenges that a college cannot sufficiently prepare you for.  The more experienced teachers have a wealth of actual interactions with students from which to draw upon when interacting with their current students.  They have had the time to explore various education techniques and determine, from experience, which were best suited to meet the needs of their students.  To down play the value of experience is simply shortsighted.

Returning to your point of getting rid of teachers based solely upon their pay, it is exactly those types of arbitrary actions by management that gave birth to the union movement in this country.  Employees should have rights and be protected from decision by management that are based solely upon the almighty dollar.

As we look at the financial struggles the Pittsburgh Public Schools are experiencing there are many factors that have conspired to create the situation we are currently in.  One is the Governor’s budget and disproportional cuts to the education budgets of all PA schools districts but there are also other factors involved.  The Pittsburgh Public School has had a long history of employing more administrators, proportionally speaking, than the majority of other school districts. 
We spend approximately $21,000 per student.  Compare that to the vast majority of other local school districts who are spending between
$12,000 and $14,000 per student, it makes one wonder where the money is going.  The Pittsburgh teachers do not make as high salaries as many of our suburban counterparts.  I honestly do not know where the money is going but it is something I would like to look into.

All of these challenges combined with a general public who seems to have declared open season on educators have left my profession in a terrible place.  What incentive do college students have for pursuing a career in the education field?

My colleagues and I have dedicated our lives to the betterment of our students.  The fact that about 50% of us quit in the first 5 years proves that those of us who last are committed to our profession and our students in spite of the general backlash we endure from the public.  We all need to be careful of judging someone until we have walked a mile in his or her shoes.


Mark Sammartino
PFT Presidential Candidate Spring 2012

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